Work begins for the Timber Transportation Pilot

EDGEFIELD, SC — Work began March 29 under the new 20-year national principal management agreement between the NWTF and the USDA Forest Service. The Forest Service and California Deer Association partners began harvesting timber as part of a 2,746-acre timber removal. project in the Klamath National Forest located in Northern California.

“It’s great to be a part of such an incredible association that is driven to do this much-needed work,” said Dale MacDougall, director of state projects for the California Deer Association. “From the leadership and support of the USFS, both nationally and regionally, to the welcoming nature and strength of the NWTF family, along with industry partners, the energy has been incredible. There are so many people committed to carrying some of this workload, and they have all done an incredible job of doing it. This is a perfect example of partners sharing a vision for large-scale restoration to benefit the health of wildlife and forests.”

The wood harvested in this project is ready to start its journey by car, a method considered “old fashioned” in today’s world of multimodal transportation. However, the NWTF views this antiquated method of transportation through a lens that considers the ecological, social, and other values ​​of the work being performed. With this timber transport pilot, the NWTF is testing a proof of concept that can create a new model for implementing the crucial work ahead.

“We are proud to be a part of this innovation and partnership to benefit local communities, industry and landscape resiliency,” said Rachel Smith, forest supervisor for the Klamath National Forest. “This partnership bolsters the Forest’s efforts to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires for rural communities as part of the Forest Service’s wildfire crisis strategy.”

Northern California, including the Klamath National Forest, is notorious for devastating wildfires, partly blamed on forests that are thick with trees. The Forest Service reports that many areas in the Klamath National Forest exceed 500 trees per acre, resulting in interlocking crowns and diminishing growth. These conditions cause trees to become suppressed and weakened, eventually becoming susceptible to stress and insect/disease related mortality. These small ladder fuels, combined with accumulation of fuels on the ground from fallen dead trees, increase the risk of catastrophic losses from wildfires.

“The severe and uncharacteristic wildfires we’ve seen in recent decades are truly a wildfire crisis,” said Tom Spezze, NWTF’s national director of field conservation/state policy. “Forest health is no longer just a natural resource problem or a forest problem, it is a national emergency, a watershed health problem, and a human health and security crisis.”

Restoring forests to more appropriate tree densities, ages, and size classes is intended to decrease wildfire risk, essential for California residents and people living in or near forested areas throughout the West.

“The NWTF is committed to helping the USFS by being part of the solution to the wildfire crisis,” Spezze said. “And while the focus is on communities, severe wildfires are also converting wooded wildlife habitats to brush or grassland, reducing the value of wildlife habitat.”

By removing surplus trees from regions like the Klamath National Forest, a fire-resistant forest can be developed, able to recover after a fire and foster a naturally healthy ecosystem for wildlife, improve water quality and quantity, and provide more outdoor recreational activities.

Along with timber harvest, the project involves 1,605 acres of brush mowing and juniper felling, 592 acres of juniper reduction, 264 acres of plantation thinning, and 866 acres of chewing for fuel reduction and habitat improvement work for wildlife in the forest.

Once the groundwork is complete, the forest products will be transported by rail cars as the second component of this multifaceted approach to forest restoration. The logs must first be transported to Gilchrist Forest Products in Gilchrist, Oregon, where they will be debarked to remove bark beetles. The debarked logs will then be inspected and transported to a rail terminal in Klamath Falls, Oregon, where they will receive another inspection before being loaded onto railcars for transport to Wyoming.

Once on the wagons, the logs will begin their nearly month-long journey to Devils Tower Forest Products Inc. in Hulett, Wyoming. This small-town community relies heavily on the Black Hills lumber mill as a critical economic driver. Transporting the lumber to Wyoming will help provide a sustainable supply of lumber to support the continued operation of the mill, creating a stable economy in the area.

“The fact that, in addition to restoring forests, we are supporting a community, makes this project really special,” Spezze said.

Overall, the project aims to restore forests, enhance biodiversity and protect other natural resources while benefiting all stakeholders involved.

“This only works where there is a surplus of wood,” Spezze said. “The NWTF is committed to making sure all partners are complete. We realize there is no point in a pilot that is not equitable to local contractors and businesses.”

About the National Wild Turkey Federation

Since 1973, the National Wild Turkey Federation has invested more than half a billion dollars in wildlife conservation and has conserved or improved more than 22 million acres of critical wildlife habitat. The organization continues to advance wildlife conservation, forest resiliency, and strong recreational opportunities across the US by working beyond borders at the landscape scale.

2023 is the 50th of the NWTFhe anniversary and an opportunity to push the organization’s mission into the future while honoring its rich history. For its 50th anniversary celebration, the NWTF has set itself six ambitious goals: positively impact 1 million acres of wildlife habitat; raise $500,000 for wild turkey research; increase membership to 250,000 members; dedicate $1 million to education and outreach programs; raise $5 million to invest in technology and the people of NWTF; and raise $5 million to build a $50 million endowment for the future. Learn how you can help us achieve these lofty goals.