The Northwest Forest Plan is a series of federal policies and guidelines adopted in 1994 in response to the overharvesting of NW forests and critical threats to species like the iconic spotted owl. The plan took an unprecedented ecosystem-based approach to protect biodiversity and forest health on a landscape scale, outlining a 100-year vision for 24 million acres of public lands in the region. The plan also amended existing forest plans by overlaying a new set of land allocations and related management policies. However, just 20 years into plan implementation, the Forest Service initiated efforts to revise the plan. These efforts continue while at the same time, new legislation to decrease habitat protections is being regularly introduced at the federal level. Our work on this front is focused on ensuring that our forests are sufficiently protected.
In forest collaborative groups, stakeholders including environmental organizations, timber companies, recreational organizations, and other interested members of the community come together to discuss timber sales and other proposed projects with Forest Service staff. Cascade Forest Conservancy is a founding member of, and active participant in, both forest collaboratives in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. The Pinchot Partners, formed in 2003, focuses on projects in the Cowlitz Valley Ranger District, and the South Gifford Pinchot Collaborative, formed in 2011, focuses on projects in the Mt. Adams Ranger District. Through collaborative participation, our goal is to influence timber harvest projects to be more sustainable for wildlife, fish, and water quality. Working cooperatively with our partners allows us to voice conservation concerns early in the planning stages of projects, saving us time, energy, and resources.
We have been increasingly concerned about the proposal of logging projects that propose harmful practices, like clearcutting, in the name of restoration. To ensure that timber harvest projects are sustainable and sufficiently protect important habitat, we monitor and engage in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) commenting process for every timber sale proposed in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, and work where and how we can to monitor timber harvests on State and private lands. We also monitor projects on the ground through our citizen science program.
Logging on state and private lands is generally much more intensive than logging in national forest, and the legal mechanisms available to protect species and habitats on these lands are sometimes lacking. Harmful, habitat-fragmenting clearcuts and streamside logging on state and private land cause harm beyond their borders. Actions on state and private lands should be improved to be less harmful for the habitats and species of our region. Like our efforts within national forests, our aim is to work with a broad set of stakeholders to identify and enact solutions that are forward-looking and effective over the long-term.
Pacific Northwest forests play a critical role in sequestering carbon and regulating atmospheric carbon dioxide. It is important that we start to more fully recognize the importance that our forests play in mitigating climate change. Knowing this, we tailor our efforts on ensuring that forests are kept as forests and that climate change is considered in plans and projects being proposed and carried out in the region. See our climate resilience page for information about our work on climate change.
For centuries, huckleberries prospered throughout the southern Washington Cascades. Wildfires and planned fires set by Indegnous peoples created openings in the forest canopy for huckleberry shrubs to flourish. Many areas that were once harvest sites for big huckleberry (Vaccinium membranaceum) have now advanced to a more closed canopy, and there is a growing desire to focus thinning projects on the creation or restoration of huckleberry picking areas.
In 2009, the U.S. Forest Service began a series of logging efforts aimed at enhancing fruit production of big huckleberry in historic harvest areas. A variety of approaches have been carried out to promote huckleberry production, but little has been done to quantify the impacts and identify optimal restoration strategies. Beginning in 2017, in partnership with Pinchot Partners collaborative group and the U.S. Forest Service, CFC began a multi-year monitoring program to analyze how different types of management treatments have impacted huckleberry plants and fruit production. Our goal is to aid ecologically similar areas throughout the Pacific Northwest in being able to adopt effective and proven huckleberry restoration strategies.
Click HERE to see our 2018 report highlighting the findings from our field surveys and analysis.