Tulalips thin their forest

TULALIP — To grow a forest, one must cut trees.

That’s the paradoxical practice that began in July and will continue through November on 130 of 9,000 acres of forest on Tulalip tribal land.

Crews from TimberTec, a ­Bellingham-based logging company, are chopping down the area’s most slender trees to give room for more robust trunks to grow even wider.

Tribal leaders say that by the end of the project, about 4,600 tons of wood will have been removed from the area. Before thinning began, the forest had about 400 trees per acre. By the end of the year, there will be about 160 trees per acre.

About 40 percent of the logs will be sold to paper mills, and the rest will go to sawmills.

Forests are often planted so that trees must compete for sunlight, TimberTec President Christopher Secrist said in July. The limbs that can’t reach the sunlight die and fall off, so the tree trunks grow smooth and without knots. Eventually, some of the thinner trees are often cut away to give those that remain more space to grow thick and tall toward the sun.

Eventually, the forest will consist entirely of robust trees, ideal for logging.

The tribes’ forest managers have supervised thinning of about 3,000 acres since 1987 — about 150 acres per year.

About 20 percent of the 9,000-acre forest is Western red cedar, a tree that has long given strips of its bark to tribal members who weave hats, clothing, mats and other items with it.

Reporter Krista J. Kapralos: 425-339-3422 or kkapralos@heraldnet.com.

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