The role of debarking in the timber transport pilot

As part of the timber transport pilot program established under 20-year national stewardship agreement Between the National Wild Turkey Federation and the USDA Forest Service, there is a crucial requirement that harvested trees undergo debarking and inspection before being transported.

Surplus trees harvested from the Klamath National Forest in northern California are transported to Gilchrist Forest Products in Oregon, which plays an essential role in maintaining the health of the forest during the debarking process. Debarking involves removing the bark from cut wood, eliminating potentially invasive species and pathogens that can cause damage to forest ecosystems. The debarked logs are inspected and transported to a rail terminal in Klamath Falls, Oregon, for further inspection before being loaded onto railcars for transport to Wyoming. There, the wood will help support local sawmills and communities.

“By having several sets of eyes on each log during the process, we can monitor that the logs are being debarked to the specifications needed,” said Dan Stone, procurement forester for Gilchrist Forest Products. “At each step in the process, operators have the ability to reject logs or send them back through the debarker to ensure a quality job has been done.”

When wood is moved, there is a risk that invasive insects and diseases are also moved, which can introduce new pests or exacerbate existing pest problems. Barking beetles are one of the most prominent invasive species currently affecting forests. These beetles attack and kill healthy trees, causing dead trees to fall, negatively impacting infrastructure and creating fire hazards. Adult bark beetles tunnel under the tree bark and disrupt the movement of food and water through the tree, resulting in the death of the tree. Debarking cut wood will expose barking beetles, causing their death and suppressing the spread of invasive species.

Although forests across the country are affected by barking beetles, the western US is especially affected. Among the various species of bark beetles found in this region, the mountain pine beetle is the most destructive and aggressive. It targets several species of pine trees, including the ponderosa pine that is being transported for this project. These beetles cause rapid and substantial ecological and economic damage by killing large numbers of healthy trees. The resulting dead trees create an increased risk of wildfires, further endangering the forest ecosystem and nearby communities.

“There are also insect monitoring stations in Wyoming to alert us to any activity,” Stone said. “These inspections are additional measures to monitor the success of the pilot program and track the unintentional introduction of pine wood borers or bark beetles that are not native to the Black Hills region.”

Preventing the spread of invasive species between states is crucial to protecting the biodiversity of native species. Invasive species can disrupt natural ecosystems, leading to the extinction or decline of native species. This loss of biodiversity can have far-reaching impacts on the entire ecosystem, including the loss of vital ecosystem services such as pollination, water filtration, and carbon sequestration.

Through the implementation of debarking and inspection measures, the NWTF and the USDA Forest Service demonstrate their commitment to responsible forest management practices that promote the health and sustainability of forest ecosystems. These practices help protect native tree populations, reduce the risk of wildfires, and promote economic growth in the timber industry, while protecting our natural resources for future generations.