What is up with the Mulch Piles around Phil's Trailhead?
Restoring a forest ecosystem involves repairing STRUCTURE and FUNCTION. In the West Bend project, forest restoration involves reducing fuels and creating space for trees to grow large and resilient through thinning (an example of restoring structure), and bringing low-intensity fire back through prescribed burning (an example of restoring function). But what do the mulch piles do?
US Forest Service Soil Scientist for the Deschutes National Forest, Sarah Hash, sheds some light on the situation.
Q: What's with all the piles of mulch at Phil's?
A: This is residual material from the West Bend Project. We have taken approximately a dozen landing piles, consisting of the tops of limbs from processing logs and small-diameter non-merchantable trees to create this mulch.
Q: What will the mulch be used for?
A: The mulch will be used for a variety of restoration projects around the forest—road decommissioning, revegetation, recreation site rehabilitation, and streambank stabilization. We are also developing a restoration plan for the Cascade Pit itself (where the mulch is currently being stored), and about half of the mulch will likely be used as a soil amendment for that project. Much of this area will be recontoured (by using heavy machinery to create topographic complexity) and revegetated with native trees, shrubs, and grasses.
Q: Why do we need mulch for these projects?
A: Central Oregon soils are young, poorly developed, and inherently low in organic matter. Organic matter is essential for nutrient cycling, moisture retention, infiltration capacity, protection against erosion and other damage, and microbiotic habitat. Soil areas that have been substantially impacted and are identified for restoration are generally deficient in organic matter and surface cover. The mulch will be used as an important soil amendment to improve soil conditions for both above-ground vegetative growth and below-ground ecosystem function in these degraded areas.
Q: How long will the mulch stay on the road by Phil’s Trailhead (Forest Road 4604) aka Cascade Pit?
A: Ideally the mulch will be left to compost for a couple of years before being used. It could be stored there for several years longer, depending on how and when we implement the pit restoration project and how long it takes to use it up on other projects.