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Scientific Name: Northern Rocky Mountain Mesic Montane Mixed Conifer Forest
Unique Identifier: CES306.802
Classification Confidence: 2 - Moderate

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Summary: This ecological system occurs in the Northern Rockies of western Montana west into northeastern Washington and southern British Columbia. These are vegetation types dominated by Tsuga heterophylla and Thuja plicata in most cases, found in areas influenced by incursions of mild, wet, Pacific maritime air masses. Much of the annual precipitation occurs as rain, but where snow does occur, it can generally be melted by rain during warm winter storms. Occurrences generally are found on all slopes and aspects but grow best on sites with high soil moisture, such as toeslopes and bottomlands. At the periphery of its distribution, this system is confined to moist canyons and cooler, moister aspects. Generally these are moist, non-flooded or upland sites that are not saturated yearlong. Along with Tsuga heterophylla and Thuja plicata, Pseudotsuga menziesii commonly shares the canopy, and Pinus monticola, Pinus contorta, Abies grandis, Taxus brevifolia, and Larix occidentalis are major associates. Mesic Abies grandis associations are included in this system, and Abies grandis is often the dominant in these situations; Tsuga heterophylla and Thuja plicata can both be absent. Cornus nuttallii may be present in some situations. Picea engelmannii, Abies lasiocarpa, and Pinus ponderosa may be present but only on the coldest or warmest and driest sites. Linnaea borealis, Paxistima myrsinites, Alnus incana, Acer glabrum, Spiraea betulifolia, Symphoricarpos hesperius, Cornus canadensis, Rubus parviflorus, Menziesia ferruginea, and Vaccinium membranaceum are common shrub species. The composition of the herbaceous layer reflects local climate and degree of canopy closure; it is typically highly diverse in all but closed-canopy conditions. Important forbs and ferns include Actaea rubra, Anemone piperi, Aralia nudicaulis, Asarum caudatum, Clintonia uniflora, Coptis occidentalis, Thalictrum occidentale, Tiarella trifoliata, Trientalis borealis, Trillium ovatum, Viola glabella, Gymnocarpium dryopteris, Polystichum munitum, and Adiantum pedatum. Typically, stand-replacement, fire-return intervals are 150-500 years, with moderate-severity fire intervals of 50-100 years.

Classification Approach: International Terrestrial Ecological Systems Classification (ITESC)

Component Associations
Association Unique ID Association Name
CEGL000113 Tsuga heterophylla / Rubus pedatus Forest
CEGL000176 Pinus monticola / Clintonia uniflora Forest
CEGL000269 Abies grandis / Asarum caudatum Forest
CEGL000272 Abies grandis / Clintonia uniflora Forest
CEGL000273 Abies grandis / Coptis occidentalis Forest
CEGL000275 Abies grandis / Linnaea borealis Forest
CEGL000283 Abies grandis / Taxus brevifolia Forest
CEGL000470 Thuja plicata / Adiantum pedatum Forest
CEGL000471 Thuja plicata / Aralia nudicaulis Forest
CEGL000472 Thuja plicata / Asarum caudatum Forest
CEGL000474 Thuja plicata / Clintonia uniflora Forest
CEGL000476 Thuja plicata / Gymnocarpium dryopteris Forest
CEGL000480 Thuja plicata / Taxus brevifolia / Asarum caudatum Forest
CEGL000487 Thuja plicata / Vaccinium membranaceum Forest
CEGL000488 Tsuga heterophylla / Aralia nudicaulis Forest
CEGL000490 Tsuga heterophylla / Asarum caudatum Forest
CEGL000493 Tsuga heterophylla / Clintonia uniflora Forest
CEGL000494 Tsuga heterophylla / Gymnocarpium dryopteris Forest
CEGL000496 Tsuga heterophylla / Menziesia ferruginea Forest
CEGL000520 Betula papyrifera Forest
CEGL005930 Thuja plicata / Clintonia uniflora - Xerophyllum tenax Forest


Land Cover Class: Forest and Woodland
Spatial Pattern: Matrix
Natural/Seminatural: No
Vegetated ( > 10% vascular cover):
Upland: Yes
Wetland: No
Isolated Wetland: No

Diagnostic Classifiers
Primary Classifier Secondary Classifier
Forest and Woodland (Treed)  
Very Long Disturbance Interval  
F-Landscape/Medium Intensity  
Needle-Leaved Tree  
Tsuga heterophylla and Thuja plicata  
Long (>500 yrs) Persistence  

Non-diagnostic Classifiers
Primary Classifier Secondary Classifier
Montane Montane
Montane Lower Montane
Lowland Foothill
Toeslope/Valley Bottom  
Temperate Temperate Continental
Mesotrophic Soil  

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Char-
Domi-nant Con-stant
Cover Class %
Abies grandis G5 Needle-leaved tree Tree canopy    
Larix occidentalis G5 Needle-leaved tree Tree canopy    
Pseudotsuga menziesii G5 Needle-leaved tree Tree canopy    
Thuja plicata G5 Needle-leaved tree Tree canopy    
Tsuga heterophylla G5 Needle-leaved tree Tree canopy    
Vaccinium membranaceum G5 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
Rosa gymnocarpa G5 Dwarf-shrub Short shrub/sapling    
Clintonia uniflora G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    

Color legend for Distribution Map
Nation: United States
United States Distribution: ID, MT, OR, WA, WYpotentially occurs
Nation: Canada
Canadian Province Distribution: BC
Global Range: This system occurs in the Northern Rockies of western Montana west into northeastern Washington and southern British Columbia.

Biogeographic Divisions
Division Code and Name Primary Occurrence Status
306-Rocky Mountain C: Confident or certain

The Nature Conservancy's Conservation Ecoregions
Code Name Occurrence Status
68 Okanagan Confident or certain
7 Canadian Rocky Mountains Confident or certain
8 Middle Rockies - Blue Mountains Confident or certain

MRLC 2000 Mapzones
Code Name Occurrence Status
1 Northern Cascades Confident or certain
8 Grande Coulee Basin of the Columbia Plateau Predicted or probable
9 Blue Mountain Region Confident or certain
10 Northwestern Rocky Mountains Confident or certain
19 Northern Rocky Mountains Confident or certain

National Mapping
ESLF Code (Ecological System Lifeform): 4234
ESP Code (Environmental Site Potential): 1047
EVT Code (Existing Vegetation Type): 2047

West Landfire Legend: Yes
East Landfire Legend: No

Element Description Edition Date: 23Jan2006
Element Description Author(s): M.S. Reid

Ecological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

  • Comer, P., D. Faber-Langendoen, R. Evans, S. Gawler, C. Josse, G. Kittel, S. Menard, C. Nordman, M. Pyne, M. Reid, M. Russo, K. Schulz, K. Snow, J. Teague, and R. White. 2003-present. Ecological systems of the United States: A working classification of U.S. terrestrial systems. NatureServe, Arlington, VA.

  • Cooper, S. V., K. E. Neiman, R. Steele, and D. W. Roberts. 1987. Forest habitat types of northern Idaho: A second approximation. General Technical Report INT-236.USDA Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station, Ogden, UT. 135 pp. [reprinted in 1991]

  • Daubenmire, R. F., and J. B. Daubenmire. 1968. Forest vegetation of eastern Washington and northern Idaho. Washington State University Agricultural Experiment Station Technical Bulletin No. 60. 104 pp.

  • Eyre, F. H., editor. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and Canada. Society of American Foresters, Washington, DC. 148 pp.

  • Meidinger, D., and J. Pojar, editors. 1991. Ecosystems of British Columbia. British Columbia Ministry of Forests Special Report Series No. 6. Victoria, BC. 330 pp.

  • NCC [The Nature Conservancy of Canada]. 2002. Canadian Rockies ecoregional plan. The Nature Conservancy of Canada, Victoria, BC.

  • Pfister, R. D., B. L. Kovalchik, S. F. Arno, and R. C. Presby. 1977. Forest habitat types of Montana. General Technical Report INT-34. USDA Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station, Ogden, UT. 174 pp.

  • WNHP [Washington Natural Heritage Program]. 2018. Unpublished data files. Washington Natural Heritage Program, Department of Natural Resources, Olympia, WA.

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Data last updated: March 2019