Renewing a Forest

The Targhee National Forest is an old forest becoming new. In the 1960's, timber on the Forest was primarily old growth lodgepole pine interspersed with Engleman spruce, subalpine fir, and Rocky Mountain Douglas fir. The condition of the lodgepole pine caused an epidemic of mountain pine bark beetle that destroyed the lodgepole. During the 1960's and early 1970's, Forest managers tried several methods to halt the advance of the bark beetle, but none of them were economically feasible or successful.

The dying trees interferred with effective management of other Forest resources and created a fire hazard from the build up of dry fuel. In 1974, Targhee Forest managers implemented a salvage program designed to use the deadwood and open large areas to reforestation. The wood was sold in commercial and personal use firewood sales, in small sales for posts and poles, and in larger sale for use in making pressed board.

Salvage and reforestation went hand in hand. As soon as areas were cleared of dead trees, new trees were planted. Lodgepole was combined with other native varieties too produce a healthy mixture of species. Diversification of tree species and age affords protection against recurrence of the devastating epidemic.

Targhee National Forest is in a unique phase of evolution. Most of the old, dead trees are gone. The new trees are growing well. Visitors traveling along U.S. Highway 20 through the Ashton and Island Park Districts see regeneration in progress. The highway passes through a corridor of reforestation ranging from cleared areas ready for planting to areas that were planted through the 1970's and 1980's. Signs identify management phases and explain the panorama of new trees. Growth is slow during the first three years after planting so the newest trees are hard to see, but by the time they are five years old regrowth is clearly visible. Time alone will heal the Forest. Although the lodgepole is a thrifty tree, it will take many years before the majority of the Forest is restored. In the meantime, visitors have a once in a lifetime opportunity to witness the making of a forest for generations to come.