COS 70-1 - A collaborative approach to restoration: Fuel reduction in dry, mixed conifer forests of Eastern Oregon

Tuesday, August 8, 2017: 1:30 PM
B115, Oregon Convention Center
Rebecca A. Miller, Environmental Studies, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada and James D. Johnston, College of Forestry, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR

We will discuss the design, implementation, and initial results of an ambitious 10-year landscape-scale forest restoration program in dry, mixed conifer forests of Eastern Oregon. This program is undertaken with funds from the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP), a Congressionally authorized program supporting collaborative, science-based ecosystem restoration. Mechanical thinning and prescribed fire are tools being used to create resilient forest landscapes across approximately one million acres of Forest Service lands. CFLRP funds also support an exemplary multi-party, interdisciplinary monitoring program investigating the socio-economic and ecological effects of restoration treatments. This novel framework facilitates community participation and provides scientific data to aid the decision making process. Collaborators, including the Blue Mountains Forest Partners, High Desert Partnership, Ochoco Forest Restoration Collaborative, and Oregon State University, have completed three years of data collection that informs adaptive management, generates baseline data to monitor long-term change, and provides information directly applicable to emerging questions.

Monitoring protocols and reconstruction efforts were designed to answer a variety of questions including:

  1. What was the historical structure and composition of forests in this region?
  2. How do treatments affect current forest structure, composition and function?
  3. How will treatments influence fire behavior?


Reconstruction of pre-settlement forest structure and composition reveals less variation in historical fire frequency that previously anticipated. Several distinct compositional types were present on the landscape despite similar historical fire frequency. We found that edaphic and climate restrictions rather than mean fire return interval exerted a larger influence on growth and composition of tree species. This biophysical heterogeneity facilitates the co-existence of ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa), Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca), grand fir (Abies grandis), and Western larch (Larix occidentalis). However, these data reflect conditions during a cool and moist period at the end of the 19th century; conditions that forest managers are unlikely to encounter in the future. Preliminary monitoring data reveal distinct plant communities within these mixed-conifer forests, characterized by species’ tolerance of disturbance and drought. Using these results to guide our restoration, we’ve implemented treatments to reduce the presence of fire- and drought- intolerant species across the landscape. Continued monitoring and experimentation will guide restoration prescriptions, document biodiversity, and gauge success of climate change adaptation.