Collins Almanor Forest Timber
From Collins Almanor Forest: 51-Years
of Forest Management
By John H. Masson -- Retired
Collins Almanor Forest Manager &
Dan Howell -- Forester
By the mid-1930's, Truman Collins was giving serious consideration to the concept of sustained-yield management for the Collins family timber holdings in Plumas and Tehama counties, California, which came to be known as the Collins Almanor Forest (CAF).
In 1941, Truman hired George Flanagan, a professional forester with considerable experience in the promotion of sustained yield management by uneven-aged, single-tree selection on both public and private lands.
During a presentation to the Western Forestry Conference in Sacramento, CA, in 1989, Flanagan said: "In June of 1939 I was employed by Region Six (Oregon and Washington) of the US Forest Service as associate forester with the Division of State and private Forestry to promote better forest practice on private industrial land.
One of my best prospects for improved forest practice was Truman W. Collins. In working for an MBA degree from Harvard University he had spent the summer of 1924 on the Harvard Forest in Louisiana where he was sold on "sustained-yield forest management."
Waller Reed, another professional forester, was also hired by Truman Collins in 1941. Reed was hired to be the Chester Division forester. He was later to become Collins Almanor Forest's first forest manager. In 1946, Reed hired John Masson who became the second CAF Forest Manager in 1978.
Reed gained his early forestry experience at the Bureau of Entomology's Blacks Mountain Experiment Station at Hat Creek, California, where the Salman-Bongberg Risk Rating System for east side Ponderosa Pine was developed during severe pine bark beetle depredations during the drought years of the late 1930s.
Two years of intensive study were required before Truman Collins was convinced that sustained yield management was technically and financially sound.
Collin's study showed that serious bark beetle caused losses were occurring in their valuable virgin stands of over-mature Ponderosa Pine and Sugar Pine, and that the imminent mortality of individual trees could be predicted by using the Salmon-Bongberg Risk Rating System. in general, the system related the health of the tree to the color, length, and compliment of the needles in the upper crown of the mature pine trees. Trees with pale, short and few needles were labeled as "high risk" and would predictably die within 10-years. Many of these trees were eventually classified as Almanor Tree Classes 7, 8 and 9.
From those initial finding, Waller Reed began a planned 10-year cutting cycle which was aimed at removal of the "high risk" pine trees. Reed's objective was to quickly salvage the potential timber losses and reduce the bark beetle population causing the losses. During the first cutting cycle on the forest, Douglas-fir, a minor species on CAF, was harvested using the same criteria patterned after that used for pine. The volume removed averaged 6,000 board-feet per acre.
White fir, Red Fir, and Incense Cedar were generally unmarketable until the late 1940's and were not commercially harvested.
The second logging entry was referred to as the "Harvest Cut", and began in 1952. The over-mature trees and mature trees under competition were designated for harvest, which lasted from 1952 to 1981. Area with a stand composition high in mature and over-mature trees were harvested first. Over-mature trees were left where "thrifty mature leave trees" were absent from the stand, in order to provide for satisfactory natural reproduction on such areas, in lieu of more costly artificial regeneration.
As was the High Risk Cut, the Harvest Cut was a light single-tree selection harvest. Trees eligible for cutting were Almanor Tree Classes 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9, in addition to any damaged or diseased trees.
The first priority of all harvests of Collins Pine Almanor Forest has been the protection of the residual mature and immature trees and the need to promptly harvest dead and dying trees before they become unsuitable for making lumber.
Forest soils were recognized as a key asset by Collin's early foresters. Cull logs were left to decompose and return nutrients to the forest floor, rather than decking and burning them. Limbs and broken unmerchantable tops, were cut and scattered, rather than being piled and burned.
The "Transition Cut" began in 1981. The cutting guidelines were aimed at areas where disease and defect problems were evident. Thrifty, mature Almanor Tree Classes 4, 5 and 6 were to be selected along with any damaged, diseased, or severely suppressed trees. Thrifty, mature Almanor Tree Classes 4 and 5 were left for stocking purposes. Volume harvested per acre today ranges from four to seven-thousand-board-feet.
Guidelines for the "Transition Cut" were altered in 1989. The emphasis to harvest Ponderosa Pine and Sugar Pine trees in the Almanor Tree Classes of 4, 5 and 6 was reduced. The harvest priority shifted to damaged, diseased, suppressed, deformed and closely spaced immature trees. For the first time on Collins Almanor Forest, "defective leave trees" were designated for wildlife and aesthetic values.