Weyerhaeuser has owned timberlands in the Pacific Northwest since 1900, when the company purchased its first 900,000 acres of forestland in Washington. Today, we own approximately 3 million acres of timberlands in Montana, Oregon and Washington. The region’s climate is wet and mild, with the majority of annual precipitation falling during the winter months, making July through September relatively dry. Our timberlands range from a few hundred feet in elevation to as high as four thousand feet.
The geology of the region tells a compelling story. Chains of volcanic islands collided with the North American continent to become portions of western Oregon and Washington. The volcanic peaks that make up the Cascade Mountains testify to a long history of eruptions that continue today, with the Mt. St. Helens 1980 eruption being the most recent example. The rugged terrain is the result of continued uplift of mountains. As the mountains rise, they are subject to the erosive forces of weather and streams and rivers that carry sediment and nutrients to the ocean. It is the interaction of geology, topography, soils, biology and climate that make this region among the most productive conifer growing areas in the world.
Our timberlands in the western U.S. were historically dominated by Douglas-fir, still the primary species we plant and harvest. We cultivate several other native species, including noble fir, grand fir, Western red cedar, Sitka spruce, ponderosa pine, and red alder. All of the timberlands we manage in the western U.S. have been harvested and regenerated at least once. In some locations, we are now planting our third generation of trees. Across our holdings in the U.S., we replant 99 percent of the areas we harvest within two years of harvest.
Our intensive forest management includes planting seedlings produced through our world-class selection, breeding and field testing program, fertilizing the soil where needed, preventing competing vegetation from overcrowding young trees in their first few growing seasons, and thinning stands during their growing cycle to support robust growth.
Sustainably managing our forests is a core objective of our management strategy. We recognize that our practices affect flora and fauna that are dependent on the forests we manage. In Washington state alone, we have contributed more than 100,000 acres to conservation initiatives through land exchanges, sales, donations and conservation easements.
The forests we manage in the western U.S. host more than 250 native vertebrate species. This includes large mammals such as deer, elk, cougar, black bear and bobcat. Also present are birds of prey such as goshawks, red-tailed hawks, bald and golden eagles, osprey and numerous species of neo-tropical migrant birds that return to the pacific northwest each spring to breed and nest. Salamanders and other amphibians inhabit the uplands and riparian areas on timberlands.
Different species groups are dependent on different forest age classes and associated forest structures. The matrix of forest stand ages across our lands means we can provide much of the habitat diversity they require. Adjacent to and intermingled with some of our Oregon and Washington ownership is public forest land, which includes stands with older age classes. At a landscape scale, this diversity of ownership, age class, and forest structure provide a wide range of habitat diversity for native species.
Unique Weather Events
In December 2007, a series of snow, wind and rainstorms battered western Oregon and Washington, causing severe flooding, landslides, and wind damage. A portion of our timberlands located in the Chehalis River headwaters, known as the Willapa Hills, received extraordinarily high rainfall and suffered thousands of landslides. The storm raised questions about whether timber harvesting exacerbates landslides and flooding, and whether the laws and voluntary standards that govern timber harvesting on steep and unstable slopes are adequate. Read our summary document for more information, including the responses by Washington State agencies, us, and others.
RESEARCH AND PARTNERSHIPS
To sustainably manage our forests, it's important that we continue to learn about how our activities affect both the forest ecosystem and surrounding communities. We frequently partner with other organizations to ensure that our practices are consistent with the best available science.
One example is our work on the Trask River Watershed. In partnership with the Oregon Department of Forestry and other agencies, we are conducting an integrated, multi-disciplinary study on the effects of forest management on fish and the aquatic ecosystems of the watershed. The two main objectives of the project are to determine:
- The effects of forest harvest on the physical, chemical and biological characteristics of small headwater streams.
- The extent to which potential stream alterations caused by timber harvest along headwater channels influence the physical, chemical and biological characteristics.
The Trask River Watershed Study (North-Coast) is part of a research cooperative including two other watershed studies in Oregon: Hinkle Creek (Cascades) and Alsea Revisited (Mid-Coast). The three studies include research projects that both complement one another using similar research designs and differ according to the unique objectives of the study area.