Environment
12:22 pm
Fri February 3, 2012

Loggers and tree huggers united: feds rewarding cooperation in U.S. National Forests

Restoration projects in Eastern Washington’s Colville National Forest are a model for the nation; that was the word from U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack two years ago.  

And now those efforts are netting nearly a million dollars in new federal funding.

At the same time, funding has been renewed for another project in Washington: the Tapash Sustainable Forest Collaborative, near Yakima.

The secretary announced a new round of grants on Thursday for collaboration in national forests – all aimed at taking better care of the nation's managed forests, with the ultimate goals of preventing expensive wildfires, promoting recreation and creating badly needed jobs in rural areas. 

Forest Service Associate Chief Mary Wagner was at Vilsack's side as he announced the grants during a conference call with reporters.  

She says keeping the national lands that border on Canada healthy has been challenging.

Some stands of pine in Washington have become beetle infested and vulnerable to wildfires. In order to promote more healthy, resilient forests,Wagner says, the US is funding these collaborative efforts.

“To address climate impacts and how they are changing forests,” she explained. 

How does it work?

The federal government is relying more and more on the help of non-profit groups to achieve these multiple outcomes - group such as Conservation Northwest,which is based in Bellingham. 

Its executive Director Mitch Friedman says they’ve formed a coalition of forestry people, carrying out the same goals as the work that's funded with matching money from the feds. 

“...timber companies and conservation groups and community interests that have worked together over the last decade to accomplish more than two dozen quality forestry projects," Friedman says, "where we thin out small trees to restore wildlife habitat, while generating timber and jobs.” 

The Washington grant is one of more than a dozen aimed at promoting cooperation of this kind. You can read the full list by clicking here.

The biggest winner is further south: Oregon’s Southern Blues Restoration Coalition is getting 2 and a half million dollars this year…to help bring back a healthy mix of ponderosa pine, doug firs and larch in the forests near Pendleton.