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Forest and field

Restoring forests using community collaboration helps our national forests.

Sustaining our national forests

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

It used to be we spent much of our time hounding the Forest Service to stop heinous old-growth timber sales. That's changed. On the national forests of Washington State, the agency has largely dropped its focus on logging old growth, thanks in part to our persistence and work.

Today our focus is on carefully conceived restoration projects and ecological restoration of our national forests. We've urged the Forest Service to embrace an ecological plan for forests plan for national forests, to conserve and restore forests and repair and prepare them for climate change. And it's working.

Read about an ecological "Marshall Plan" for national forests
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 roads. Densely grown, disturbance prone, and composed of only one or two tree species, these younger forests act more like monoculture plantations than natural forests. They make 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

Through an ecological forest 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 collaboratives 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.

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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