By Mary-Justine Lanyon
The Mountain Sunrise Rotary Club had not been able to meet for several weeks due to the restrictions on gatherings and the order for San Bernardino County residents to stay at home.
They reassembled on April 8 via Zoom, with David Kelly as their speaker.
Kelly, a former division chief with the U.S. Forest Service, currently serves as a forester for the Arrowhead Lake Association.
“Forests are ever-changing,” Kelly told the Rotarians. “They grow like hair and have many different styles.”
A first step in forest management is to do a forest inventory. What is growing and living in the forest? What types of trees? And don’t forget the wildlife, Kelly said. “What do we share the forest with?”
You also have to take into account invasive plants and animals. “When managing the forest, you may want to get rid of something like Spanish broom. It’s not native and, once it gets established, it takes over,” Kelly said.
“When I say invasive wildlife, I mean insects,” Kelly noted. He pointed out that the gold spotted oak borer – which has not yet reached our forest – has no natural predator here.
“We have to manage the forest to minimize the effects of insects.”
Kelly then outlined what he calls the Five Ds: dead, dying, diseased, density, drought.
“Every forest should have some snags (dead trees) but not necessarily a lot of them,” he said. “There should be some dead trees standing as well as on the ground for wildlife needs.”
In the early 2000s, he said, “the hillsides were all red. Even now there are pockets of dying trees. They go from green to red, with the needles hanging on for a year or two.”
He identified mistletoe as one of the pathogens that affects trees, causing them to become diseased.
“Density is the big one,” Kelly said. “There are all sorts of magic numbers as to the number of trees per acre in the forest. As you get more trees, they are less healthy.”
He used the analogy of an allotment of 2,000 calories per day. If that serves one person, that person is fine. If they are split between two people, you will live but will be susceptible to disease.
We have always had drought, Kelly said. “We don’t want more trees than can be supported by the amount of water we’re getting.”
Another factor in forest management is the condition of the forest. How long has it been since the last fire? How many fire return intervals have been missed?
Kelly said firefighters have been very efficient at putting out fires the last 100 years. But, when a fire comes through, it gets rid of diseased trees and the density stays down.
In the San Bernardino Mountains, Kelly said, the fire interval is 15 to 30 years. “We routinely miss two or three,” Kelly noted. “Then we have an Old Fire that burns everything.
“We want to mimic what the fire would do in the treatment of the forest.”
As we look at the forest, Kelly said, we ask, Is this what it is supposed to look like? What have past practices been? Was the area heavily cut 100 years ago?
And you also have to look at recent events, like the blow-downs that occurred with the Thanksgiving storms. “They led to a lot more fuel on the surface that could burn.”
What recent work has been in the forest? Has it been treated in the last five to 10 years? And, if there was a fire in the last five years, you may not want to take anything else out.
Kelly reviewed the parts of a forest management plan, something that is prepared by a registered professional forester for small landowners or associations like ALA. Such a plan is necessary to apply for grants.
“There are lots of grants available to help with forest management,” Kelly said. “People are making sure there’s a healthy forest.”