Into the Woods – Restoration Planning and Funding with Kirk Hanson

When I helped my parents acquire our family’s Bucoda forest in 2018 we did what good farmer’s do, we bought good soil. The silty clay loam that this land is built from is nutrient-rich and, coupled with the mild maritime climate of the Pacific Northwest, capable of producing some of the most biomass and carbon-dense forests in the world. The 102 acres were only modestly stocked with trees, however, following years of harvesting and neglect by previous owners. With characteristic chronic optimism, I swept this minor detail aside as I knew if we could tune up the existing trees and replant areas that were understocked, we could rapidly restore a diverse and productive forest to this site. 

After the first walk-through of the land with my parents, my mother had a very different perspective, however, and in no uncertain terms proclaimed, “We’re buying a jungle!” She was right as well, as nearly half of the land had been harvested and not replanted, resulting in a hodge-podge of scrappy hardwoods, native shrubs, and the ever-pervasive Himalayan blackberry. Despite her skepticism, I convinced my parents that a combination of creative forestry, productive soils, and public funding could result in a forest that would yield ecological and financial dividends for generations to come, and to that end, they invested in the natural capital of this land.

View north across the Hanson Bucoda Forest.

In this article, I will describe a series of projects that I’ve implemented over the years that are aimed at restoring diversity and productivity to a young, regenerating forest. These projects were funded in large part by two federal conservation cost-share programs, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Conservation Stewardship Program, and I will detail both the costs of the projects and the payment rates of the cost-share programs. These projects included:

  1. Pre-commercially thinning overstocked, naturally regenerated red alder stands.
  2. Releasing conifer seedlings from competing vegetation.
  3. Replanting understocked, hardwood and shrub dominated sites with diverse conifers.
  4. Pre-commercially thinning a mixed alder and fir stand, creating wildlife habitat structures, and planting to improve long-term timber production and carbon sequestration.
FMUAcresStand TypeAge(2024)
1b20Douglas-fir & Alder32
211.9Red alder & mixed hardwoods24
44.8Douglas-fir & Cedar6-9
54.5Douglas-fir & Cedar6
62.6Mature mixed hardwood & conifer50+
713Mixed hardwoods24

Two qualities of our Bucoda forest that I enjoy most are the highly variability in both topography and vegetation. The property stretches across a long northeast facing hill that rises, steeply at times, approximately 200 feet from a broad, shallow valley. Seasonal stream drainages crenelate the slopes, and the abundant salmonberry across these areas express a high level of moisture in the soil. Conversely, the hilltop is exposed, warmer, and drier. 

The wide range of microclimates, and a history of periodic timber harvesting, have resulted in a very heterogeneous distribution of forest stand types across the property. In the high and dry southwest corner is a well-established Douglas-fir plantation that transitions to a mix of fir and alder as the stand flows down wet east-facing slopes. The northern half of the property earns the definition of a jungle as a prior owner clearcut the entire area and didn’t replant, leaving the site to regenerate into thickets of red alder, vine maple, sprouting bigleaf maples, and patches of dense shrubs, including vast swaths of blackberry. The fellow who we bought the land from had replanted approximately 20 acres in this area with a mix of Douglas-fir, western redcedar, and red alder, but many of these seedlings were struggling amongst endless tangles of Himalayan blackberry and native shrubs. 

Forest Management Plan

In 2018, I applied for funding through the Natural Resource Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to offset the cost of developing a comprehensive forest management plan for our land. At the time, EQIP provided a landowner with 101 – 250 acres of forestland, approximately $2,400 (In 2024, it’s $3,700) towards the cost of hiring a qualified forester to write a plan for them. Since I am certified through the USDA to write EQIP-funded forest management plans, I was able to pay myself with the funds I received to write my own plan.

After several weeks of surveying the property, I eventually segregated the vegetation and forest cover into nine different units, as per the map and table above. These units were delineated based on a distinct change in the type of vegetation (e.g. species and age), with the same vegetation type occurring in more than one location on the property. 

The forest management plan proposes a series of restoration activities that are intended to achieve the following objectives:

  1. Set the forest on a trajectory to achieve later seral forest habitat structures and functions.
  2. Improve timber quality and productivity.
  3. Restore missing wildlife habitat structures.
  4. Optimize carbon sequestration in balance with other objectives.
  5. Improve resilience to climate change.

The restoration and management recommendations in the plan are organized into 5-year intervals and extend out 30 years into the future. The first 15 years or so of the plan are nearly entirely focused on restoration activities that require an investment of time, labor, and capital without significant income generated from the land. However, during the second 15-year period of the management plan, and thereafter, the primary forest management strategy will involve the periodic commercial thinning of the various stands, thereby generating regular income.

I have applied for EQIP funding twice and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) once to offset the costs of implementing the broad range of conservation practices identified in my forest management plan, and I’m currently in the process of applying for a third round of EQIP funding to help maintain some of the tree seedlings I planted during the first round of EQIP projects in 2020. Both programs provide predetermined payment rates for specific conservation practices, so an applicant knows exactly how much they will receive towards the cost of implementing a project. A forest owner can then choose to hire a contractor to conduct the work, or do the work themselves. Since I’m a DIY forest owner, I did most of the pre-commercial thinning myself, made all of the habitat structures, and performed some of the seedling release. Given the scale of the various projects, I opted to hire forestry contractors to do all of the tree planting, some of the pre-commercial thinning, and most of the seedling maintenance.  Both EQIP and CSP are reimbursement programs, so I’ve fronted the cost of all of the labor and materials necessary to implement the various projects. EQIP reimbursements tend to come fairly quickly after each completed project is inspected by the NRCS, but CSP only makes one annual payment towards the end of the year.

Forest Restoration Projects

Project #1. Pre-commercially Thin Red Alder. Year 2020

Approximately 20 years ago a prior landowner harvested most of the timber across the northern 40 acres of our land. He did not replant following the harvest, and consequently the site naturally regenerated into a jungle of red alder, vine maple, sprouting bigleaf maple, cascara, bitter cherry, and numerous native shrubs. Across three noncontiguous sites that total approximately 12 acres, red alder grew into dense thickets. As is typical for naturally regenerated alder, the trees colonized the sites at very high densities. When we acquired our land, the alder was nearly 20 years old and in a highly competitive phase of growth with increasing mortality amongst the least dominant trees. However, the stands still maintained a high stocking density of live trees, averaging over 600 trees per acre (TPA). Other hardwoods (e.g. cascara, maple, cherry) were intermixed with the alder in lesser numbers, as were several conifer species (e.g. grand fir, western hemlock, and western redcedar).

Dense red alder near NW property corner.
Dense alder in SW corner of the property with 750 TPA
FMU 2: Red alder and mixed hardwoods
Total acresAge(2018)Dominant spp.Trees per acreAverage DBHAvg. heightAvg. crown ratio
11.918 – 20Red alderBig leaf maple>6008”52’ – 60’35% – 40%

Stand Assessment and Objectives

Pre-commercial thinning alder at this age is not a common practice as the trees’ growth begins to rapidly decline after 20 years of age. Further, due to the high rate of competition in the dense canopy of this shade intolerant species, the live crowns of the trees also quickly diminish, making it difficult to “release” trees after thinning and improve their growth. However, three factors compelled me to believe that pre-commercially thinning was still a viable option and worth the investment. First, there were sufficient dominant trees throughout the stand that still retained at least 35-40 percent of their live crowns, and therefore should be capable of putting on diameter growth. Second, the average diameter of the alder was approximately eight inches at breast height (DBH). This meant that the diameters of the dominant trees were slightly larger and wouldn’t require too many more years of growth to achieve an optimal merchantable size (10” – 12” DBH). Lastly, most of the dominant trees were at least 60 feet tall, and could produce two saw logs when they reached a merchantable diameter.

The short-term objectives for this stand were:

  1. Improve timber quality and growth of red alder.
  2. Release understory conifers.
  3. Conserve and enhance biodiversity.


A stand density management diagram is a useful tool for quickly determining the optimal density to thin a stand down to. The red alder density management diagram below, for instance, uses the average diameter you want your trees to achieve to determine the density they should be thinned to. For instance, I want the red alder on my land to grow to an average of 10-12 inches DBH before I conduct the first commercial thinning. Therefore, I should thin the trees to approximately 200 TPA. However, since thinning in very heterogeneous stands rarely lends itself to uniformity, I prefer to set a range to thin to.

Red alder density management diagram. Source: Puettmann, K.J., D.S. DeBell, and D.E. Hibbs. 1993. DENSITY MANAGEMENT GUIDE
FOR RED ALDER. Forest Research Laboratory. Oregon State University, Corvallis. Research Contribution 2. 6 p.

In this case, thinning the alder to approximately 180 – 220 TPA gives me plenty of latitude to make tree selection decisions. Retaining a higher density of trees will result in slower growth, but may produce straighter and cleaner (e.g. branch free) logs. Thinning to a lower density will improve growth rates, but may result in limby trees with more knots. With an optimal target density set for thinning, I developed the following tree selection criteria for which trees to cut and which trees to keep:

Cut Trees

  1. The smallest diameter suppressed trees with less than 30 percent live crown.
  2. Highly defective trees with little to no future timber value (e.g. broken or forked tops, excessive sweep).
  3. Trees that, when cut, will release understory conifers.
  4. All but 1-3 stems of sprouting bigleaf maple.

Keep Trees

  1. Larger diameter dominant trees with more than 30 percent live crown.
  2. Trees with good timber quality (e.g. straight, no defect, etc.)
  3. Underrepresented hardwood species (e.g. cherry, cascara, maple).
  4. Understory conifers.

Each tree was cut within 6 inches of the ground and the stem and branches lopped and scattered throughout the site to the extent necessary to get all slash below knee height. I did most of the thinning during winter months when leaves were off the trees and brush and it was easier to see and work in the woods.

Labor and Costs

I find pre-commercial thinning an instant gratification project. After a day of work, you can look back at the results of your labor with satisfaction – a well-spaced stand of high-quality trees looks really nice! I did all of the thinning with a chainsaw and was able to thin approximately one acre per eight-hour day. In 2019, EQIP paid $309 per acre ($323 per acre in 2024), so I was able to pay myself about $38 per hour. Based on my experience working with private thinning contractors, current labor costs typically average $250/acre.

Financial Summary

ProjectTotal AcresEQIP Payment/AcreTotal EQIPCost/acreTotal Cost
Pre-commercially thin red alder11.9$309$3,6778 hours personal labor$0

Project #2. Conifer Seedling Release. Year 2020

In 2015, the prior owner of our land planted approximately 15 acres across what are now FMUs 3 and 4. In FMU 3, he replanted a clearcut hillside with another generation of Douglas-fir after clearcutting the prior 90-year-old stand of fir. FMU 4 was a brushy site that he scarified with a bulldozer and initially replanted with western red cedar, then again with Douglas-fir in 2018 after concerns of high mortality across the cedar. By the time we acquired the land, a dense thicket of native shrubs and Himalayan blackberry was returning to FMU 4 and beginning to overtop the recently planted seedlings. Red alder and bitter cherry were also naturally regenerating in dense patches throughout the unit. Bigleaf maple that had been cut as part of the harvest of FMU 3 had vigorously sprouted, and the broad crowns of the multi-stemmed trees were also beginning to overtop the Douglas-fir that had been planted in their vicinity.

FMU 4. Caged seedlings with brush and blackberry.
FMU 5. Sprouting maple stumps dominating hillside.
FMU 2: Douglas-fir
Total acresAge(2018)Dominant spp.Trees per acreAverage DBHAvg. heightAvg. crown ratio
9.53Douglas-firBigleaf maple3501”2’ – 4’100%
FMU 3: Douglas-fir & Western Redcedar
Total acresAge(2018)Dominant spp.Trees per acreAverage DBHAvg. heightAvg. crown ratio
4.51-3Douglas-firWestern redcedar300 – 450<1”12” – 16”100%

Stand Assessment and Objectives


I have seen many forests dominated by immense thickets of bigleaf maple that had sprouted from cut stumps, and I did not want FMU 3 to transition to such a forest. Although maple has many ecological values, I feel its presence in a forest should be moderated by a landowner’s objectives. I want to ensure that my family’s forests are both economically and ecologically productive, so I’m inclined to retain a small population of maple for their ecological values but otherwise favor tree species that provide both ecological and economic value, such as the Douglas-fir that was well established on this site. I also knew that if I were to cut the sprouting maples, it would only set them back for a short period of time as they would rapidly sprout again and continue to grow. However, cutting them back may provide the fir an opportunity to outpace them in growth and eventually relegate the maple to an understory tree.

The short-term objective for this stand was:

  1. Release the Douglas-fir to ensure they become well-established across the unit.


The diversity and vigor of shrubs across FMU 4 was impressive. Native shrubs included Nootka and bald hip roses, hazelnut, vine maple, salmonberry, oso berry, cascara, as well as bitter cherry and red alder. Vast swaths of the unit were covered in Himalayan blackberry intermixed with native shrubs. Into this tangle were planted Douglas-fir and cedar. Both species appeared vigorous and well suited to the site, but the small seedlings were becoming overwhelmed by competing vegetation. I was concerned that if I did nothing, I would lose large quantities of tree seedlings, and significant areas of this unit would remain in a brush phase for many years to come. By cutting around the seedlings for a few years, I anticipated that I could coax them above the brush until they were free to grow.

The short-term objectives for this stand were:

  1. Release Douglas-fir and redcedar in order to ensure good stocking of future timber trees.
  2. Thin naturally regenerating alder and cherry to improve their quality and growth.



The prescription for this unit was relatively simple: cut back all sprouting maple across the entire unit. I timed the cutting for mid-summer as this can reduce the vigor of the stump and slow the resprouting response. The only additional nuance I added was to ensure that no cut maple stems covered the fir growing in their proximity. 


We used a variety of prescriptions across this unit to test out their efficacy, and laid out two 1.5-acre test sites and one 2-acre test site. The prescriptions included:

  1. Cut back all competing vegetation throughout entire site with a mechanical brush cutter.
  2. Cut back competing vegetation within a 3’ radius of each seedling with a machete.
  3. Cut back competing vegetation only from around the top 1/3 of the seedling with a machete.

Labor and Costs


I opted to hire a contractor to cut the maple given the scale of the unit, the steep slopes, and the monotony of cutting maple stems. The cutting occurred concurrently with other seedling release work I had contracted elsewhere on the property, and the crew just peeled off one guy and his saw for two full days.


My family performed all of the seedling release work in this unit. My parents, both in their 80s at the time, conducted all of the machete-related cutting, and I operated the brushcutter. Releasing the leaders of the seedlings took both of my parents the equivalent of 14 combined hours per acre, and cutting back competing vegetation within a three-foot circle around each seedlings took them a combined 16 hours. By solely targeting the patches of blackberry and native shrubs that were directly competing with the fir and cedar but otherwise leaving swaths of native shrubs untouched, I was able to clear approximately an acre of competing vegetation in eight hours.

Financial Summary

ProjectTotal AcresEQIP Payment/AcreTotal EQIPCost/acreTotal Cost
Douglas-fir release from maple9.5$309$2,904$150$1,425
Douglas-fir and cedar release from brush4.8$309$1,483~8 hours of personal labor$0
$4,387 $1,425

Project #3. Replanting Understocked Areas with Diverse Conifers. Year 2020

Two areas of this property were in really rough shape when we acquired the land in 2018. FMU 5, which stretched across a long, exposed knoll, had similarly been scarified with a bulldozer by the previous owner, but in this case planted to red alder, which I thought was pretty novel. Unfortunately, the alder experienced high mortality in their first few years, likely due to a combination of droughty summer soils and exposure to frost. However, some alder did survive in small groups and as lone, scattered individuals. Himalayan blackberry was beginning to creep in from the edges, and trailing blackberry and numerous grasses were profuse throughout this unit. 

Heavy brush and blackberry interspersed with sparse maple and dense thicket of red alder.
Sparse RA seedlings (160TPA) amongst dense grasses and blackberry along Western edge of FMU.

FMU 7 was a particular problem. It’s comprised of three noncontiguous areas that were likely harvested 20-some years ago but not replanted, as these areas were currently colonized by a hodge-podge of scrappy alder, lone bigleaf maple, and thickets of vine maple. Broad, treeless gaps were filled with a medley of native shrubs (elderberry, salmonberry, sword fern, oso berry, cascara) as well as Himalayan blackberry. Given the wet soils throughout this unit, the brush was vigorous, had grown to impressive heights, and was nearly impenetrable. There were few signs of conifers seeding in and struggling up through this jungle.

FMU 5: Sparse alder and brush
Total acresAge(2018)Dominant spp.Trees per acreAverage DBHAvg. heightAvg. crown ratio
4.63Red alderBig leaf maple<90<1”3’ – 4’100%
FMU 7: Mixed hardwoods and shrubs
13.118-20Red alderVine maple<506”52’>40%

Stand Assessment and Objectives


With few trees growing on this site other than sparse alder, the unit was prone to being overtaken by blackberry and native shrubs. Given its exposure and the droughtiness of the site, only drought tolerant, or moderately drought tolerant, tree species would do well here. I wanted to get this stand back into production for long-term timber, as well as restore a diversity of conifers to the site. 

The short-term objectives for this site were:

  1. Increase conifer diversity by planting at least two species of conifers.
  2. Improve climate resilience by selecting species that are suitable for drought-prone, loamy soils.
  3. Control competing vegetation to ensure conifers become well-established.


Each of the areas comprising FMU 7 are located on lower slopes, or the base of slopes, and therefore host wetter soils and are shadier than most other areas on the property. This kind of microclimate is prone to dense brush growth, and the shade from the tall shrubs was suppressing natural tree regeneration, and would continue to indefinitely, thereby consigning most of this unit to early seral habitat for potentially decades to come. Industrial timberlands, with their focus on clearcut harvesting, offer a propensity of early seral forest habitat across the NW landscape, so I’m not concerned about this habitat type becoming rare anytime soon. What is rare are late seral, diverse conifer forests, and that is the trajectory on which I wanted to set this stand. Further, by favoring commercially valuable tree species, I could use commercial timber harvesting as a strategy for gradually thinning my way towards an old growth forest. 

The short-term objectives for this site were:

  1. Increase conifer diversity by planting at least two species of conifers.
  2. Control competing vegetation to ensure conifers become well-established.
  3. Improve timber quality of existing hardwoods by cutting low-quality trees.



This unit was prepared for planting by cutting back the majority of the shrubs and Himalayan blackberry with a flail mower mounted on a mini-excavator. I chose this option for site preparation as it is more thorough than hand cutting brush, and grinds the brush into a mulch that feeds the soil and makes subsequent tree planting much more efficient. I planted a 50/50 mix of Douglas-fir and western redcedar at 260 TPA, which, combined with the existing alder and select few conifers already in this unit, would bring the total stocking up to approximately 350 TPA. Douglas-fir is one of the NW’s most drought tolerant conifers, and western redcedar can tolerate moderate drought, in particular on loamy soils that tend to hold soil moisture later into the year. I caged the cedar and every tree received a bamboo stake with a bright orange ribbon to aid with identifying it again in the future. I opted not to plant white pine, which is also drought tolerant and would have been perfectly suitable for this site, as it doesn’t have much commercial value in western WA. In retrospect, I should have added a small component of white pine for the sake of biodiversity and wildlife habitat. This year (2024), I am sprinkling white pine throughout this unit. I covered the cedar with plastic mesh tubes to minimize deer browse.


Approximately 80 – 90 percent of the shrub layer was ground into mulch, skipping patches of vine maple as they resisted the flail mower and a few places on steeper slopes that the excavator couldn’t reach. I planted a mix of western hemlock, western redcedar, and Douglas-fir in a 20/40/40 mix, respectively, at a rate of 300 TPA.

Flail mower on mini-excavator used for mulching trees.

Accounting for the existing hardwoods and conifers, this would result in a total stocking of approximately 350 TPA. Both western hemlock and cedar grow well in the shade, and even better on moist soils. The Douglas-fir would do well in the gaps where there was full sun and likely the soils were slightly drier. I caged the cedar and every tree received a bamboo stake with a bright orange ribbon to aid with identifying it again in the future.

Labor and Costs

FMUs 5 & 7

I hired a crew to do a combined site preparation and tree planting in FMU 5. Cedar and fir were planted in a mix, and the planters were instructed to plant 12 feet away from any existing trees. Planting FMU 7 was a breeze as nearly the entire shrub layer had been ground down to a layer of mulch. Hemlock and cedar were planted interchangeably beneath the sparse hardwood canopy, and Douglas-fir and cedar were planted in gaps. As with FMU 5, planters were instructed to plant 12 feet away from existing trees. At the conclusion of the tree planting the crew swept back through the stand installing tree cages, bamboo stakes, and plastic flagging. I forget now exactly how large the crew was, but suffice it to say there were 6-8 planters. Both units were planted in two days. I had the contract crew return in mid-June of the first three growing seasons to cut back any brush that had regrown and was competing with the tree seedlings.

Financial Summary

ProjectTotal AcresEQIP Payment/AcreTotal EQIPCost/acreTotal Cost
Mechanical site prep FMU 5, light brush4.6$621$2,856$1,160$2,480
Mechanical site prep FMU 7, heavy brush13.1$954$12,497$1,160$15,196
Planting 5,200 seedlings17.7$695*$12,301$490$8,673
Planting materials (trees, cages, and stakes)17.7**$316$5,593
Seedling release 117.7$65$1,150$150$1,505
Seedling release 217.7$65$1,150$189$2,210
Seedling release 317.7$65$1,150$204$3,625
$31,104 $39,282 

Project # 4. Pre-commercially thin mixed alder and fir, create wildlife habitat structures, and plant for carbon sequestration. Year 2023

This last project was one of the most enjoyable ones as it combined both a variety of restoration practices in one stand and two cost-share programs. I received EQIP funding to pre-commercially thin a stand of mixed Douglas-fir and red alder, as well as to create several wildlife habitat structures, namely habitat piles, constructed downed logs, and snags. I then applied for a received funding through the CSP to underplant the hardwood areas of this stand with a variety of conifers to improve the long-term carbon sequestration potential of the site.

FMU 1b occupies an east-facing slope that stretches from the top of our Bucoda land down to the valley floor. This unit was clearcut and replanted with Douglas-fir approximately 26 years ago.

Dense red alder on lower slopes of unit.

However, the wet soils on this slope hampered the ability of the planted fir to become well-established, and, combined with the disturbed soils from logging, creating an ideal environment for alder to naturally regenerate. The planted fir did well on upper slopes, small ridges between valleys, and flat sites that drained well, but the alder colonized the valleys, lower slopes, and areas where the soil retained more moisture. This resulted in discrete patches of Douglas-fir and red alder. Native shrubs and Himalayan blackberry also quickly colonized the open areas where the fir didn’t take well, as well as the understory of the alder. As is typical with naturally regenerated alder, it grew in at a very high density and by the time we bought the land in 2018 the trees were competing with each other and beginning to self-thin. The fir wasn’t entirely happy on the wetter soils, and in most places was growing much more slowly than the fir at the top of the hill where the soils were comparably much drier.

FMU 1b: Mixed Douglas-fir and alder
Total acresAge(2018)Dominant spp.Trees per acreAverage DBHAvg. heightAvg. crown ratio
2026Douglas-firRed alder350-4508”-10”55’<40%

Stand Assessment and Objectives

The high stocking density of the fir and alder was creating a high rate of competition amongst the trees, and consequently the live crowns were rapidly receding and growth of both individual trees, and at the stand level, was diminishing. Further, as is common in most third-generation forests, there was a lack of critical wildlife habitat structures, particularly large dead trees and downed logs. Although there was a good diversity of hardwoods throughout this unit, including bigleaf maple, bitter cherry, cascara, and cottonwood, conifer diversity was very limited and the dense brush and blackberry was preventing natural regeneration in the understory.

My interests with this stand were to restore timber quality by removing suppressed and defective trees and thinning to improve the growth of the most dominant and highest quality trees. I also wanted to improve both long-term carbon sequestration, timber production, and biodiversity by planting additional conifer species. Lastly, I wanted to improve wildlife habitat by creating habitat structures that were missing in the forest.

The short-term objectives for this site were:

  1. Pre-commercially thin Douglas-fir and red alder
  2. Create wildlife habitat piles and constructed downed logs from the slash generated from thinning.
  3. Create snags from larger diameter trees that had low timber value.
  4. Underplant hardwood dominated areas and gaps with a diversity of conifers.


Pre-commercial Thinning

The patches of alder were thinned in a similar manner as FMU 2. Suppressed and defective trees were cut, and the remaining stand reduced to 180 – 220 TPA. The Douglas-fir patches were thinned to approximately 240 – 300 TPA by also removing the most suppressed and defective trees first, then thinning for optimal crown spacing in the canopy. The pre-commercial thinning occurred in the winter of 2022-2023.

Wildlife Habitat Structures

With slash generated from the thinning, I created four wildlife habitat piles by stacking 10-foot-long poles perpendicular to one another several courses high, then piling fine branches on top to a height of six feet. The habitat piles were placed within 100 feet of either the wetland or the seasonal streams that drained off this slope in order to provide habitat for both small mammals and amphibians.

I also created 20 downed logs across the unit. Some logs were generated by cutting larger diameter trees (>12” DBH) that were of low timber quality. Most of these trees were Douglas-fir, but I also cut a few maple and cottonwood for diversity. Several of these logs were “constructed” by cutting smaller diameter trees and stacking the poles in parallel, then piling fine branches on top. The constructed logs were a minimum of 20 feet long and 20 inches in diameter.

Lastly, I created 26 snags across the unit by girdling trees that exceeded 12 inches DBH. Given the young age of this stand, it was difficult to find sufficient trees of that girth to create both snags and downed logs from, in particular since I was reluctant to cut trees that had good timber value. Most of the trees I girdled were Douglas-fir, but I also opted to girdle a few maple and cottonwood for diversity. Girdling took no more than a few minutes per tree and involved cutting two parallel lines at breast height approximately six inches apart, just deep enough to sever the cambium layer beneath the bark.

Constructed habitat log.

Underplanting Conifers

Following the pre-commercial thinning of the stand, and the creation of the habitat structures, I then planted the hardwood dominated areas and brushy gaps with a diversity of conifers. Across the entire 20-acre unit I planted 3,000 seedlings, which, after skipping over the Douglas-fir patches, resulted in a stocking of approximately 200 – 250 TPA in the planting sites. I chose a wide variety of conifers in order to improve biodiversity. Shade tolerant conifers were planted beneath hardwoods and trees that were only moderately shade intolerant conifers were planted into gaps. Given the dense shrub layer and presence of Himalayan blackberry throughout this unit, each planting spot was first scarified of competing vegetation before planting. A bamboo stake with a piece of orange flagging was placed at every seedling, and all cedar were caged to minimize deer browse. The trees were planted in February 2023.

SpeciesShade toleranceQty
Douglas-firModerately tolerant600
Western redcedarTolerant1,050
Western white pineModerately tolerant60
Grand firTolerant480
Western hemlockTolerant450
Sitka spruceTolerant360

Labor and Costs

I hired a contract crew to conduct all of the pre-commercial thinning and tree planting. The crew was comprised of approximately eight workers. Given the difficult terrain and the brushy conditions, it took them the entirety of three days to pre-commercially thin the unit, and an additional three days to plant the site and stake and cage the trees. All of the habitat structures, on the other hand, were created by both myself and my kids. In total it took the three of us approximately three days to create the four habitat piles, 20 downed logs, and 26 snags.

Financial Summary

ProjectTotal AcresEQIP/CSP Payment/AcreTotal EQIP/CSPCost/acreTotal Cost
Pre-commercially thin alder and fir20$341$6,864$442$8,840
Tree Planting(Labor)20$1,711*$35,475*$564$11,280
Tree Planting (Materials)20Included in aboveIncluded in above$221$4,411.25
Downed logs(20)20$246/log$4,920$0$0
Habitat piles(4)20$185/pile$740$0$0
Seedling Release 1(2023)20$50$1,000$200$4,000
Seedling Release 2(2024)20$50$1,000$200$4,000
Seedling Release 3(2025)20$50$1,000$200$4,000
$50,649 $32,120
Summary of Forest Restoration Costs and Cost-share Payments
YearProjectTotal AcresEQIP Payment/AcreTotal EQIPCost/acreTotal Cost
2020Pre-commercially thin red alder11.9$309$3,6778 hours personal labor$0
2020Douglas-fir release from maple9.5$309$2,904$150$1,425
2020Douglas-fir and cedar release from brush4.8$309$1,483~8 hours of personal labor$0
2020Mechanical site prep FMU 5, light brush4.6$621$2,856$1,160$2,480
2020Mechanical site prep FMU 7, heavy brush13.1$954$12,497$1,160$15,196
2020Planting 5,200 seedlings17.7$695*$12,301$490$8,673
2020Planting materials (trees, cages, and stakes)17.7**$316$5,593
2020Seedling release 117.7$65$1,150$150$1,505
2021Seedling release 217.7$65$1,150$189$2,210
2022Seedling release 317.7$65$1,150$204$3,625
2023Pre-commercially thin alder and fir20$341$6,864$442$8,840
2023Tree Planting(Labor)20$1,711*$35,475*$564$11,280
2023Tree Planting (Materials)20Included in aboveIncluded in above$221$4,411.25
2023Downed logs(20)20$246/log$4,920$0$0
2023Habitat piles(4)20$185/pile$740$0$0
2023Seedling Release 1(2023)20$50$1,000$200$4,000
2024Seedling Release 2(2024)20$50$1,000$200$4,000
2025Seedling Release 3(2025)20$50$1,000$200$4,000
$90,817 $77,238 

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