A New Way, A New Forest

Written by Robin Stanton, Media Relations Manager
Photographed by Hannah Letinich, Volunteer Photographer

Some 25 foresters from a variety of agencies hiked up into the sun-filled forest of the LT Murray Wildlife Area on a May morning to practice a new way of evaluating tree stands and selecting trees for ecological restoration thinning.

The workshop, led by University of Washington research scientist Derek Churchhill who developed the method, was organized by our own senior forest ecologist Ryan Haugo.


It brought together foresters from the U.S. Forest Service, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Washington State Parks, Department o fNatural Resources, and The Nature Conservancy to learn this new way of ecological restoration. The method, called ICO, for Individuals, Clumps and Openings, is designed with the goal of creating a mosaic pattern in the forest to make it more like historic conditions.

This all part of the preparation for a 100,000-acre restoration project in the region to be carried out by the Tapash Sustainable Forests Collaborative, of which the Conservancy is a partner.

Learn More About Our Work in Forests

Controlled Burns Help Forests Survive

Written and Photographed by John Marshall, Northwest Photographer

These photos from the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area in Okanogan County illustrate the necessity of controlled burning along with forest thinning to enable our forests to withstand catastrophic fires.

Historically, fires would occur here ever few years, including some intentional burning by Native Americans. Fire suppression in the last century has created an unnaturally high density of trees, multi-layered canopies, and a high accumulation of dead wood which fuels fire. You can see this in the first photo, taken in 2010, where a once-open ponderosa pine forest in the Sinlahekin Valley has filled in with small pines and Douglas-firs.

In 2010, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, assisted by The Nature Conservancy, began a project to address these concerns by removing small understory trees by thinning and subsequent controlled burning.

In the second photo, taken in June of 2015, you can see the same stand of ponderosa forest. First it was thinned and then careful controlled burns were set to clear out the fuels. Not only is it safer from fire, but grass forage for bighorn sheep, browse for deer, and berries for birds increased.

For a week In late August of 2015, the treatments were tested by the Lime Belt Fire, a portion of the vast 133,000-acre Okanogan Complex Fire, which burned through the south half of the wildlife area. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Washington Department of Natural Resources. Hand-lines, bulldozers, water drops, and retardant were all used. Efforts to thin and burn prior to the wildfire made fire-fighting efforts more successful and safer to implement.

Photographer John Marshall visited the same stand in October of 2015. As you can see in the third photo, where both thinning and prescribed burning were completed, most of the ponderosas survived the wildfire.

The fourth photo shows a stand that had been thinned, but not yet prescribed burned, and you can see thatmost of the ponderosas were killed by the wildfire. In general throughout the Okanogan Complex Fire, areas that had been logged but not burned fared poorly in the wildfire.

Washington’s Wild Future

Guest blog by Washington Fish and Wildlife Director Jim Unsworth

Written by Jim Unsworth, Director, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
Photograph by Bridget Besaw

Nature is why many of us choose to live here in the Pacific Northwest.

Whether you are an angler, a hunter, a hiker, a photographer, a camper, or just take solace in our native species and habitat, we all deeply value our lands, waters, fish and wildlife.

As Director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, I have a humbling responsibility. The mission of our agency is to preserve, protect and perpetuate fish, wildlife and ecosystems while providing sustainable fish and wildlife recreational and commercial opportunities.

Today as we face challenges ranging from a warming planet and wildfires to screen addiction and couch potato syndrome, this mission is more critical than ever.

That’s why we need your help.

Since I joined WDFW in January 2015, I have been asking people, “If you could tell the director of Fish and Wildlife one thing, what would you say?” Well now is the time for people all across the state to do just that. I want to hear about what we are doing right, where we need to improve, and where we should concentrate our efforts and our funding over the next five to 10 to 20 years.

This is the focus of our new multi-year initiative, Washington’s Wild Future: A Partnership for Fish and Wildlife.

We are embarking on this effort to strengthen the department’s relationships with communities, increase support for conservation and outdoor recreation, and help ensure WDFW programs and services meet the public’s needs.

The comments and proposals we receive – in public meetingsonline, and via social media – will help determine priorities for conserving and managing Washington’s fish and wildlife in the coming years.


The meetings are scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. at the following dates and locations: 

Sept. 30 – Center Place, 2426 N. Discovery Place, Spokane Valley. 

Oct. 6 – WDFW Mill Creek Office, 16018 Mill Creek Blvd, Mill Creek. 

Oct. 8 – Saint Martin’s University, Norman Worthington Conference Center, 5300 Pacific Ave. SE, Lacey. 

Oct. 14 – Water Resources Education Center, 4600 SE Columbia Way, Vancouver. 

Oct. 20 – Port of Chelan County Confluence Technology Center, 285 Technology Center Way, Wenatchee.

We will summarize the comments and suggestions from the public, as well as input from outdoor organizations and the department’s advisory groups, later this year (2015). That information will be used to help identify potential changes in WDFW’s operations and services, and to develop future policy, budget and fee proposals. We face major management challenges over the next several years, and for us to be successful we need the public’s support and assistance.

That’s what this initiative is all about – listening and working with you to build a stronger and more effective Fish and Wildlife.