Logging Accelerates Forest Restoration


With a sharpened focus on healthy forest restoration within North Carolina’s state parks, a 66-acre tract at the Catawba River Area is undergoing a dramatic makeover. Beginning in late December of last year, the park property south of the CRA front gate was selectively logged to reduce the number of white and Virginia pine trees and promote the growth of oaks and Table Mountain pine trees, as well as a diverse understory of native plants and grasses. “As our understanding improves of what a healthy forest ecosystem looks like for this region, we have chosen to make it a priority to restore that landscape to certain, appropriate areas of Lake James State Park,” said Park Ranger Jamie Cameron.  “Starting in 2013, that process began with the reintroduction of fire back into the environment. The selective logging operation at the Catawba River Area is an extension of that effort and will greatly accelerate our progress toward the ultimate goal of creating a forest that more closely resembles its historic structure.”

It’s going to take some time. In the immediate future, the slash and other debris left by the timber harvest will have to dry out during the summer before it can be burned off with a prescribed fire next winter. The hardwoods and Table Mountain pines that have struggled for decades under the crush of white and Virginia pines will take several years to extend their roots and spread their crowns. Native plants and grasses will have to reestablish through the existing seed bank, which has been shaded out for decades, and wind-borne seeds from surrounding sources. It will require many more growing seasons for a healthy age structure of younger and older trees to recreate the natural mosaic of understory, secondary and upper canopy levels.

It is also possible that after a few years the West District biologist will recommend supplementing the stand with a reintroduction of native shortleaf pine seedlings. A close eye will have to be kept on the site to watch for infestations of invasive plants like kudzu, Chinese privet, princess tree and others that may try to take advantage of the newly available habitat.

In the meantime, profits from the sale (more than $90K) will fund natural resources projects across the state parks system.

“This project is an exciting opportunity to accomplish important habitat enhancement here at Lake James State Park and help a wide range of other natural resource management initiatives across the state parks system get off the ground,” said Cameron.