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Forest restoration

Since 1989, with science, persistence, and activism, Conservation Northwest's forest and field team has protected hundreds of thousands of acres of old growth in the Northwest and restored many more.

Retained live tree, Tripod Fire
Retained live tree, Tripod Fire

Since 1989, with science, persistence, and activism, Conservation Northwest's Forest and Field team has protected hundreds of thousands of acres of Northwest old growth and restored many more. Along with thoughtful collaboration, today our focus is on carefully conceived restoration projects and ecological restoration of national forests.

Conservation Northwest has urged the Forest Service to embrace an ecological "Marshal Plan" to conserve and restore forests and repair and prepare them for climate change. The good news? It's working.

How forest restoration helps solve the challenges facing the US Forest Service
A seminal 2012 paper on "Ecologically appropriate restoration thinning in the Northwest Forest Plan area"
Restoration – from careful thinning to old roads closures – breathes life into these forests.

Over the last century, old-growth forests were cut at a furious rate, and extensive second-growth stands grew back including an associated system of unnecessary forest roads. These younger stands are densely grown, disturbance prone, and composed of only one or two tree species. They act more like monoculture plantations than natural forests - and plantations are poor habitat for plants and animals.

Reinstating natural fire

Simultaneously to our history of logging, natural fires were suppressed in our forests with a high rate of success causing uncharacteristic forest structure that is now more prone to high risk from fire and disease including the remaining old growth on the landscape.

Using ecological restoration, we can restore the process, pattern, and function of these forests introducing diversity at the site and landscape scale to the forests and increasing watershed health. In conducting this restoration, we are also creating more resilient forests to the anticipated impacts of climate change.

Hundreds of thousands of acres of forest in Washington are today fertile ground for collaboration between conservationists, timber interests, and local communities. Restoration – from careful thinning to old roads closures – breathes life into these forests.

Field visit to Naches
Field visit to Naches

Using an ecological lens

On the 4 million acres of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest covering much of Washington's eastern Cascades, a historic Forest Restoration Strategy now guides all land management through an ecological restoration lens. We work independently and through local collaborations across this forest to ensure quality implementation of this strategy.

On the 1.1 million acres of the Colville National Forest, we work through the Northeast Washington Forestry Coalition to ensure all projects create a more sustainable and healthy landscape for nearby communities and wildlife.

Over the years, Conservation Northwest, working in collaboration, has made good headway for forest restoration on Washington's national forests. We've helped restore habitat degraded by roads and improve forest sales in young managed stands, for wildlife and habitat. We've helped reduce the risk of harsh fires near communities and restore older stands to old-growth conditions. Collaborative work has benefited thousands of acres of Washington forests. Take a look at our accomplishments to date.

Taking tools at hand

Forest restoration benefits forests, wildlife, and communities. Restoration tools:
  • Partnership. We cooperate with diverse interests groups and the Forest Service to create positive and beneficial solutions for forests and communities.

  • Treatment. Where appropriate, we encourage restoration treatment of the forest understory to restore ecological functioning. Thinning and burning of smaller trees in the understory dampens the spread of wildfire, protecting people and their homes. That improves the health of overstory trees, making them better able to withstand disease, insects, and fire. And as they grow into larger, older trees they become better places for wildlife.

  • Repair. We support restoring damaged lands through tools such as removing failing roads, replanting riparian areas, and controlling and preventing spread of noxious weeds.

  • Investment. We work to provide reinvestment opportunities for rural communities to maintain their long-standing contribution to the national forest products industry. Small diameter wood for milling is a valuable product that comes from thinning.

  • Solutions. Large-scale planning helps reduce forest fragmentation and prepare whole ecosystems for climate change over the long term, a good investment for the future.

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