In the Central Cascades Forest (CCF), Herman Flamenco, Conservation Forester at TNC Washington, says he envisions a day where the CCF reaches O.G. maturity. Though the timescale of forest maturation means, “reaching old growth won’t necessarily happen in our lifetime.”
*Record scratch* reaching old growth takes patience and a commitment to a long-term vision.
While TNC stewards this forest, Herman says it’s all about balance, “getting the forest to manage itself in a way—having forests work for themselves and work for people.”
He says when he first started work in CCF, there were “really dense forests—a lot of trees and a thick understory brush. That was typically maintained through wildfire, but it was allowed to balloon and overgrow.” The landscape he’s describing was previously owned by a logging company based in Washington.
In 2014, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and The Forest Service completed an analysis of forestlands in Eastern Washington. They found 2.7 million acres of forest, including the CCF, were in desperate need of restoration.
“From my point of view, it was left to fend for itself. We have areas that were replanted after logging. They are overstocked now—way too many trees—and they’re all competing with each other,” he says. Ultimately, Herman works to make sure “our forests are around” beyond this lifetime.
To do this, he and a dedicated team of foresters, scientists, land stewards, and community members have teamed up to restore the land. Recently, they masticated over 200 acres of the forest using heavy machinery to thin the understory in efforts to avoid devastating wildfires. If a fire came through the forest’s current conditions, “you’d have what we call ladder fuels, where fire climbs through the understory, into the midstory, and then up into the overstory and becomes a catastrophic wildfire.”