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. We have created three guidebooks outlining our vision for the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and neighboring Mt. Hood National Forest:
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.
In 1993, President Bill Clinton convened a team of 600 scientists at a two-day summit in Portland to draft the Northwest Forest Plan and address both environmental and economic concerns. 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.
The Northwest Forest Plan has by-and-large been successful in improving watershed health and protecting important habitat for old-growth dependent species. 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. The Forest Service is currently working on science synthesis prior to officially beginning the forest plan revision process. A draft revision of the science synthesis can be found here.
The Conservancy is actively engaged in the revision process with our partners, and we are working to strengthen Northwest Forest Plan protections as the revision process moves forward.
The U.S. Forest Service has developed a 10 Year Action Plan to implement timber sales across the Gifford Pinchot National Forest (GPNF) as part of its federal timber sale program. The focus of logging projects ranges from restoration to revenue generation, depending on agency objectives and land designations under the Northwest Forest Plan. 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 justify 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 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.