Forest management project approved for Lazy F Camp & Retreat Center


By Dave Burfeind

The forest in which Lazy F is located is one of our greatest resources. For about twenty years, the Lazy F staff and Site Advisory Team have talked about and implemented strategies to manage our forest. Over the decades, we have made some strides, but the amount completed is limited.

One of the greatest threats to the long-term security of Lazy F is the potential for a fire to burn through the canyon and our camp. Last summer, we were reminded of how real this possibility is when we evacuated our day campers because of a fire about 2 1/2 miles away. Many parts of our forest are unhealthy, increasing the risk of wildfire. In some areas, standing diseased trees provide fuel for a future fire. Many experts have commented that it is not a matter of IF a fire comes into the canyon, but WHEN fire occurs. We are taking steps to prepare.

We have worked with a full-time forester to develop a strategy to selectively thin about 22 acres, mainly on the south hillside and the section west of the backwoods camp. This main area is up the hill from many of our buildings and goes from the zip line to the area past Skyline. One objective is to provide a “shaded fuel break” where the trees are further apart so the crowns (tops) of the trees are not touching, and less likely for a fire to move from one tree to another.

Additional trees like the ones marked will be cut down as they pose a risk to nearby buildings.

As a result of climate change, foresters are seeing that the most successful tree in our area is the Ponderosa Pine. Douglas Fir are more likely to become diseased in a drying and warming environment. Consequently, while thinning, we would keep more of the Ponderosa Pine and remove many of the Douglas Fir, our diseased trees. Another objective is to manage the hazard trees around our buildings – ones with the potential to fall on a building. About ten years ago, a tree fell along the road between the Showerhouse and the Creekside cabins. We were fortunate it didn’t destroy two of the cabins. Removing hazard trees close to the buildings is responsible stewardship of our facilities.

Several months ago, we hired a full-time Forester to mark trees that would remain after the thinning in several areas to see what the property may look like with trees removed. He also prepared a Forest Practices Application for the Department of Natural Resources to do this work. After an on-site review with the Department of Natural Resources, Department of Ecology, Fish and Wildlife, and the Yakima Nation, the DNR has approved this project. The Camping Board of Stewards with our United Methodist Church was on site earlier this fall, listened to the plan, viewed a marked area, and approved this project.

This logging operation will take about three weeks and occur this fall when we have limited or no campers and guests. The camp would receive 25% of the income from this work, the logging company the rest. Our objective is NOT to create an income stream but to manage our forest so it is healthier and more fire-resistant. We will invest any excess income after payment to our Forester in the area impacted by the unhealthy forest and improve our fire preparedness.

We are very confident that this project will help to foster a forest more resilient to fire in the future. We must be clear that this work will not stop a fire but can reduce a fire’s impact on Lazy F.

The hillside on the south side of the camp will look much different after we complete this project: there will be more spacing between the trees, and the ground will look disturbed for several years. Many of us will mourn the loss of the trees, a crucial component of Lazy F’s character. People come to the Manastash Canyon to be in the woods, and it will be difficult to see a dramatic change in this hillside and around some of our buildings. This change is essential to restoring our forest to a healthy, fire-resilient environment that campers and guests appreciate. Forest and fire professionals are confident that this thinned area will become more resilient to disease and fire in several years and indicative of a healthy eastern Washington forest.

Dave Burfeind is the director of Lazy F Camp and Retreat Center, a United Methodist ministry outside Ellensburg, Washington.

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