28 Jan 2010, 5:10pm
by admin

Silvicultural research and the evolution of forest practices in the Douglas-fir region

Curtis, Robert O.; DeBell, Dean S.; Miller, Richard E.; Newton, Michael; St. Clair, J. Bradley; Stein, William I. 2007. Silvicultural research and the evolution of forest practices in the Douglas-fir region. Gen. Tech. Rep. PNW-GTR-696. Portland, OR: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. 172 p.

Full text may be downloaded [here]

Selected excerpts:


Silvicultural practices in the Douglas-fir region evolved through a combination of formal research, observation, and practical experience of forest managers and silviculturists, and changing economic and social factors. This process began more than a century ago and still continues. It has had a great influence on the economic well-being of the region and on the present characteristics of the region’s forests. This long history is unknown to most of the public, and much of it is unfamiliar to many natural resource specialists outside (and even within) the field of silviculture. We trace the history of how we got where we are today and the contribution of silvicultural research to the evolution of forest practices. We give special attention to the large body of information developed in the first half of the past century that is becoming increasingly unfamiliar to both operational foresters and — perhaps more importantly — to those engaged in forestry research. We also discuss some current trends in silviculture and silviculture-related research.


Forestry is the science, art, and practice of creating, managing, using, and conserving forests and associated resources for human benefit to meet desired goals, needs, and values (Helms 1998). Silviculture is that portion of the field of forestry that deals with the knowledge and techniques used to establish and manipulate vegetation and to direct stand and tree development to create or maintain desired conditions. It is the application of knowledge of forest biology and ecology to practical forestry problems.

Modern forestry evolved over more than a century in the United States and over several centuries in Europe and elsewhere in the world. This long history is not well known to many people interested in forestry, and many natural resource professionals — including a good many foresters — know little of the scientific and social background that influenced the historical development of forestry and forest science. Yet, many modern questions and controversies are merely variations on those of the past. Any balanced consideration of current problems and possible solutions requires an understanding of how we got where we are today. …

A complete and detailed history of North American forestry and forestry research would be an enormous undertaking, far beyond our capabilities. We here confine ourselves to the much more limited subject of the development of silvicultural research and practice in the Douglas-fir region of the Pacific Northwest. In doing so, we take a broad view of silviculture, including silvics, nursery practice, seeding and planting, forest genetics, and those aspects of forest mensuration related to stand development. Our discussion will deal primarily with Douglas-fir as it occurs in western Washington and Oregon, but will also touch on important associated species. We concentrate on events and research in Washington and Oregon, only briefly touching on more or less parallel developments in adjacent Canada and California. We delve very lightly into the enormously important topic of fire and its effects. Likewise, we touch only briefly on the important role of silviculture in forest health issues such as prevention and control of root diseases, insect attacks, animal damage, and similar matters. We consciously bypass much of the large body of related work in physiology and ecology. Our main focus will be on the silvicultural research bearing on stand regeneration and stand management.

We give special attention to the period before World War II (WWII) and treat subsequent years in less detail, in part because the pre-WWII period is least familiar to the current generation of foresters. Most research in this early period was carried out by the U.S. Forest Service, the number of people involved was small, and they often worked on a variety of topics. The early researchers included some truly remarkable people who made enormous contributions. The memory of these people and their contributions should not be lost. …

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