Wednesday, June 24, 2009

'Tis the Season for Felling Ponderosa Pine

Now that the Summer Solstice has passed, we're comfortable cutting pine. We've been cutting fir so far this year, and there has been plenty of it in this year's target stands.

This is part of our continuing thinning from below to reduce fuels and improve forest health. We avoided cutting pine this season until now, because fresh pine slash is like catnip to those pesky little Ips pine bark beetles. In 1991 the western pine beetle was responsible for the death of 21,679 trees over 28,159 acres resulting in a loss of 1.267 million cubic feet of lumber -- and it's been getting worse ever since. Even so, it's tragic to see even one tree, a feature of my favorite view for years, suddenly turn brown. We've lost dozens of trees to beetles, often in clusters.

Advice varies as to when it's "safe" to create slash by felling pines. Starting dates range from June 1 to August 1, depending on whom you ask. We've often heard mid-June or late June, so we picked the Solstice and planned accordingly.

Now it looks like we'll be busy milling for a week or two, so the pine beetle will have until early July to pick someone else's trees.

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