Collaborative Partners in North Central WA demonstrate their support for the Mission Restoration Project
The Mission Restoration Project is a landscape-scale restoration project on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest located near Twisp, WA, with a focus on restoring forest and aquatic conditions and safely returning fire to the landscape. The Mission Project planning area is approximately 50,000 acres and encompasses the Libby Creek and Buttermilk Creek watersheds in the Methow River Basin. The project was developed and designed over a four-year period and is now ready for implementation, but it has recently come under litigation.
In response, members of the North Central WA Forest Health Collaborative (NCWFHC) are working together to provide amicus briefs and declarations to the Court expressing their unanimous support for the scientific analysis and environmental review of the restoration actions and explaining the importance of the Mission Project in restoring forest and aquatic habitat. Four complementary legal briefs in support of the Mission Project were filed on Friday by Chelan County, the Yakama Nation, three environmental organizations, and other NCWFHC members. Okanogan County is participating through a declaration by Commissioner Chris Branch as part of the NCWFHC members’ brief.
The NCWFHC is a forest collaborative made up of 24 member organizations working together since 2013 to help the U.S. Forest Service increase the pace and scale of forest and watershed restoration on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest in Okanogan and Chelan counties. The collaborative is a diverse set of stakeholders and governments that encourage and actively support quality forest and watershed restoration projects based on scientifically rigorous landscape evaluation and thorough environmental and public review.
Collaborative members have engaged on every step of the Mission Project — from hiring a scientist to conduct landscape evaluation and identify specific areas needing restoration to hosting community meetings in Twisp. Members also organized volunteers to collect road survey data, completed a scientific watershed assessment, and raised funds and implemented several restoration projects authorized by the Mission Project.
The Methow Valley Ranger District accommodated input and adjusted plans accordingly, especially with respect to significant prescribed fire treatments and road maintenance and decommissioning. As a result, the Mission Project will commercially thin about 1,800 acres, including on frozen ground to protect soils, non-commercially thin about 8,300 acres, burn 10,000 acres with prescribed fire, decommission 34 road miles, and complete several other aquatic restoration projects. The project has been estimated to potentially generate more than $3.2 million in timber value, depending on market timing.
The collaborative project planning works to ensure good ecological and social outcomes, supporting local jobs such as skilled equipment operators. Restoration employs people in thinning the forest, maintaining and decommissioning roads, milling timber byproducts from forest thinning, restoring habitat for fish and wildlife, and returning much needed fire to the landscape. The Collaborative has an open-door policy for their membership and welcomes participation by those interested in supporting forest and watershed restoration in our national forest.
Mike Liu, Conservation Northwest’s Okanogan Forest Lead and former district ranger at the time of the Mission Project planning, stated, “At the time, NCWFHC helped the Forest Service stay on schedule by providing not only the helpful landscape evaluation and assessment tools for the Mission Project but also community engagement meetings to share the science behind the restoration project.”
“The Wilderness Society strongly supports science-based, collaborative forest management, and the Mission Restoration Project exemplifies this approach,” said Mike Anderson, Senior Policy Analyst for The Wilderness Society and current co-chair of the North Central Washington Forest Health Collaborative.
“Fire exclusion over the past 100 years has allowed forest fuels to build-up to unmanageable levels. Since these landscapes are fire dependent, fire exclusion is not an option. How do we help wildfires provide positive effects on these landscapes? The Nature Conservancy recognizes that proper vegetation and fuels management will return these uncharacteristic wildfires back to a more manageable level and allow the good effects that fire provides to co-exist with our communities, and that is a vital part of what the Mission Project will accomplish.” said Lloyd McGee, Washington Forests Program Manager for The Nature Conservancy and past co-chair of the North Central Washington Forest Health Collaborative.
“Okanogan County is made up of over 80% public land which is a valuable economic asset if managed properly. It takes a great deal of respect and patience to work our way through the diverse interests and values of all participants in the North Central Washington Forest Health Collaborative. I am proud to know that all Collaborative members are willing to remain united in defense of our efforts,” says Chris Branch, Okanogan County Commissioner and co-chair of the Collaborative.
“Trout Unlimited (TU) wholeheartedly supports the Okanogan Wenatchee National Forest’s Mission Project and the science-based Forest Restoration Strategy for improving ecosystem health in North Central Washington’s critical watersheds. We have invested hundreds of staff hours and leveraged hundreds of thousands of dollars to implement aquatic habitat restoration elements of the Mission Project because of the benefits they provide to threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead in the Methow River sub-basin. TU is proud to be a founding member and active participant in the North Central WA Forest Health Collaborative – we recognize the high value of stakeholders uniting with the common purpose of advancing essential restoration work to improve the health of these watersheds that are so critical to the survival of Washington’s wild fish,” said Crystal Elliot-Perez, Washington State Habitat Director for Trout Unlimited.
Timber harvest and forest treatments effect hydrology in various ways. Check out this paper that delves into this relationship and various methods researchers use to evaluate long-term impacts of these activities.
- Timber harvest effects vary with changing topography, climate, and harvest regimes.
- Thinning on low runoff probability areas cut peak flow up to 40% from clearcutting.
- Logging in areas of high runoff probability led to higher peak flows.
- Harvest in low runoff probability areas caused large peak flow in snowmelt events.
- Timber harvest planning can be improved based on hydrological response analysis.
A story map is now available for the Upper Wenatchee Pilot Project in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest (OWNF)! The OWNF has been working with the North Central Washington Forest Health Collaborative partners and interested citizens since 2017 to develop the Upper Wenatchee Pilot Project, a landscape scale aquatic and terrestrial restoration project which includes hazardous fuels, road management, vegetation management and aquatic and terrestrial habitat improvement treatments. A draft environmental assessment is now available for public review and comment here.
Be sure to check it out and learn more about the project here: https://www.ncwfhc.org/upper-wenatchee-pilot-project/
Learn more about other projects happening on the OWNF here: https://www.fs.usda.gov/projects/okawen/landmanagement/projects
The North Central Washington Forest Health Collaborative (the Collaborative) brings together stakeholders in the Upper Columbia region ranging from government agencies to local tribes, non-profit conservation groups and timber industry all with the purpose of collaborating to improve forest resiliency. The Collaborative operates on consensus, and while the process can be slow, when agreement is achieved the results are tremendous.
A great example of this success is the Mt. Hull project that is located near Oroville, WA, and a priority project for the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest (OWNF). The project aims to improve riparian habitat, maintain and restore vegetation patterns, reduce wildfire hazard and modify the transportation network. The Collaborative began engagement on the Mt. Hull Restoration Project in 2016 through investment in the landscape analysis and field reconnaissance. In 2019, the Collaborative successfully reached consensus and submitted a letter of support to the OWNF for the Draft Environmental Analysis which advised to treat Mt. Hull with commercial/non-commercial thinning, prescribed fire and restore riparian habitat in Hayley Canyon.
The exceptional cooperative effort to support the restoration work in this project is made possible by the funding provided by the National Forest Foundation. This funding supports the many conversations and meetings necessary to reach consensus and contributes greatly to the overall success of the restoration work planned.
To learn more about the North Central Washington Forest Health Collaborative: https://www.ncwfhc.org/
To learn more about the Mt. Hull restoration work being done by Okanogan Wenatchee National Forest, check out this story map.
*Originally published by National Forest Foundation and Upper Columbia Salmon Recovery Board
The American Forest Resource Council and the North Central Washington Forest Health Collaborative tour the Upper Wenatchee Project
The American Forest Resource Council (ARFC) and other members of the North Central Washington Forest Health Collaborative (NCWFHC) recently toured the Upper Wenatchee Project (UWP) on July 23rd to review landscapes, root disease impacts, chipping objectives, commercial thinning samples, protection fire lines and other important items near the Wolverine community protection fire line and the Ponderosa Pine Plantation, as well as the Lower Chiwawa River area.
Through partnership with the NCWFHC, in 2017, the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest (OWNF) received approximately $1.6 million dollars to pilot collaborative restoration and hazardous fuels reduction work. The UWP is a direct response to the call for greater investments in high wildfire risk communities from more than 400 community members who participated in the Wildfire and Us Summit following the 2015 wildfire season.
The UWP, covering nearly 75,000 acres near Lake Wenatchee, WA. The primary focus of the UWP is to restore forest health and resiliency by reestablishing forest structure, returning fire to the landscape, improving wildlife habitat, and improving watershed function.
During the field trip, participants learned from Bill Burgess about challenges with reliable materials flow due to the shift from larger-to smaller-diameter trees, and how chipping can help achieve a blend of economic and restoration objectives through use of smaller-diameter materials.
OWNF staff, OWNF staff, AFRC and NCWFHC members also reviewed the importance of blending forest health restoration treatments with species selection, wildlife habitat needs and in-stand resilience traits such as disease and fire resilience on their tour.
Please take the time to explore our Ridgetop to River Story Map on Forest Health from State of the Salmon in Watersheds 2018. The Story map can be found below:
WINTHROP –The North Central Washington Forest Health Collaborative (NCWFHC) and its partners celebrated six years of work to accelerate terrestrial and aquatic restoration on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. The NCWFHC held a full day meeting on May 1, 2019 at Sun Mountain Lodge in Winthrop, WA, an evening celebration, and then toured nearby forest health and salmon recovery projects on May 2nd.
George Geissler, State Forester & Deputy Supervisor for Wildfire & Forest Health, Department of Natural Resources (DNR), provided a keynote address focused on the DNR Wildfire Plan and 20-year Forest Health Plan, and alignment with the NCWFHC’s efforts. He also discussed prescribed fire and smoke management priorities, shared stewardship with the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Forest Service, and legislative priorities related to forest health and wildfire budgets. The State Forester also reviewed other priorities for 2019 including increasing capacity for forest health treatments and wildland fire suppression at DNR with a new forest health division. State Forester Geissler said, “We have a large focus on forest health and we see collaboratives as extremely relevant in the forest health process.” He added, “I believe in allowing people to do what they do best and providing support for our employees and partners is a high priority. I am invested in forest health and my career is truly a career of passion.”
In order to meet the challenge of increasing the pace and scale of restoration, the NCWFHC was formed in 2013, and is facilitated by the Upper Columbia Salmon Recovery Board (UCSRB). NCWFHC is a diverse group of organizations including timber industry, conservation groups, and local, state, federal and tribal governments. For the past six years, the NCWFHC has leveraged resources and built consensus for landscape-scale forest restoration projects on the OWNF lands. The NCWFHC and the OWNF are partnering to double the footprint of restoration by building early consensus on potential projects, increasing Forest Service capacity for environmental analyses, and spreading the word about the importance of having more resilient forests and watersheds.
Treatments such as non-commercial thinning, road maintenance or decommissioning, brush removal, prescribed burning, removal of fish passage barriers, and commercial harvest are the most widely used active restoration treatments, while strategic management of natural disturbances can complement these activities. The OWNF encompasses more than 4 million acres in Washington State and stretches for a distance of about 180 miles from the Canadian border to the Goat Rocks Wilderness.
Department of Natural Resources: https://www.dnr.wa.gov/
North Central Washington Forest Health Collaborative: https://www.ncwfhc.org
Upper Columbia Salmon Recovery Board: http://www.ucsrb.org
Vicki Christiansen is set to become the permanent chief of the U.S. Forest Service, after seven months as the interim head.
Christiansen is a former wildland firefighter and fire manager who has worked in wildland firefighting and forestry for 36 years and joined the Forest Service in 2010.
The North Central Washington Forest Health Collaborative recently participated in an interview for the Five-year anniversary of the Collaborative with Michael Knight of KPQ to share about their work. read more…