The Cascade Forest Conservancy works with our partners to maintain and strengthen the environmental protections of the Northwest Forest Plan and to protect the forests of Washington’s South Cascades from harmful federal legislation. We are also working to conserve mature forest ecosystems and riparian habitat in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest by monitoring timber sale proposals and participating in forest collaborative groups. For more information read our three guidebooks outlining our vision for the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and neighboring Mt. Hood National Forest, and a paper about our wildfire policy:
Over 15 million acres of ancient forest once blanketed the Pacific Northwest. Unfortunately, decades of irresponsible logging severely fragmented the landscape and reduced our ancient forests to a small sliver of their former grandeur. By the late 1980’s, the northern spotted owl, marbled murrelet, and many of the Northwest’s native salmon populations teetered on the brink of extinction.
The northern spotted owl was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1990. The following year, in response to a lawsuit seeking to prevent the extinction of the northern spotted owl, Federal Judge William Dwyer issued an injunction halting logging on national forests across Washington, Oregon, and California until the Forest Service devised an acceptable plan for spotted owl recovery.
The Northwest Forest 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 has initiated efforts to revise the plan. In Spring 2015, the Forest Service held listening sessions across the northwest to obtain input on the revision process, and released a Science Synthesis in 2018. While it is not yet clear what a revision of the Northwest Forest Plan would entail, CFC and our partners are closely watching this process to ensure that any changes strengthen protections for wildlife, forests, and waters of our region.
In forest collaborative groups, stakeholders such as 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 GPNF projects to be sustainable for wildlife, fish, water quality, and local communities.
Finding common ground can sometimes be slow, challenging work. It often requires balancing environmental, economic, cultural, and recreational concerns and reconsidering what success means for each of us. Successful collaboration relies on a diverse group of stakeholders, representing a full spectrum of user groups, and bedrock environmental laws. Attempts to weaken environmental laws by Congress present a direct threat to the progress collaboratives have made toward rebuilding trust and developing projects that benefit forests and communities. Therefore, our work in forest collaborative groups must be supplemented with official comments and opposition to legislation that seeks to weaken environmental laws and limit public participation.
The U.S. Forest Service has proposed logging projects in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest for reasons ranging from restoration to revenue generation. While thinning in young dense plantations can be ecologically beneficial, the Cascade Forest Conservancy has been increasingly concerned about the proposal of logging projects that propose harmful practices, like clear cutting, in the name of restoration.
To ensure that timber harvest projects are sustainable and sufficiently protect important habitat, we monitor every timber sale proposed in the forest. We work with local forest collaboratives, the Pinchot Partners and the South Gifford Pinchot Collaborative, to help shape timber projects early on and with community representatives. At the same time, we participate in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process by writing comment letters to advance alternatives and project modifications that protect sensitive fish and wildlife species and their habitats. We also monitor projects on the ground through our citizen science program.
For centuries, huckleberries prospered throughout the landscapes of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Wildfires and planned fires set by Native Americans 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 forest management and 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 production of big huckleberry in historic harvest areas. Over the last eight years, 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 report highlighting the findings from our field surveys and analysis.