Recent research is showing that lower elevation forests are not regenerating after fires as they have historically. From the abstract of the research cited in this article:
“Results highlight significant decreases in tree regeneration in the 21st century. Annual moisture deficits were significantly greater from 2000 to 2015 as compared to 1985–1999, suggesting increasingly unfavourable post‐fire growing conditions, corresponding to significantly lower seedling densities and increased regeneration failure. Dry forests that already occur at the edge of their climatic tolerance are most prone to conversion to non‐forests after wildfires. Major climate‐induced reduction in forest density and extent has important consequences for a myriad of ecosystem services now and in the future.”
One of those consequences should flow from NFMA requirements for sustainability and ecological integrity. To put that in simplistic terms, if the land “wants” to be non-forest in the future climate, we have to let it be non-forest. And non-forested lands are not suitable for timber production, regardless of whether we could plant and maintain a plantation there. I don’t recall seeing any discussion of this in forest plan revision material I have reviewed recently. There is also requirement to use the best available scientific information, so a suitability evaluation of low-elevation forests should go beyond what is currently growing there to address what would be expected there in the future. Many national forests could end up with fewer suitable acres.