Joint Base Lewis-McChord, WA

The Joint Base Lewis-McChord (Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force Base merged in 2010 to become JBLM) located along the Puget Sound just south of Tacoma, WA contains 61,000 acres of forest, woodland, and savanna.  This forest resource is managed by an on-site forestry department to "provide good stewardship of the forested training lands by ensuring the continued existence of a healthy forest that supports military training, sustains native plants and animals, and benefits local communities." In 2002, Fort Lewis became the first Federal ownership in the US to be certified as a sustainable forestry operation by Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

Forest management on this unique property has evolved since the formal forestry program was established in 1953 in response to mission needs, land management philosophies, and environmental stewardship requirements. Inventories in the 1960’s indicated that the age and canopy structure of most forest lands on Fort Lewis were the result of one or more harvest entries or post-settlement wildfires, and 90 percent of the forest was less than 70 years old. Standing commercial wood inventory was only 430 million board feet, about one-fourth of the current inventory. During the next 20 years, much of the timber harvest was pulp and firewood because of the small average size of trees. Since 1984, with larger trees, logging has removed primarily sawtimber (larger stems used for lumber), with an annual average treated area of 2,000-3,000 acres. Starting in 1992, the primary harvesting regime shifted from traditional thinning, which creates more uniform forests over time, to variable-density thinning, which creates more structurally diverse forests over time. The current inventory is nearly two billion board feet.

There are a variety of plant communities on the property including some rare ecosystems that have been the focus of ecological restoration efforts.  These communities include Oregon white oak woodlands that are important to many wildlife species but are declining in southern Puget Sound. As well as ponderosa pine woodlands/savannas which form a globally unique plant community found only on and adjacent to JBLM. The purpose of restoration in these areas is to move these woodlands/savannas back towards their pre-European condition, reintroduce fire as a natural process, and improve habitat for wildlife. JBLM Forestry has supported forest ecology and management research for more than 20 years conducted by the U.S. Forest Service and faculty members at academic institutions.

Photos courtesy of JB Lewis-McChord Forestry Branch and Aaron Fox.

Forest Statistics and Documentation

  • Acreage: 61,000
  • Forest Type: Variety of Pudget Sound forest types
  • Model Forest Manager: Aaron Fox, Forestry Branch, Environmental Division JB Lewis-McChord
  • Primary Uses: Military Training
  • Certification: Forest Stewardship Council
  • Links: Joint Base Lewis-McChord

Downloads of documents and maps