Making a Plan for People and Nature
What would you do if your backyard grew by 48,000 acres?
Taking on tens of thousands of acres of forestland between Snoqualmie Pass and Cle Elum is an exciting and challenging project. Eastern Washington Conservation Director James Schroeder tells about how The Nature Conservancy in Washington is settling in and getting to work.
What’s the first thing you did after the acquisition closed?
After the handshakes and hugging, step one was to begin meeting with local leaders and communities to learn more about how the land has been used and about people’s vision for the land. In the last two months we’ve had dozens of meetings with locals, ranging from Rotary Clubs to recreational groups and we’ve learned a lot about how the land is valued. We are also getting great input from an online survey where people can share their thoughts about the future of these cherished lands.
How do you go about getting to know so much land?
There’s no substitute for first-hand experience. Our forestry team is out on the ground learning about different areas, documenting current uses, restoration needs and other issues. At times, the beauty is quite inspiring, but it also makes clear the need for active restoration. To assure these forests are healthy and thriving, there is much work to be done and we are eager to dig in.
When and how will you begin restoration work?
Our first step is to develop a management plan. This will help us to set our goals for this land and guide our restoration efforts. Our management plan will include many different elements, from how we plan to manage the forest, to what recreation uses will be allowed, to how we will maintain our system of roads and trails. Once we have this plan in place, we will begin specific restoration projects, such as thinning the forest where it is needed, fixing any problem roads or trails, and beginning commercial logging to improve the health of the forest.
What happens next?
We are developing our management plan now and will be adding to it over the next 6 months or so. The information we are hearing from recreationists, user groups, interested citizens, and our many members and supporters will help us as we write the plan. Over the next few months, we will continue to gather input and ideas from people so that we can consider them as we go. I am looking forward to three “open house” style meetings we are planning in Cle Elum, Ellensburg, and Yakima in March. We hope to hear from everyone who loves and uses this land and has a stake in its future.
Meanwhile the lands are open for recreation and are being enjoyed in all kinds of weather – rain, snow and sun.
We are holding community meetings in March and invite everyone to attend and be part of the dialog.
What do you dream about as you drive around on this land?
Wow, I have lots of dreams! Healthy forests that shade water for salmon, protect rivers for agriculture in valleys below, are connected to allow wildlife to migrate, and provide places for humans to relax, escape and enjoy all that nature has to offer. But I also dream about working forests that provide economic benefit to the communities that depend on them. Achieving all this will require collaboration and teamwork as communities, conservation groups, local businesses, volunteers, tribes and many others work together to shape these forests for our future.