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Common Stakeholder Goals Lead to More Resilient Washington Forests
The Tapash Sustainable Forest Collaborative landscape in central Washington includes 1.6 million acres of dry forest with a recent history of large fires destructive to forest and community values. Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP) project activities that reduce future wildfire risk are also increasing forest job opportunities, bio-energy development potential, salmon habitat and passage, water quality, and enhancing forest resilience to fires.
Summary of Action and Outcome
Collaboration between state, tribal, and private stakeholders helped develop a mutually beneficial and far-reaching plan to improve forest resilience. The plan allows for ecosystem improvement, lowered fire risk, and sustainable sale of timber to benefit the local economy.
Congress authorized appropriation of up to $40M annually for Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP) project implementation and monitoring to cover up to 50 percent of these costs, with no more than $4M going to any one project. The Forest Service funding shown here is the lifelong request for CFLRP funding. Forest Service and partner match funds, as well as goods for services through stewardship contracts, are leveraged to cover the remaining costs of the projects. Total annual expenditures are given in project annual reports.
All CFLRP projects were selected by a Federal Advisory Committee. Details on project proposals can be found here.
For up-to-date project information, see the annual reports on the “Results” page of the USFS CFLRP website.
The Tapash CFLRP monitoring working group continues their efforts toward development and implementation of a monitoring plan that identifies common goals and objectives, develops a process for identifying and prioritizing monitoring questions, identifies a learning method for addressing each question (where, when, and who), and constructs an outreach and communication framework outlining information transfer between project stakeholders. An additional objective of this effort is to build and implement an adaptive protocol that is scalable and applicable to various landscapes and can serve several monitoring objectives and eliminate redundant work efforts (e.g., CFLRP monitoring, Forest Plan Revision monitoring, regional monitoring). The group continues to engage the Regional Office CFLRP interdisciplinary team and other CFLRP projects to develop a regional adaptive management framework that is driven by a set of monitoring questions developed through a collaborative, multi-party process.
Consistent with the Tapash CFLRP proposal, monitoring will be implemented as part of an adaptive management approach as summarized in the Okanogan-Wenatchee Forest Restoration Strategy. Information gained through monitoring will be used to validate the appropriateness of restoration prescriptions and provide insight into necessary adjustments, should they be indicated. In each case, monitoring will address the question whether the strategy was fully implemented and if implementation of the prescribed treatment resulted in the intended outcome. Annual and multi-year synthesis and interpretation with stakeholders and decision makers will provide feedback and inform future decisions. This process could potentially provide for assessment of landscapes across multiple CFLRP projects.
As a means toward building stronger community relationships between the Forest Service and the Yakama Nation—given our common interests in resource stewardship, restoration of fire-prone ecosystems, and sustainable economies—we continue to actively engage with our tribal partners on the Anchor Forest Project. That project, sponsored by the Intertribal Timber Council with funding through the U.S. Forest Service, is a multi-ownership, land-based area that supports long-term wood and biomass production levels backed by local infrastructure and technical expertise and endorsed politically and publicly to produce desired land management objectives for working forests.
The spotted owl recovery plan and Critical Habitat Rule add complexity to our vegetation treatments in owl habitat. With increasing pressure to address the road system, the issues around roads and the fisheries and aquatics resources have resulted in increased planning timelines and costs associated with mitigation design. We continue to work directly with our state and federal partners to develop and integrate an aquatics module into the Okanogan-Wenatchee Restoration Strategy. Full implementation of the Restoration Strategy, which includes an aquatic element, will ultimately serve to streamline planning and reduce the time associated with the Endangered Species Act and Section 7 Consultation. The Forest has been working closely with the Regional Office to reach out to state agencies to ensure personnel at all levels of both agencies support management and are effectively and efficiently completing required consultation. This was a primary discussion topic at the 2014 Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest NEPA/ESA Activity Review.
Because of the continued concerns related to air quality and the potential for smoke intrusion into the nearby city of Yakima, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources remains reluctant to issue permission to perform prescribed fire at the scale or frequency anticipated and needed; despite the recent signing of a Memorandum of Understanding by the Yakima Clean Air Authority and the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, which emphasizes the mutual interest in providing and maintaining clean air to the citizens of Washington State and Yakima County on both a short-term and long-term basis. The Tapash partners continue to work aggressively with state and local agencies to resolve this.
The recession and bad timber market were not kind to our initial IRSC contract offering and the Forest was forced to repackage it. The stewardship offering has since been awarded and implementation started. We will continue to work closely with the Regional Office to identify opportunities and efficiencies in this area. Because economics is so important to these vegetation management activities, the Forest would also like to begin working with the Regional Office to incorporate an economics package into the Restoration Strategy. As well, the Tapash Collaborative Economic Sustainability Task Force will continue working with individual Interdisciplinary Teams to identify ways to reduce costs, shorten timelines, and increase the outputs of CFLRP projects.