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Restoring forest health and habitat connectivity for wildlife

Through collaboration with timber companies and the Forest Service, Conservation Northwest supports projects that balance wildfire protection with economic and ecological objectives. We do this to restore habitat and make forests more resilient and less prone to large wildfires near homes and communities.

Result of a prescribed burn near Orient
Result of a prescribed burn near Orient

Over the past decade, Conservation Northwest has worked with other conservation groups and several regional timber industry leaders as part of the Northeast Washington Forestry Coalition. Through collaboration with timber companies and the Forest Service, we have been able to move beyond timber wars of the past and support improved projects that balance wildfire protection and economic and ecological objectives to restore habitat and make forests more resilient and less prone to large wildfires near homes and communities.

Together, we have collaborated on dozens of restoration and forest thinning projects on the Colville National Forest.

Our forest collaboration efforts have also led to local timber industry support for roadless area and old-growth protection as part of a balanced forest plan that includes wilderness recommendations for special places like the Kettle Crest. This all adds up to improved forest health and connected wildlife habitat between the Cascades and the Rockies.

Forest restoration benefits people and wildlife

In early 2012, Dept. of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced funding of nearly $1 million for forest restoration on the Colville National Forest. As a member the Forestry Coalition, Conservation Northwest helped play a major role in securing this funding from the Collaborative Forestry Landscape Restoration Program. Funding of $1 million annually is expected to continue for ten years, ensuring restoration of thousands of additional acres of wildlife habitat and creation of local timber jobs. This on-the-ground restoration work is a major step forward in Conservation Northwest's Columbia Highlands Campaign.

Bangs Mountain prescribed thinningThinning forests for communities

To date, our collaborative work has restored 147,000 acres of the western Colville National Forest, much of it dryer forests in the Kettle River Range, creating a healthy mosaic of young and old fire-resistant trees such as ponderosa pine, western larch, and Douglas fir. Such restoration projects reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires, while providing logging jobs and forest products to local mills.

Close to 100,000 additional acres have been thinned in the Selkirk Mountains on the eastern half of the Colville National Forest. Together, these restored forests are within what the Northeast Washington Forestry Coalition has identified as the “Active Management Area,” which includes nearly 400,000 acres of lands proposed for sustainable management.

Restoring forests for wildlife

Conservation Northwest has also been working with the forest service, scientists, and our timber industry partners to collaborate on prescriptions for projects in the forestry coalition’s nearly 300,000-acre “Restoration Area.” These acres contain a mix of dry interior forests and wetter and more dense “mesic” forests and often provide habitat for rare wildlife. Although this area shows fewer signs of logging and road-building than inn the Active Management Area, much of it has been ecologically altered through fire suppression and past management practices and needs help to restore natural ecological processes and forest health.

We are working to ensure that these lands are managed properly to restore old-growth forests and improve habitat for fish and wildlife, while also creating restoration and timber jobs.

A balanced plan for the Colville National Forest

The development of specific active management and restoration area proposals was part of a collaborative process that also identified roadless areas that would be managed to maintain their wilderness characteristics and considered for wilderness designation. This proposal, known as the blueprint, was presented to the Colville National Forest and local community as part of the Colville’s forest planning process.

In 2010, Conservation Northwest built on the blueprint to create the Columbia Highlands Initiative legislative proposal that included new wilderness, recreation, and conservation areas. We continue to collaborate on forest restoration work on the Colville while engaging elected officials and other local stakeholders during the ongoing forest plan revision process to support a balanced plan that includes forest restoration, fuels reduction, improved recreation, and protection for roadless areas and wilderness.

Read more about the forest plan revision, wilderness recommendations, and forest collaboration on the Colville.
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