Dick Ford didn't think it possible. Weyerhaeuser Co." s timber lands near Mount St. Helens, the volcano that erupted in Washington state 17 years ago, are turning green.
"I remember thinking that it would never
be a normal forest," says Ford, who managed Weyerhaeuser's
replanting operations around the volcano through the 1980s. In the
months following the blast, the company planted some 18 million
Douglas and noble fir seedlings on 45,000
Now, many of those have become trees 40
feet tall and a foot thick. In 10 years they'll be ready for
thinning, Ford predicts.
Some places still remain
bare because the ash was too deep or hot easterly winds withered
seedlings. Overall, though, Douglas and noble fir are thriving
because ash suppressed competing vegetation by sealing in moisture.
"It was like early weed control," Ford says. The key to helping the
new forest survive was planting trees in soil below the
Meanwhile, though logging is years away,
environmental groups are watching Weyerhaeuser's work. Charlie
Raines, a Sierra Club activist in Seattle, points out that logging
prior to the eruption caused serious soil erosion. Future logging,
he says, will have to be done very carefully.