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Where to start with mature forest fire prevention work plus spawning understory?

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Howdy folks, I'm looking to devise a long-term forest maintenance strategy for a little sliver of heaven in Montana. I have an incredibly steep mountain ridge property within a dense 70' - 100' doug fir stand in need of initial fuels reduction and thinning work before I'll then set out on a multi-year work plan to care for and improve the forest.

Ideally I'd like to spawn a medium term understory revival that could be enjoyed within my lifetime, if that's even possible in Zone 4 on a largely north facing ridge.

I'm searching around the forums for bits and pieces to help guide my initial plans, but I'm curious if there are any initial resources that would be good to check out from the perspective of the experts within this board section?

I can provide further context and images if that might help. I'll be drafting an initial strategy that I'll look to share for feedback from folks as I learn more too.

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts 🙏

I don't see much for dry lateral fuel for a fire from the ground. The odd dead snag on the ground. Most of the mature wood has lost it's lower limbs. The only other thing is a crown fire if an adjacent woods is full of dry full and you get high winds driving it into your woods. In that case a commercial thinning can be done to get more light to the ground for new growth. All I see there now is moss and small shrubs under the mature stuff.

Stick around, I'm sure there are some western folks with some insights. ;)

Like SD says, there isn't a lot of junk on the forest floor. I'd think that thinning out the weaker and more suppressed trees would be a good start. They are the ones that are going to die off and create a fuel load over time. The remaining healthy trees with tend to close in the canopy again, and keep the lower story shaded. 

If you want regeneration in that sort of forest you probably need to open actual clearings. I think DF is a species that needs open space to regenerate (after a fire or wind storm?). But you can simulate that by creating small clearings with plenty of light.  

DF grows here in NZ, but it's plantation forestry. Plant, leave for 35 years, harvest, repeat. Managing a natural stand is going to be different, and that's where local forestry knowledge comes in. 

Welcome to the forum!  

Okay. Let's start with a few questions.

1) What are your objectives? What do you want from this property and what do you want it to look like in 5, 10, 20 years?

2) What part of Montana are you in? Northwest, Yellowstone area, Bozeman?

3) Are there any other species of trees on the property? Ponderosa pine, Lodgepole pine, Spruce?

4) How steep is steep? 10%, 25%, 35%?

5) What is the topography and how big is the lot? Is it all ridgetop or a slope off the ridge top or are there some benches? 

6) Are there any wild turkeys in the area? If so, that would preclude any natural regeneration.

7) By fuels reduction are you talking about the downed material in the picture? Do you want that cleaned up so that your timber lot looks like a park? If so we need to have a serious talk about why that's a bad idea. 

You can contact the Montana Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Parks and ask if they have a private landowner service forester for your area. That would be a good place to start.

Answer question #1 first and we'll start working on the rest of them and several others later. 

Welcome to the forum. Have fun.  


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