Senior ranger at Quilcene meeting talks of change in Olympic National Forest management
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Olympic National Forest District Ranger Dean Yoshina addressed the North Hood Canal Chamber of Commerce this week. — Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

QUILCENE — A change from timber management to a more environmentally sensitive process for the 628,000-acre Olympic National Forest has caused an economic setback while it has enriched the culture, a senior ranger said.

“We really did a great job of harvesting timber,” Dean Yoshina, who manages Olympic National Forest’s Hood Canal Ranger District, told a dozen people at the North Hood Canal Chamber of Commerce meeting Monday.

“But it’s a different culture now that is more focused on the preservation of species and the protection of resources,” he added in his state-of-the-forest address.

Clearcutting is no longer used, he said. Instead, timber is harvested to thin the forest and accelerate old-growth conditions.

“We are trying to get a mosaic of different age groups within the stands to create an old-growth environment,” he said.

Yoshina said that at the peak of harvesting in the 1980s, about 400 million board feet of timber were harvested each year.

Now, the total is about 22 million board feet.

“When you harvest a lot of trees and timber, it generates a lot of funding,” he said.

“So we had incredible amounts of money to build roads and could maintain the roads and do brush disposal, and every district had 20-person crews to handle the cleanup, so we generated a lot of jobs during that time.”

Now, the agency can adequately maintain only 600 to 800 miles of a total 2,500 miles of road, Yoshina said.

Without maintenance, the remaining roads fall into disrepair and may contribute to water quality degradation, which can harm salmon habitats and decrease safety, he added.

Yoshina said a series of public meetings will be conducted in the fall to solicit opinions about how to maintain the roads and which roads should be preserved. None has been scheduled yet.

The number of employees also has dwindled from the ’80s, Yoshina said.

During the peak timber years, the agency had 400 permanent employees. Now, it has 80.

“That funding source went away when we entered the restorative phase, to protect the spotted owl and all these old-growth species.”

He said past practices were “just a different culture.

“We had more people, and everything was different.

“It was neither better nor worse. We just had different challenges.”

In the next five years, forest management will need to continue to refine its public service model and plan how to restore and maintain public lands, Yoshina said.

“We need to see how we can meet the needs of the American people, the local community and our visitors,” he said.

“We will need to come to an agreement with the public, which is often its own process because everyone has their own favorite trail or campground or water system that they want to see preserved.”

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: April 22. 2014 6:57PM
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