Olympic Natural Resources Center

This is the web resource for participants and stakeholders for the T3 Watershed Experiment.  We provide a broadest possible overview here with a discussion of how you can participate and also available background documents.

Study Synopsis

The T3 Watershed Experiment is a 20,000-acre study examining potential new, innovative approaches to managing forests in the Olympic Experimental State Forest (OESF), managed by Washington Department of Natural Resources (WADNR) .  The study will take place in 16 watersheds on the outer Olympic Peninsula in Jefferson County.  Most study watersheds are in the Clearwater River drainage but three drain to the Hoh River and four are close to the coast near Kalaloch.  This study was initiated by the University of Washington (Olympic Natural Resources Center) and the WADNR (Forest Resources Division, Olympic Experimental State Forest, and Olympic Region).

By collecting and examining evidence of the effectiveness of different approaches to forest management, decision makers, scientists, and stakeholders can learn about options that will determine the sustainability of these critical ecosystems. The goal of the study is to examine how sustainable ecosystems can consider both the wellbeing of the forest environment and the wellbeing of human communities.

This study will take place in watersheds on state trust lands (Common School Trust), where there is a legal requirement to focus on sustainably producing revenue in an environmentally responsible manner.  This area is also part of the Olympic Experimental State Forest which provides flexibility to learn and improve management through time. The OESF is managed under a 1997 Habitat Conservation Plan with added objective of learning.  These state lands also provide important ecosystem services to all state residents. In addition, they are also ceded lands, and Peninsula tribes have specific treaty rights for access and use.  The study goals focus on simultaneously providing three kinds of possible benefits to trusts:

  • High (but not necessarily maximum) net revenue within habitat conservation plan sidebars;
  • Science-based learning focused on trust management issues; and
  • Increased public and tribal support for management of trust lands.

This study is applying science-based adaptive management at watershed and operational scales (forest management units of about 30 acres or larger), rather than smaller research scales.  This larger scale is needed so that economic, social, and environmental factors and responses can be extrapolated across the OESF and beyond, and to increase the potential for innovations to be adopted by managers.  The watershed scale of the study accounts for landscape complexity—each watershed was chosen to include key landscape elements such as stands where harvesting is economically feasible and areas left un-entered (85% in first decade), including less-accessible, younger, older, riparian forest or with unstable ground. The proportion of the watershed designated for initial harvest during the next decade is based on the current sustainable harvest calculation for the OESF.  The experimental watersheds are large enough to contain fish populations in lower reaches where whole-system responses can be directly monitored (for example fish, fish foodchains, sediment, and water chemistry).  

Three management strategies and a “no-management control” will be compared across the 16 experimental watersheds. The strategies were designed to facilitate a broad enough range of innovations along with current and control standards.   Ten upland and riparian prescriptions will be applied (note that Current VDT will not be applied because of both limited space and presence of areas in the watersheds were recently treated this way).  The design of prescriptions is being led by groups of principal investigators (researchers and managers) and will undergo scientific peer review.

This study began in 2016 and is planned to continue for at least a decade with the treatments being implemented through WADNR timber harvest program

  • 2016: early planning and conversations with managers and stakeholders
  • 2017: collaboration among scientists across institutions
  • 2018: designation of experimental watersheds by WADNR
  • 2019: Washington State Legislature committed funding
  • 2020-2021: pre-harvest monitoring
  • 2021-2023: Planned timber harvest 
  • 2022-2028:  Post-harvest monitoring

How to participate

Adaptive management within a goal of sustainability is strengthened by including stakeholders in a learning-based collaboration framework. Developed by the UW Washington Rural Ecosystem Sustainability Team, this framework seeks stakeholder input on projects at key opportunities and milestones. At this stage of the T3 experiment, we are developing plans to engage stakeholders in a number of ways. While some elements of the study design are confirmed and moving forward, there remains some flexibility in the work plan that stakeholders can help refine. Depending on stakeholder interest, that engagement could include

  • Participating in an information session to learn about the study designs
  • Providing comments to researchers on the treatment designs
  • Assisting with design and implementation of monitoring
  • Participating directly in data collection and scientific analyses

If you are interested in participating in any of these ways, you can contact the project team at T3team@uw.edu to be added to our mailing list for updates.

Several documents are available to provide more details

The Overview tries to tie all of the elements of the study into the broader context of ecosystem sustainability

The original study proposal written in 2017 established the idea of the study and resulted in DNR and ONRC commitments to the project.

Research study plans are being developed and are undergoing scientific peer review.  The Riparian plan is now available. 

OESF Presentation Documents

Passive Acoustic Monitoring

Expanding the Toolbox for Upland Forest Management

T3 Watershed Experiment Overview

Study Implementation and Timber Sales Planning

T3 Watershed Experiment: Riparian Study

Stakeholder Presentation

There are a variety of affiliated studies that stand by themselves but support the T3 effort in important ways and are driven by over $400k in grant funding.  Research study plans are being developed and are undergoing scientific peer review.