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Assisting collaboration in forest and grassland restoration, conservation and resource utilization—
for the benefit of all.

Lodgepole Pine

On June 11, 2014 the MFRC approved the guidance document on lodgepole pine. To download the complete document, click on Lodgepole Pine Zone of Agreement.

Historical Stand Condition

Lodgepole pine (LPP) is a dominant species across much of the intermountain west. It occurs in relatively pure, even-aged stands and is fire dependent. Historically, LPP stand size was shaped over time by natural disturbances, primarily mixed-severity fire and insects, which created smaller stand sizes and greater species and structural diversity than we see today. Research has shown that 50% of the stands were multi-aged and in central and western Montana had a greater component of aspen. LPP stand structure is also influenced greatly by climate, soils, and topography depending on the stands position relative to the continental divide.

Current Condition

The current state of LPP stands has occurred due to an imbalance in disturbances. The exclusion of fire, a major disturbance, has led to a loss of stand pattern and structural and species diversity. This change in disturbance has created large homogenous stands of similar size classes across the landscape. As these stands reach maturity they have become more susceptible to disturbance leading to the large insect and fire events we see today. These disturbance events are normal events; the scale of them is unprecedented. In the past these disturbance events were likely contained by patchy landscape forest conditions.

Restoration Objective

To restore LPP forests, the pattern and process that originally shaped the historical landscape composition andarrangement of patches may need to be addressed. This approach requires that disturbance processes berestored at the landscape level, while diversity and structure need to be restored within and among stands.

At the stand level:

Restore stands to a patchy condition of a diversity of aspen-LPP mix, or a larch-LPP mix, that may include two aged stand conditions as indicated by relic evidence (either or both LP and larch).   

—This could include thinning young LP stands with aspen or larch components as well as regenerating older stands where aspen clones are in imminent danger of being lost.  

—Indicators of appropriate stand composition and structure are often evident in stand histories.

At the landscape level:

The objective is to restore landscape patchiness to reflect historic conditions. New landscape modeling tools have been developed, such as the Landscape Treatment Designer (LTD), and are available to assist the priority placement of treatment units to help meet the fuels and restoration objectives while increasing patchiness. Landscape models and historical assessments should be used to inform treatment placements and types.

Prioritize restoration efforts by focusing on community protection:

—Strengthen the social need for LPP restoration in the wildland-urban interface (WUI) aimed at decreasing the potential for severe fire behavior next to and within the communities by restoring forest pattern through strategic placement of treatment units across the landscape.

—A broad scale assessment using the LTD or similar models will help meet both the restoration objective of pattern, and the fuels objective of reducing the potential for uncharacteristic fire behavior and growth across a landscape containing important community infrastructure.

Inventoried Roadless Areas (IRAs)

Landscape pattern includes IRAs. What happens within IRA in terms of disturbance from fire and mountain pine beetle does not stay there. We need to address this issue by managing patterns using tools such as prescribed fire, or managing wildfire for resource benefits in conjunction with forest pattern management activities in adjacent roaded areas.