Jay McLaughlin, executive director of Mt. Adams Resource Stewards (MARS), was on hand with a chainsaw at a thinning operation to promote the growth of older trees at the Mill Pond Tract near Glenwood last week. MARS recently added 280 acres to its community forest effort by purchasing the Pine Flats Forest off of Trout Lake Highway for $800,000.
Photo by Amber Marra.
After two years of fundraising, Mt. Adams Resource Stewards (MARS) has expanded the lands they manage by 280 acres.
The land in question is the Pine Flats Forest, which consists of a swath of gorgeous towering pines that stand next to dirt paths along Trout Lake Highway next to Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge. The Pine Flats Forest was previously owned by Washington Conservation and Forestry LLC, an investment group out of New Hampshire, but as of about three weeks ago it fell into the hands of MARS for the price of $800,000, according to Jay McLaughlin, executive director of MARS.
“This was our largest undertaking as a nonprofit organization so far,” McLaughlin said.
While much of the money raised to purchase the Pine Flats Forest came from donations, $400,000 of it was obtained from a grant through the U.S. Forest Service’s Community Forest Program in 2013. That year, only three projects were awarded grants through the program.
For now, the Pine Flats Forest remains unsigned with a rough, dirt trail that winds through it. Though none of it has been mapped and an official trail system hasn’t been established, McLaughlin said the main goal is to keep the 280-acre community forest open for recreation, he’s just not sure what that will look like yet.
“At the end of the day I think we can come up with solutions that compromise and balance the different, potentially competing uses for these lands for recreational activities,” he said.
This is the second piece of property MARS has acquired in hopes of developing a community forest, meaning the nonprofit will involve the community as a whole in land use and forest management decisions.
In 2011, MARS obtained around 100 acres known as the Mill Pond Tract from Washington Conservation and Forestry as the first step towards developing a community forest.
“It was the first opportunity we had to buy a property that fit our goal of protecting or conserving lands that were important to the community,” McLaughlin said.
Last week, McLaughlin roamed around a portion of the Mill Pond Tract with a chainsaw and the assistance of a skidder to thin out some of the smaller trees on the property that were competing with older, larger trees for light and water.
The wood cut from such thinning operations is used in a variety of ways, with larger portions of wood being taken to nearby lumber mills and those that are smaller either being shipped off to become poles that hop-growers can use in their fields or to local seniors who need firewood.
“I think the kind of forestry we’re promoting here at the Mt. Adams Community Forest is more similar to something we call stewardship forestry where it’s going to focus more on the long term well-being of the forest that’s here, as well as the people that work in the forest and the communities that interact with it,” McLaughlin said. “At this point in time, especially in this part of the forest where there are lots of healthy trees that we can continue to work with and grow into larger diameter trees, we’re going to select out the smaller, less vigorous trees that are competing with the bigger trees we want to grow.”
That’s the same management practice that MARS will adopt for the Pine Flats Forest. Without such protections, McLaughlin worried that the future of the 280 acres could have been reduced to nothing through potentially destructive timber harvests or turned into a sprawl of randomly positioned homes from Glenwood to Trout Lake.
“When investment groups own these forests and they have a financial responsibility to their investors to generate maximum returns that either comes from aggressively harvesting timber as soon as possible or finding a higher value use for the land, which may be bringing in housing developments,” McLaughlin said. “It’s done strictly with the focus on maximizing financial returns versus what works best for local communities, what works best for businesses in those communities and what works best for the forest.”