By Marcy Stamper
The Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is proposing a forest-improvement timber sale next year in the Virginia Ridge and Wolf Creek areas, plus a small section near Mazama, a total of 750 acres.
The largest unit, about 390 acres, goes from the Methow River to Wolf Creek Road (heading north from where it turns to gravel) and then up the slope from there, a width of about 1/2 mile. Most of the thinning and logging will occur west of Wolf Creek Road, according to Jake Townsend, a silviculture forester with DNR.
Unit 2, about 300 acres, is in the Virginia Ridge area, accessed from the Left Fork Wolf Creek Road. Unit 3 is 15 acres, and is reached from the Mazama Bible Camp Road off Highway 20, about 11 miles northwest of Winthrop.
Part of the Wolf Creek cross country ski trail will be relocated so that it follows the Methow River. Trees along the trail will be opened up so that more snow falls on the trail, according to Townsend.
The thinning and logging should reduce wildfire hazards and the risk of insect infestation in a forest that is overly dense, said Townsend. DNR is also responsible for obtaining the value of the timber on lands it manages for the state’s school trust.
Trees in the area are primarily Douglas fir and ponderosa pine. DNR plans to leave trees an average of 45 feet apart after the harvest, some 21 trees per acre. Remaining trees will have a diameter of at least 10 inches at a height of 4 1/2 feet.
Many of the merchantable trees are 60 to 120 years old. Because they will be cutting trees of various ages, DNR does not intend to plant trees after the harvest, according to the forest practices application for the sale. If seedlings haven’t taken hold by the seventh year after the harvest, the agency will do hand-planting the following year so that the area is fully stocked within 10 years.
The last timber cutting on DNR land in the Wolf Creek watershed was before the 1990s, primarily to remove “risk trees.”
DNR is selling a total of 4,147 million board feet in five categories, three of Douglas fir and two of ponderosa pine. About 3.5 million board feet will be fir logs from 5 to 10 inches in diameter, with 238,000 board feet of 11 inches or more.
DNR plans to cut 424,000 board feet of ponderosa pine, the majority from 6 to 10 inches in diameter and the rest larger.
Foresters have worked with neighboring landowners, Methow Trails, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and tribes in planning the sale.
Cut timber will be piled on 14 landings. Most landings, a short distance from the main roads, already have access roads. Plans call for construction of up to 600 feet of new roads of about 100 feet each to reach landings that don’t already have roads. The spur roads will be seeded with grass seed after the logging is complete, said Townsend. Overall, the harvest will necessitate construction of 800 feet of roads and reconstruction of more than 1,400 feet.
DNR foresters have issued a mitigated determination of nonsignificance, meaning the proposal would not have adverse impacts on the environment. The mitigations for the project are decisions by DNR not to harvest trees in riparian and wetland areas, even though logging those areas is permissible by state law, said Robert Hechinger, proprietary forester for DNR’s Northeast Region.
The wood will be auctioned to a lumber mill. DNR will hire a logger to cut and deliver the timber. The auction is April 24, 2018. Logging can start shortly thereafter and should be completed by Nov. 15, 2018.