Center for Sustainable Forestry

A Focus for Innovative Research at Pack Forest

In 1926, conservationist and east-coast lumberman Charles Lathrop Pack bequeathed a generous monetary gift enabling the UW to purchase 334 acres of forested land near Eatonville, Washington and establish Charles Lathrop Pack Experimental Forest as a resource for forestry research and demonstration. In 1929, the first class of UW forestry students tossed their bedrolls and notebooks into newly constructed cabins at Pack.  

Eighty-one years later, the forest, now 4,300 acres of third-party certified forestland and home to the Center for Sustainable Forestry at Pack Forest (CSF-PF), has benefited from additional generous gifts that enhance its programs and facilities.  CSF-PF provides students, faculty, professionals, and the public with valuable educational and research opportunities and demonstrations of forestry and ecological processes in action.  An outreach program includes public education tailored to age levels and program need, guided forest tours, and adaptable classes for undergraduate, graduate, and adult groups—serving 803 people over the past year.   CSF-PF also often hosts events, most recently the Society of American Foresters PNW Forestry Leadership Conference.

 “The Center’s mission is to discover, teach, and demonstrate the concepts of sustainable forestry — so demonstration, research, and outreach are at the heart of what we do,” says Gregory Ettl, Director of the Center and SFR Associate Professor.

CSF-PF’s forestlands are a field laboratory in themselves, containing a diversity of forest types, ages, and soils.   Its research programs support SFR’s unifying themes of sustainable forest enterprises and sustainable land and ecosystem management, bringing an interdisciplinary set of economic, social, biological, and physical science to bear on understanding and managing forests so that they are maintained in a healthy, productive state for future generations.  Its research programs are strengthened through collaborative partnerships with public and private organizations that have expertise and a stake in the issues, both within the UW and externally. Past and present collaborators include the UW Department of Biology, the Nisqually River Council, the Nisqually Land Trust, the Northwest Natural Resources Group, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative’s State Implementation Committee, and Washington State Parks.   

Ongoing research at CSF-PF includes short-term evaluations of tree spacing and growth, the impact of certification regimes on sustainable forestry, regeneration of Douglas-fir and western redcedar under a variable overstory retention system, restoration of a forested wetland, and comparisons of traditional and alternative harvesting practices.  Additional research projects and programs include collaboration with the UW Center for Conservation Biology’s Conservation Canine Training project, for which CSF-PF provides facilities to house and train dogs that are used to track endangered species in large, remote areas; forest health assessments of five state parks in cooperation with the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, and a Port Orford Cedar phytophthora resistance survey, in collaboration with the Bureau of Land Management and the Oregon Department of Forestry.

 The Center is also developing new research programs in the areas of ecosystem services and bioresource science, emerging fields in which SFR has recruited new faculty, one of the steps it has taken over the last three years, as it navigated changes in curriculum, organizational structure, and a broadened research focus. Examples of CSF-PF’s contribution to these new research directions include:

  • Research and demonstration in the use of ECOSEL, by a research team including Assistant Professors Sandor Toth and Sergey Rabotyagov and Associate Professor Gregory Ettl.  ECOSEL is an analytical modeling tool that helps forest landowners and managers sell ecosystem services from their working forestland through a novel auctioning mechanism. ECOSEL optimally allocates management actions to forest stands in order to produce various bundles of timber and non-timber outputs. It helps to market these services through an auctioning platform that provides information about the resource tradeoffs and production possibilities for both the forest landowner and the potential eco-investors.
  • Research into increased efficiency of bioenergy crop production, with a research team including Associate Professors Sharon Doty and Gregory Ettl and Assistant Professors Soo-Hyung Kim and Renata Bura. The project is testing the effectiveness of nitrogen-fixing endophytes to poplar grown in greenhouse conditions and on a field site at CSF-PF.  This research could potentially provide the means of increasing the growth of this important bioenergy crop in an inexpensive, environmentally-sustainable manner. The final step of the research explores the potential conversion of feedstock to bioethanol.

“Pack Forest’s facilities and resources,” says Ettl, “will provide valuable contributions to the solution of the environmental sustainability issues we face.  Our collaborations across the region and within the UW will help both the School of Forest Resources and the College of the Environment, of which SFR is a founding unit, meet the grand challenges of our generation.”

Center for Sustainable Forestry and Washington Department of Fish & Widlfie staff sample for fish on Pack Forest's 27 Creek.