Inland Northwest forests have been severely damaged by many external factors: logging of the largest and most resilient trees; the introduction of white pine blister rust; fire suppression; and extensive road building. Forest stands that were once dominated by white pine are now dominated by fir trees. These trees shade out more resistant trees, grow for a few decades, and then die of root rot only to be replaced by more fir – which continues this negative cycle.
More than a century of forest and fire management in Northeast Washington, North Idaho, and Northwest Montana has transformed the characteristics and function of forests. The most dramatic impacts affect riparian areas, water quality, fish, and wildlife. To combat these effects, active restoration – particularly in previously logged stands – is greatly needed. There are still threats to old growth forests as well, particularly on state lands. Road systems need to be regulated and reformed, so the backlog of unmaintained roads can be eliminated.
To restore key, resilient characteristics to Inland Northwest forests, we need to properly manage and plan our regional, watershed, and individual resources. Restoration that works effectively for everyone requires an active shift in our thinking – these landscapes are socio-ecological systems that provide services to people living near our forests. Restoring once-dominant and hardy species, such as white pine, whitebark pine, western larch, and ponderosa pine, will increase resiliency to drought, insects, disease, and wildfire.
To improve our National Forests, we collaborate with diverse stakeholders to find a common ground. We are engaged in a conversations and activities that are conserving public lands – not just special places like roadless areas – but old growth, riparian areas, wildlife corridors, and future forests. Engaging with adjacent communities and a wide-variety of interest groups has resulted in support for conservation interests, including support for new wilderness designations.