Project: Vermillion Pass WBP Daylighting
Agency/Forest or Park/District: MT, Lolo N.F., Plains/Thompson Falls R.D.
Project coordinator: Valerie Walker
Contact: Valerie Walker, firstname.lastname@example.org, (406) 826-4343
Robert Keane, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory
Source of funding /amount
Supplemental funding: $4,900 from NFRR – appropriated funding.
Dates of restoration efforts
To reduce competing vegetation to increase health and vigor in established whitebark pine, and to help reduce susceptibility to bark beetle and improve survival.
70 acres (partial acres based on receiving partial funding).
We removed other conifers from around healthy whitebark pine saplings and seedlings with apparent rust resistance. The clearing radius was variable, and correlated to the tree height, with a 12-foot minimum thinning radius. The intent was to increase vigor by reducing competition, and to reduce mountain pine beetle hazard by altering the microclimate of the bole so trees have an improved likelihood of surviving to maturity and successfully contributing to regeneration of whitebark pine in the future. Some of the larger whitebark saplings are currently producing cones.
To increase the longer term survival chance of the released trees (reducing risks from Ips spp., wildfire, and rodent damage), trees were felled away from the selected whitebark pine and slash was pulled back from the boles of the leave trees.
Pretreatment surveys, including rust status information, were completed in 2010 with appropriated funds (NFRR), and found 69% of the living whitebark pine had no visible rust infection, 10% had prunable cankers, and 21% had lethal cankers. Looking at all whitebark pine in the treatment area, approximately 15% had died. Over the entire 750 acres available for daylighting, we averaged 128 whitebark pine per acre, in a mixture with subalpine fir (411/acre), mountain hemlock (466/acre), and Douglas-fir (90/acre), with another 110 trees per acre of lodgepole pine, western larch, Engelmann spruce, western white pine, and ponderosa pine. NEPA documentation was also completed in 2010 with appropriated funds (NFRR). The proposed treatment area was visited by Forest Health personnel in 2011 (Lockman and Steed), making recommendations for spacing regimes and prescription considerations. Post-treatment attributes were examined by Silviculture personnel concurrently with treatment inspection and quality control, and met the prescribed conditions. To date, RMRS staff has not had time to monitor treatment response, but plan to measure height, diameter, and growth rate following release.
Planting? If so, source of seedlings? Resistance? No
This project promoted 70 acres of vigorous young whitebark pine, and decreased their risk from bark beetles and wildfire in the future. The selected leave trees are likely the most rust resistant trees and will provide an improved genetic base for the seed produced by this stand in the future.
We were satisfied with spacing 20’ off the larger WBP (>12’ tall) and glad we hadn’t left more trees. Most of the areas we will move into in the future have larger WBP that will benefit from this wider spacing. We accomplished what we envisioned in this year’s efforts.
Monitoring since completion of the project
Monitoring occurred concurrently with the treatment via contract inspection. Post-treatment attributes matched the prescribed conditions.
RMRS staff intend to collect quantitative data related to treatment response (release), but do not have a firm schedule for this to occur.
Will outcome meet goals?
Yes, the outcome matched the prescribed conditions well.
Future actions/follow up?
Continued monitoring at least over the next couple of years while we continue with WBP release efforts in this area.
We had intended to use Force Account labor but the fire season took all their efforts. Work was added to our contract late in the season, and the work was completed later than expected. RMRS staff did not have an adequate window in which to take their baseline measurements, so that has not happened yet. We plan to put future work of this type directly under the contract.