Conservancy Comes Together for Northwest Forests

Written & Photographed by Caitlyn O'Connor, Staff Volunteer

The interior forests of the Northwest and Intermountain West are yielding fewer benefits for nature and people as a result of impaired forest health and reduced productivity, massive wildfires, regulatory hurdles, and challenging economics. 

Leaders from The Nature Conservancy’s Idaho, Washington, and Oregon chapters came together recently to figure out how to accelerate the pace and scale of forest restoration across private and public lands across these three states.

The goal of this meeting was to convene trustees, staff, and industry leaders to learn more about regional challenges to forest restoration, to facilitate cross-state learning, and to strengthen our regional collaboration and shared purpose.

We met in Walla Walla, where it was sunny and 80 degrees the whole weekend. Dr. Ryan Haugo, Senior Forest Ecologist for Washington kicked off the meeting by explaining what is a healthy fire environment, evaluating forest restoration needs, the hard truths, and the path forward.

We convened the next day at the Water and Environment Center for a deep dive into the issues. We started the day on a positive note by looking at our ‘bright spots’, what we were doing well and stories of integrated small diameter mills, with guest speakers Duane Vaagen from Vaagen Bros and Nils Christoffersen, Wallowa Resources.

Then we looked at the private and public forest management and their roles in forest health. We listened to Bill Aney, USFS Region 6 and Tom Lindquist, formerly of Plum Creek.

But our learning was not done yet. At dinner, we were treated to a presentation from Dr. Kevin Pogue, a geology professor at Whitman College, where he is known for his expertise on terroir for winegrape production.

This presentation wrapped up the official program for our Walla Walla conference.

For those who had extra time, Dr. Pogue helped us explore multiple vineyards, the different types of terroir and explained how much location matters when growing grapes and what conditions make the best type of grapes for the type of wine. Fascinating information where we learned about the Rocks District in the Walla Walla Valley. Yes, growing wine on rocks.

We are constantly learning more about how much nature is intertwined and interconnected with everything we love!