Consensus Report

Each report is produced by a committee of experts selected by the Academy to address a particular statement of task and is subject to a rigorous, independent peer review; while the reports represent views of the committee, they also are endorsed by the Academy. Learn more on our expert consensus reports.

People are demanding more of the goods, services, and amenities provided by the forests of the Pacific Northwest, but the finiteness of the supply has become clear. This issue involves complex questions of biology, economics, social values, community life, and federal intervention. Forests of the Pacific Northwest explains that economic and aesthetic benefits can be sustained through new approaches to management, proposes general goals for forest management, and discusses strategies for achieving them. Recommendations address restoration of damaged areas, management for multiple uses, dispute resolution, and federal authority.

Key Messages

  • Allocation. Most allocation decisions are made within particular ownerships and, thus, at scales smaller than ecosystems and landscapes.
  • Appropriate levels of management must incorporate a well-designed and properly managed system of protected reserves.
  • Experience with the multiyear process leading to adoption of the Northwest Forest Plan also suggests the need to address ways to reduce conflicts over forest management issues.
  • Harvesting. Logging and postharvest planting methods have changed through time with changes in our knowledge and differences in owners' objectives. In general, harvest practices are changing in ways that maintain or increase site productivity that reduce impacts on forest values, such as biodiversity and aesthetics, but further improvements in this area are needed.
  • In the western Cascades, old-growth forests have been reduced from 40-70% of the landscape in pre-settlement times to 13-18% today.
  • Investment. Positive and negative incentives are influencing forest management investments in the Pacific Northwest. Higher timber prices provide financial incentives for investments in timber production.
  • Late-successional forests are characterized by the invasion of shade-tolerant species. This usually occurs only in the absence of significant disturbances, which maintain the dominance of less shade-tolerant species, such as Douglas-fir and ponderosa pine.
  • More timber-related jobs have been lost in recent decades to increases in efficiency and productivity than to reductions in timber harvests.
  • Old-growth forests are ecologically unique with respect to their complexity and biodiversity, accumulations of logs and woody debris, and resistance to disturbances, such as fire and insect and fungal pest outbreaks.
  • Rationing uses. No single rotation age or age between successive cuts fits all forest management goals or circumstances.
  • The committee viewed forest management within the context of four elements: allocation of land to particular uses, rationing or scheduling of use, harvest of forest products, and investment in productive resources.
  • The increasing production of wood products on private forests is leading to lower ages of trees at harvest and more intensive silvicultural operations such as thinning, use of improved genetic stock for single-species planting, fertilization, and increased use of pesticides.
  • The multiple threats to biodiversity caused by past forestry practices and the effects of lost biodiversity on ecosystem processes and sustainability demand a new approach to forest management.
  • True late-successional forests are relatively rare in the Pacific Northwest.