Blue Mountain timber: Top forester backs ambitious program of tree thinning and restoration

Many of the open, park-like expanses of Ponderosa pine that once characterized the Blue Mountains have disappeared, victims of a century of wildfire suppression and selective logging. According to Oregon State University extension agent Paul Oester of La Grande, fire-tolerant Ponderosas have been replaced by dense, unhealthy and explosively flammable stands of grand fir, Douglas fir and other tree species. In those dense stands, Oester said, wildfires burn fast and hot, and "ladder fuels" - underbrush, dry grass and low branches - carry flames upward into the forest crowns.