Landowner Management Objectives
A central focus of the Skunk FMP will be to profitably restore and maintain a biodiverse, late successional forest that has the similar architectural structure and ecological functions as the primary and late successional forest (see here). Systems Ecologist and creator of Analog Forestry, Ranil Senanayake, who received his Ph.D. from UC Davis, contributed greatly to the formulation of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest Hayfork Adaptive Management Area, as did Brian Hill, who is the current forest manager of the Skunk Ranch. Following Adaptive Management goals, Skunk Ranch forest practices aim at innovating profitable techniques to remove forest fuels, which plague too many Western forests, by thinning even-age timber stands to restore late successional and primary growth patterns. Business plans will be necessary to assure that restoration and maintenance practices are economically viable.
Desired Forest Condition
Fire Protection Objectives
Treat forest fuels so that wildfires will be easily-controlled, low-intensity surface fires, in order to protect the residents from harm and to prevent the destruction of houses, outbuildings, the water system, and other infrastructure. Reduce the risk of fire ignitions by reducing fuels along USFS Road 4N09, internal roads, and around inhabited structures. Create forest conditions that will enable the use of prescribed fire as a management tool. And create a fire resilient forest by removing fire ladder fuels and thinning over-stocked forest stands in order to restore late successional and primary forest ecological balances.
Forest Health Objectives
Insects and Disease Concerns
In general, existing insect and disease damage to trees is minor. However, many stands, especially in the DFR4D and MHC3D types are overstocked with trees. Many trees in these stands are moisture stressed during the dry season and may be nutrient stressed as well. They often have short crowns and are thus not producing at their optimum potential. If stressed trees are attacked by insects, such as bark beetles, they are less able to produce pitch to defend against the attack. If the attack is successful, they will die, but in the process will become brood trees, leading to an increase in insect populations. This has the potential to create an increasingly large population of insects, with consequent adverse effects on healthier trees. Also, as the number of dead trees increase, there will be a consequent increase in surface fuels that can add to the intensity and rate of spread of wildfires.
It is often believed that a healthy forest is free from insects and diseases that are destructive to live trees. However, such agents provide a necessary function in a forest ecosystem and their elimination is not an objective of the landowners. Rather, the objective is to prevent excessive infestations of these agents by maintaining tree stocking at densities that will enhance the vigor of individual trees.
Invasive plant and animal, concerns
As of this time the only invasive species of concern is star thistle. If this species gets out of hand it creates rather unpleasant conditions in grasslands. An objective of the landowners is to control or eradicate this species from the ranch.
Desired Species Habitat Improvement
The landowners would like maintain or increase the populations of grouse, turkeys, and other wild and semi-wild birds and animals. Habitat for these species will be improved by planting native and ecologically compatible perennial food crops.
Douglas-fir, ponderosa and sugar pine, black, white, and canyon live oak, Pacific madrone, California hazel, blackcap, and Himalayan blackberry (a non-native, invasive species) are particularly valuable as they provide abundant food for a variety of wildlife. Riparian and wet areas could be planted with a combination of elderberry, huckleberry, California blackberry, western raspberry (blackcap), snowberry, wild rose, wild grape, sunflower, Lotus, Melilotus, lupine, clover, vetch, sedge, barley, fescue, brome, and/or needlegrass. Consult “A Study of Plant Materials Suitable for Use in Watershed and Wildlife Habitat Improvement in the Trinity River Watershed, California” by Stephen Matthews, Michael Furniss, and Tom Leskiw, 1990, a copy of which is included on the CD attached to this plan.
There may be opportunities to improve wildlife habitat in the forested areas through vegetation management. In general, many species of wildlife tend to benefit from an increase in “edge”, the interface between different vegetation/habitat types. This “edge” can be in a vertical and/or horizontal direction and can be created by burning, land clearing, timber harvesting, thinning, and/or planting. Wildlife also benefits from an improvement in any of the conditions necessary for its survival, such as food and water sources and cover. Often only one condition is limiting to the size, health, and/or diversity of wildlife populations and an improvement in that one condition will cause a significant effect.
Any forest management activity can be expected to affect some or all species in some way. Every species has its preferred habitat and some have rather narrow habitat requirements. Species vary in their ability to adapt to suddenly-altered, or even slowly changing environments. Some species may be adversely affected by vegetative manipulations. Any species which are particularly valued should be studied thoroughly so their habitat requirements are understood and management activities then tailored to help maintain or enhance their populations. It is recommended that a wildlife biologist be consulted for species-specific management planning.
If timber harvesting is done, selection, group selection, or commercial thinning is recommended as those methods maintain a relatively stable forest environment and thus minimizes the impact on existing wildlife populations. Selection harvesting maintains a multi-storied canopy, which favors a greater abundance of species than a single-storied stand.
Although a park like forest is pleasing to the eye and perhaps more fire safe, it is not as beneficial for wildlife as a forest with logs and snags, rotten, decadent hardwoods, and at least some tangled thickets. Logs provide habitat for small mammals, some birds, and for over a hundred invertebrates, which in turn become food for small mammals, birds, and even bears. Where there are few logs, consider falling some trees to create 5 logs per acre. Cover can also be created by piling slash loosely in piles 3-5 feet deep and 6-8 feet across.
Snags are habitat for many invertebrates and provide nesting, denning, roosting, and perching sites for a variety of birds and mammals. When harvesting trees, retain at least one snag per acre over 18 inches in diameter, two snags per acre in the 12-18 inch diameter class, and six snags per acre in the 6-12 inch class and leave ten logs of various sizes. Leave a mix of conifer and hardwood snags.
A “messy” forest provides more foraging, roosting, nesting, and cover habitat than a neat and tidy forest. It is recommended that this type of forest be encouraged wherever aesthetics or fire hazard are not of primary concern.
Rare and Endangered Species Habitat Concerns
As stated previously, information provided in THP 2-01-212-TRI (4) filed by SPI in 2001 noted the possibility of three Threatened and Endangered (equivalent to Rare & Endangered) species visiting or existing on the Skunk Ranch, the northern spotted owl (NSO), the wolverine, and the southern torrent salamander. However, none of these species were found on the Ranch. A NRCS (Weaverville, CA) search of the CA NDDB located NSO sightings within ½-mile to the west of the Skunk Ranch along Buckeye Creek, within 1 mile to the north along Buckhorn Creek, and within 2 miles southeast along USFS Road 4N24.
One of the objectives of the landowners is to restore late successional and primary forest ecological balances, which will result in an increase of habitat that will support R and E species. Major habitat disturbing activities, such as timber harvesting, require identification and protection of T&E species. The California Forest Practice Rules (included on the CD attached to this plan) for privately owned lands require a survey for and protection of known northern spotted owl habitat. A botanist, wildlife biologist, or other person trained in survey techniques and familiar with T&E species identification is suitable for this survey. Also, consult the CA NDDB. If other T&E species are found a protection plan needs to be developed in cooperation with the appropriate State or Federal agency. Also required to be protected is nest site habitat for the following sensitive species; northern goshawk, peregrine falcon, bald and golden eagle, osprey, great blue heron, great gray owl, and great egret as well as habitat for the fisher and red tree vole.
The landowners will investigate the feasibility of establishing nurseries to raise R & E species so as to re-establish them in the local ecosystem.
Trespass is a concern and the landowners intend to post more “Private Property – No Hunting” signs along USFS Roads.
The landowners highly value the aesthetics of forests with large trees and their objective is to restore late successional, native forest architecture.
Utilize at least some non-timber fuelwood for organic fiber, to be combined with peat/silt from the wet meadow/seasonal pond to make soil and worm castings to be sold and to increase ranch soil fertility.
Extract conifer resins from waste wood by steam distillation, to be sold as essential oil and for biotic plastics.
Compost wood chips/masticated waste wood and collect and bottle methane byproduct, using the Jean Pain composting technique.
Use heat from the composting process to heat a greenhouse.
Combine composted waste wood and peat/silt to make high value soil and worm castings for booming soil/worm casting markets.
Nurture and plant species of plants which have a similar architectural structure and ecological function as the existing Skunk forest (we call this Forest Gardening because it mimics food production techniques used by pre-Western cultures, which shared balanced cultures and ecosystems for millennia).
Mill thinned trees for local and specialty markets (for species and volume availability, refer to the FVS outputs on the CD attached to this plan). The landowners have invested in a sawmill which will process 3400 board feet of lumber per day. We will follow similar procedures established by the local California Strategy to Maintain Biological Diversity, the Hayfork Adaptive Management Area, the Watershed Center and the Jefferson State Wood Products business. The Skunk Ranch forest manager participated in the creation of all these efforts.
Essential oils for medicinal use, cosmetic products, aroma therapy, fungicides, and/or pesticides will be produced from viable local and compatible flora.
Create a wildlife rescue release facility.
The sale of carbon credits to carbon emitters may also help off-set fireproofing and restoration costs, provided a base-line is begun prior to major restoration work.
The landowners’ objective is to develop a legal structure that will permit them to restore the Ranch and preserve it in as close to perpetuity as possible, with the objective of having at least three generations connected with the land, with enough people to assure sustainable self-sufficiency for the residents and land. The ultimate goal is to prevent sale of the land or land use that would harm the ecosystem.
One objective is to create an elk nursery to stock the Ranch and surrounds with Roosevelt elk.