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Federal agencies to hold listening session on collaborative cooperation

Members of the NE Washington Forestry Coalition will attend to share their success

The Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne and other federal agency officials will be in Spokane tomorrow to learn about cooperative conservation and environmental partnerships in what is the first of at least two dozen "listening sessions" to be held around the country.

Spokane, WA Aug 08, 2006

The Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne and other federal agency officials will be in Spokane tomorrow to learn about cooperative conservation and environmental partnerships in what is the first of at least two dozen “listening sessions” to be held around the country.

Members of the Northeast Washington Forestry Coalition will be present at the Spokane session to share their success stories in creating a new model of cooperation in the management of our national forests.  The Coalition has shown that there is indeed common ground within a broad cross section of individuals and organizations from both the timber industry and the conservation community.  For five years this Coalition has gathered loggers, mill owners, educators, professional foresters, environmentalists, business owners, local governments and citizens at large in an effort to break the deadlock over public forest management practices.  The Coalition is committed to finding workable solutions to challenges facing national forest management.

“Our Coalition has found that when a diverse group of individuals get away from disagreements and discover common interests, then the group can focus on finding solutions to our natural resource problems,” said Lloyd McGee, president of the Coalition.  “We all want to see these forests restored to a healthy condition.  It isn’t ‘us versus them’, anymore.  What a better use of our energy.”

“We’ve spent five years building trust between the environmentalists, the small log industry and the Forest Service,” said Duane Vaagen, owner of Vaagen Bros. Lumber Company.  “Now we need the agencies to step up with funding to get these fuels reduction projects through the public process.  When the Coalition agrees with a project, it stands a much better chance of not being appealed.” 

“In northeastern Washington, we are at the leading edge of what we hope is a new trend of collaborative solutions in our public forests,” said Tania Ellersick, of the Lands Council and member of the Coalition.  “The experience thus far makes me optimistic that community-based collaborative forestry efforts will continue to grow across the West to resolve old disputes, address ecological needs, and benefit communities.”

Representatives from Northeast Washington Forestry Coalition will be available to take questions at the listening session, to be held at the Spokane Convention Center, on August 9th, beginning at 10 AM.

Information on the Northeast Washington Forestry Coalition:

The Northeast Washington Forestry Coalition has brought mill owners, loggers, private landowners, the environmental community, local government, educators, and citizens at large to the same table with the Forest Service and the WA DNR in order to work with one another in collaboration on issues within the Colville National Forest. The mission of this coalition is to demonstrate the full potential of restoration forestry to enhance forest health, public safety, and community economic vitality. The Coalition formed in 2001 with the hope that including diverse perspectives in a collaborative fashion would minimize litigation and gridlock and facilitate exemplary forest management.

Overcoming initial distrust among environmental groups, commercial interests, and the Forest Service required years of relationship building. During that time, the parties recognized contentious subjects such as ancient forests and new road construction, and learned to focus on common interests rather than individual positions.  As a result the Coalition has been aggressively working to protect communities from wildfire, restore damaged forests and create positive relations between very disparate groups.

Examples of collaborative projects on the Colville National Forest include:

Quartzite - This was the Coalition’s initial involvement in the collaborative work on a significant project of over 4,000 acres. This project is now being prepared for a stewardship project.

Bangs Wildland-Urban Interface project - This project is located south of Kettle Falls and extends south to the National Forest Boundary with lands of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Indian Reservation. The NEW Forestry Coalition recently gave the Forest Service a high level of support because the project was focused around communities, did not have new road construction, and did not include old growth. As a result, around 1,200 million board feet of timber will be removed, and the project will proceed with the support and help of the coalition.

Burnt Valley – This is the first project completed with the coalition’s involvement. This project expects around 1.4 million board feet of timber and focuses on the area of greatest priority for the Forest Service, and of high priority identified by the Chewelah Wildfire Plan. Parcels of forestland have used stewardship contracting to thin areas and create fuel breaks. This is currently being used as a template for future wildland-urban interface projects and a great example of the collaborative effort.


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