270 big larch on Flathead NF saved from cone collection scheme

Readers may recall that back in March we highlighted the Flathead National Forest’s plans to cut down 270 of the biggest, genetically best western larch trees remaining on the Montana forest in order to, get this, collect seed cones. The proposal garnered some Montana media attention and lots of comments from the public, 97% of which were opposed to killing these big larch trees for seed cones, especially when there are so many non-lethal ways to collect larch cones and seed.

On December 3, Flathead National Forest Supervisor Chip Weber sent out this letter officially cancelling the “Forest-wide Western Larch Seed Cone Collection Project.” Supervisor Weber’s letter stated:

“This project has been cancelled because our seed orchard in Bigfork produced a larch cone crop this fall that was sufficient to meet our immediate larch seed needs. This was an unexpected cone crop as the trees had previously only produced a few cones….While the seed that we collect in the Bigfork Seed Orchard must be shared with the other forests in Montana, we anticipate that with this cone collection, the Forest-wide Western Larch Seed Cone Collection Project is not necessary.”

4 thoughts on “270 big larch on Flathead NF saved from cone collection scheme”

  1. Seems to me that the folks who started the seed orchard in Bigfork are the heroes of this story. Maybe you should find them and buy them a beer ;). I remember when some folks didn’t like seed orchards because that was thought by some to interfere with “natural” genetics.

  2. While I’m happy this project was canceled, I’m not sure federal employees who have a decent salary and a great benefits package really deserve a beer from me for doing their job…just saying.

    Also, you are correct, some folks do have legitimate concerns with the non-site specific genetics regarding seed orchards. I don’t know what advances have been made recently, but I recall during discussion of the Middle East Fork HFRA project on the Bitterroot NF, a UM College of Forestry and Conservation professor made a very solid case that new research is demonstrating just how incredibly site-specific tree genetics can be. Not only are tree genetics specific to a watershed or general area, but also specific down to the slope, aspect, elevation, soil conditions, etc.

    • I have to agree with Matt on this one. Certainly, if these trees are truly superior, shouldn’t we be “harvesting” seeds multiple times, instead of just once?

      “…just how incredibly site-specific tree genetics can be.” I have seen a lot of that in my project this summer. There is no doubt in my mind that this is very true. Since we are cutting mostly incense-cedar and white fir, we often have to shift gears when one species is doing better than the other, due to site-specific issues.


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