Written by Lloyd McGee, Eastern Washington Forests Program Manager
Stewardship project launched in the Colville National Forest.
Last week we celebrated with Congresswoman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers to kick off an innovative forest stewardship project in the Colville National Forest. This first of its kind stewardship partnership between a national forest and a private company is a pilot aimed at restoring the 54,000-acre Mill Creek watershed—a beloved area near Colville that’s been well-used by people for a century.
Vaagen Brothers Lumber (VBL) will carry out forest treatments on more than 17,500 acres of this landscape. By removing smaller trees and leaving the big ones, this project will reduce the threat of wildfire while at the same time supporting local jobs, as small-diameter timber is harvested and processed by Vaagen Brothers.
But it’s not just harvest—these are complete forest restoration projects that include forest thinning and controlled burning to reduce forest fuels, restore streams and riparian zones, repair roads and close some roads harmful to fisheries and water quality, and restore wildlife habitat. No old growth trees will be cut.
Congresswoman McMorris-Rodgers has been instrumental in laying the groundwork for this project, working with stakeholders and the Forest Service to develop this public-private approach that enables the private sector to fund the presale environmental requirements, carried out here by Cramer Fish Sciences.
This approach was developed by the Northeast Washington Forestry Coalition, or NEWFC, of which The Nature Conservancy is a member. NEWFC is an alliance of timber companies, conservationists, business owners, tribes and forest professionals.
Work on the A to Z began last week after an onsite ceremony Aug. 12 with Congresswoman McMorris-Rodgers, VBL President Duane Vaagen, VBL Vice-President Russ Vaagen, VBL Resource Manager Josh Anderson, Lloyd McGee from the Conservancy and NEWFC, NEWFC Executive Director Gloria Flora, Stevens County Commissioner Steve Parker, Colville National Forest Supervisor Rodney Smolden and other local community members. Sen. Maria Cantwell has also supported this project. She was unable to attend the Aug. 12 ceremony, but visited the area the day before and met with stakeholders.