From 1910 to the purchase by its current owners, the western half of the Usal forest was bought and sold seven times. The eastern a similar fate – it had five major owners during those years, plus many small holdings scattered throughout.
These owners typically harvested the forest to maximize short-term yield before selling some or all of the property. This led to inconsistent management and increased fragmentation. The forest was left depleted, less healthy and less productive.
Today, the Usal Redwood Forest Company manages the forest as one entity – its deed now rules out subdivision. The management approach is designed to restore forest and ecosystem health, increase carbon stocks, allow for consistent timber harvests, and provide sustainable jobs in a rural community in need of economic development.
The property is moving toward forest stands with a diverse mix of age classes. This will lead to consistent harvests, allowing the community to avoid the boom-bust cycle that harms many timber communities. Some parts of the forest are very dense and will be thinned – this provides forest jobs, can reduce fire hazard, and allows the remaining trees to become larger and more valuable.
This strategy means less commercially viable timber is harvested in the short-term, creating a significant financial shortfall – a gap being filled by revenues from the forest offset program. With this approach, the forest will be restored, more commercially viable timber will be available for harvest, and current carbon stocks will be maintained and will continue to grow.
Over the course of a full century, the Usal Forest should see increased carbon storage and higher harvest volumes than would be expected under common practice. Forest carbon offset revenue, in part, is making this possible.