Weyerhaeuser Plants Nearly 13 Million Seedlings in Washington.
From January through April Weyerhaeuser is busy hand-planting nearly 13 million seedlings in its Washington forestlands. This annual ritual will provide future generations a sustainable supply of one of the world's few renewable natural resources -- wood.
"In many ways this is the heart of our business, the basis for everything we do," said Norm Vogt, forester at Weyerhaeuser's Snoqualmie and White River Tree Farms. "Our goal is to get trees growing again as quickly as possible after harvesting. On average we reforest 97 percent of our acres in Washington within one year of final harvest and 100 percent within two years."
While some landowners let nature handle reforestation chores, Weyerhaeuser has been planting for over fifty years.
"If we allowed our forests to re-seed naturally, we'd have some patches with too many trees and some with very few," said Vogt. "And we'd have little control over the species or quality of trees that grow back. Planting allows us to control the spacing, wood quality, growth and value of our forests, plus it gives us at least a five year head-start over natural reforestation. When you factor in thinning, adding nutrients and other practices, we can grow double the volume of wood per acre than an unmanaged forest of the same age, and that figure is increasing."
Along with making economic sense, planting helps perpetuate healthy forest ecosystems. "The forests we're planting today will provide habitat for many species of birds, mammals, reptiles, fish and amphibians, and we're conducting research to make them even more hospitable to wildlife in the future," said Doug Runde, Weyerhaeuser wildlife research scientist. "Studies also show that properly managed forests maintain water quality and provide healthy freshwater salmon habitat."
Each seedling planted represents over five decades of scientific research and millions of dollars of investment in forest tree nurseries, seed orchards, equipment, technology and research. The process begins with scientists selecting superior Douglas-fir trees -- the predominant commercial tree species in western Washington -- and cross-breeding them to produce seeds containing outstanding qualities.
The seeds are then grown into seedlings in the company's three western nurseries at Mima, Wash., and Turner and Aurora, Ore. After one to three years the seedlings are ready for field planting, with vigorous green tops and compact, healthy root systems. After custom-built machines lift seedlings from nursery beds, they are inspected, packed and stored in refrigerated coolers.
In contrast to the high-tech process for breeding and growing seedlings, planting relies on two age-old tools: a strong back and a shovel.
"It's a demanding job," said Vogt, "Our planters have to mentally measure distances between seedlings, pick a good spot and plant each one properly. They repeat this task hundreds of times a day." An experienced tree planter can reforest over an acre a day, averaging about 450 seedlings per acre.
When Weyerhaeuser started planting seedlings in the 1940s, often only half survived the first year. Today over 90 percent is the rule, thanks to better quality seed and seedlings and improved planting techniques.
"Planting costs more than natural re-seeding, but it's money well spent," Vogt said. "Our customers, shareholders, employees and communities are counting on us to never run out of trees. And as a sponsor of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative(R), we have publicly pledged to protect wildlife, water and other natural resources. Planting is one of the most important things Weyerhaeuser does to honor all our commitments."
Weyerhaeuser Company (NYSE:WY), one of the world's largest integrated forest products companies, was incorporated in 1900. It is principally engaged in the growing and harvesting of timber; the manufacture, distribution and sale of forest products; and real estate construction, development and related activities. Additional information about Weyerhaeuser's businesses, products or practices is available at www.weyerhaeuser.com.
Jim Schott, 253/924-3916
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|Date:||Mar 26, 1998|
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