The 7,742-acre Headwaters Forest Reserve was established in 1999 by the landmark Headwaters Forest Agreement, and in 2004, the BLM adopted a contemporary management plan for the reserve. The 2004 plan articulates nine management objectives for the reserve, foremost among these being preservation of old-growth dependent species and habitats, and the restoration of old-growth and aquatic ecosystems.
While the Headwaters Forest Reserve was originally created for the purpose of protecting old-growth forests and old-growth dependent species and their habitats, only a percentage of the reserve actually contains old-growth forests, with the majority of the reserve containing previously-harvested stands in varying states of regeneration and recovery.
The primary means of returning previously-managed forests towards old-growth characteristics over time in the Headwaters Forest Reserve has been the use of prescribed thinning. Currently, the BLM employs a method known as “lop-and-scatter,” where forest stands are thinned by cutting small-diameter trees in young, dense regenerating forest stands, and the resulting material is scattered on the forest floor. No trees are removed from the forest.
The purpose of these thinning treatments is to move previously-harvested stands towards an old-growth-like state over time, consistent with the reserve’s management goals. Previously-harvested stands in the reserve represent a wide range of forest conditions which are in varying states of regeneration and recovery. Regenerating forests often grow back much thicker and denser than the original forest stand condition. As a result, regenerating previously-harvested forests often contain too many trees, too tightly packed together. This results in forest stands which are highly homogenized and simplified, leading to unhealthy conditions for wildlife, and the forest itself.
The BLM is now seeking to revise its 2004 management plan to allow for greater flexibility in the methods available for restoration of previously-harvested forest stands in the reserve. Possible approaches could include re-entry of previously thinned stands or even the implementation of prescribed burning in previously-managed stands to thin trees and manage fuel loads.
The BLM will hold a public meeting to take input on potential revisions to the 2004 management plan on Tuesday, September 1st, from 6-7:30 p.m. at the BLM offices in Arcata, located at 1695 Heindon Road in Arcata. EPIC encourages interested members of the public to attend.