The North Central Washington Forest Health Collaborative, launched in 2013 with facilitation by the Upper Columbia Salmon Recovery Board, is a diverse group of local stakeholders represented by timber industry, conservation groups, tribal government, elected officials, and local, state and federal land managers working together to obtain the resources and community support to accelerate landscape-scale forest restoration on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest in Chelan and Okanogan counties.
The collaborative’s purpose is to advance forest health through transparent actions that improve forest resiliency, preserve terrestrial and aquatic wildlife habitat, protect natural resources, provide recreational opportunities, promote utilization of natural resources, and support local economies in Chelan and Okanogan Counties.
The website for the ESHB 2928 Resiliency Burning Pilot: http://www.putfiretowork.org/ncwfhc At this website you can also find the link to the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest’s Interactive Burn Maps.
Why is forest health on the national forests a community priority?
The 4-million acre Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest makes up 70% of the land base of Okanogan and Chelan counties and provides unique social, cultural, ecological and economic benefits to Washington State and the U.S., such as: abundant recreation and tourism opportunities, critical habitat for fish and wildlife, including threatened and endangered species, timber and other forest products, to name only a few.
The Okanogan-Wenatchee Forest Restoration Strategy, adopted in 2010, reports that numerous scientific studies have shown the national forest “is experiencing uncharacteristically severe fires (see North 40 Production’s 2015 trailer called “Wildfire & US“), insect infestations, disease epidemics, habitat loss and hydrologic events that cause massive erosion. Climate change will exacerbate these threats in the near future. Scientists generally agree active, landscape-scale restoration is needed if the forest is to become resilient to these threats…. To restore forest sustainability and resiliency, the forest needs to substantially increase its restoration footprint, reach across boundaries through collaborative efforts, better integrate across disciplines to accomplish multiple objectives, and adapt to changing conditions and new science.” Our collaborative is using a consensus-based approach to build momentum towards this restoration in Chelan and Okanogan counties while also providing jobs, forest products and recreational opportunities.
We’ve seen active restoration make a difference for landscapes in north central Washington in the form of renewed understory in forested stands to restored complexity in rivers through adding woody material.
“We often say that ‘fish grow on trees.’ Most of our snowpack dominated streams originate on these National Forest managed lands. Additionally, many of the listed bull trout populations reside on National Forest managed lands. The health of these uplands is linked to the health of our region’s rivers; and our communities.”
Derek Van Marter, former ED, Upper Columbia Salmon Recovery Board.
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What are we currently working on?
The North Central Washington Forest Health Collaborative holds full-group meetings on a quarterly basis through the year with specific project work conducted by standing and ad hoc workgroups under the guidance of a Steering Committee. Workgroup membership is composed of various members on a voluntary basis. These workgroups bring discussion topics and recommendations to the Steering Committee for guidance and to the full group for decisions. Currently our workgroups are:
- Engaging with the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest on several priority projects to provide diverse stakeholder input early in project development and to build stakeholder consensus around social, ecological and economic elements. The following projects reflect landscapes in 3 ranger districts where the Forest Service has identified restoration needs, and which are currently undergoing analysis to better define the scope of those needs. No proposed actions have been developed to begin a public engagement process yet. We will provide links to further information on these projects as they become available.
- Mission Project, Methow Valley Ranger District
- Upper Peshastin Project, Wenatchee River Ranger District
- Mt. Hull, Tonasket Ranger District
- Chelan County Pilot, Chelan Ranger District
- Light Project, Tonasket Ranger District
- Engaging in projects further along in their development where collaborative input may increase support for implementation, monitoring, and/or adjusting to changed conditions, such as:
- South Summit Project, Methow Valley Ranger District. This project area burned in the Carlton Complex fire, and we are engaging with the Forest Service as we explore what restoration options remain or have arisen in this landscape.
- Annie Restoration Project, Tonasket Ranger District.
- Dinkelman and Tillicum Projects, Entiat Ranger District.
- Twenty-Five Mile Project, Chelan Ranger District
- Engaging in the development and local implementation of policies and legislation that can help to increase the pace and footprint of restoration on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest in Chelan and Okanogan counties. For example, the collaborative submitted a letter to State Forester Aaron Everett requesting potential insect and disease treatment area designations in Chelan and Okanogan counties on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest as defined in the Agricultural Act of 2014, Sec. 8204.
- Conducting targeted outreach and education to increase knowledge about the need for restoration in the region in coordination with community partners.
Learn more about the discussions happening at our meetings and the activities of our workgroups by looking through our documents library.
All North Central Washington Forest Health Collaborative full group meetings are open to anyone interested, and we welcome new perspectives and engagement. You can also review previous agendas and meeting summaries, or Collaborative documents. Contact Pete Teigen, UCSRB, to learn more about getting involved at firstname.lastname@example.org