February 12, 2001
Cedar is a grand tree, but unsuitable for first planting
This letter is in regard to the article, "When the splashing was loud," published on Jan. 29. I would like to commend the Little Bear Creek Association and the developers who are restoring salmon habitat. However, the article stated that the brush removed along the creek was replaced with cedar. Planting cedar trees in recently cleared land, in full sun, is a huge mistake that I see happening everywhere in the Valley. These trees are easy to spot by their dying brown forms being held up by stakes. In natural forest succession (that is the normal development of forest from clearing to maturity) there is a definite cycle of species that grows. Western red cedar is the last (called climax) species of trees to establish itself. This is because cedar trees need shade to develop, and so grow only after a full canopy has been reached.
Red alder is a much more suitable native species to chose for these sites. In natural reforestation it is the first tree to grow. It tolerates wet, swampy soil like the cedar, but does well in the sun. It is also important because it fixes nutrients in the soil for the plants and trees that will eventually take its place. The cedar is a grand tree, but is characteristic of older forests. Its development cannot be rushed by our manipulations.
I strongly encourage organizations, corporations and local governments to educate themselves on the ecology of forests and their development before replanting. They could save a lot of time and money, not to mention trees, by planting the most suitable species in the first place. A great resource for more on forest succession is Arthur Kruckeberg's book, "The Natural History of Puget Sound Country."
Julie A. Stonefelt, Duvall