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Tree thinning operation to begin in demo forest

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By Dennis Box-The Courier-Herald

The Washington State University Demonstration Forest is in line for a tree thinning.

The Department of Planning and Community Development approved a tree removal permit allowing about 1,200 trees to be cut down by Donny Jones Logging from Graham, Wash.

The logging operation is planned for the first half of this month.

The trees are infested with laminated root rot, which was discovered in the forest after WSU hired Ken Russell, a tree pathologist based in Olympia, to check out the forest after the Feb. 17 windstorm knocked down about 250 trees.

Russell went through the forest to assess damage to trees and found extensive root rot.

At a May 16 City Council workshop, Mel Taylor, executive director of real estate for WSU, informed members the forest would be closed for all future university, 4-H extension programs because of the extent of damage from the storm and disease.

Russell said at the meeting about 7 percent of the forest had enough root rot and the diseased trees would need to be cut down.

According to Ellen Talbo, the city's assistant planner, the WSU office of the vice president for business affairs applied for the tree-removal permit from the city.

Since the nearly 150-acre forest is in the city, the planning department officials had to approve and issue a tree removal permit for the work to proceed.

According to the a press release from Planning Manager Steve Ladd, the tree removal was to “combat an infestation that is killing Douglas firs, and has nothing to do with the pending proposal to develop WSU Demonstration Forest.”

Quadrant, a property development subsidiary of the Weyerhaeuser Company, has proposed giving the city 45 acres of the forest if the council will approve a 527-home development on 100 acres of the forest. Building homes on the forestland involves the council members approving a zoning change from public facilitates to residential zoning allowing seven homes per acre.

The logging company will haul the timber out of the forest on South Prairie Road. According to the planning department, flaggers will be present for traffic control during “peak traffic hours.”

The city's arborist, Dennis Thompkins, will oversee replanting trees in the cleared sites of the forest.

Pat BoyEf from WSU's 4-H youth development said all trees used in the 4-H Challenge Course will also be taken down for safety reasons. BoyEf said metal pieces were secured in the trees for the ropes course used by the program.

“It is an absolute safety issue,” BoyEf said. “We can never predict when some logger might run into one of the pieces with a chain saw and get injured.”

Taylor said the money from the logging operation will be given to the 4H extension program.

The owner of the forest, Weyerhaeuser, deeded the land to WSU in 1941 for educational purposes. The university decided to give the forest back in 2004, although the legal transfer of the deed is not complete.

Dennis Box can be reached at dbox@courierherald.com.

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