what native species are early to mid succession that thrive in your bioregion?
Are any nitrogen fixers? These are good candidates to survive the conditions you prescribe.
We are having great success with a species found native in your neck of the woods: Red Alder (Alnus rubra).
If you ever had access to machinery, I would consider digging swales, or even infiltration basins (sporadic pits to catch water) along your thinned areas.
As for planting methods; plant dense (3 ft spacing) knowing some species will die. Cover crop around your plantings. Use tree tubes. Its worth the investment.
Wow Andrew, I feel like I could ask YOU a dozen questions.