Executive Director Letters
Good news for Sullivan Creek! After nearly two years of studies and negotiations, The Lands Council has signed an agreement that will lead to the removal of a dam that is blocking one of the most important fish habitats in eastern Washington. The Mill Pond dam, located on Sullivan Creek above the town of Metaline Falls, has blocked fish passage since the 1930’s. As part of a complex agreement Seattle City Light will pay for a large portion of the removal, with the full support of the Colville National Forest, Pend Oreille PUD and other parties. Bull Trout, a Threatened Species, will benefit from the free flowing creek. Kudos to Board President Steve Llewellyn for representing The Lands Council in this historic event!
It should be a very interesting summer with the mountain snowpack well below average and temperatures expected to be above average – The Lands Council is doing its part to keep more water in the mountains with beaver. Our Beaver Solution has gained national attention with articles in Discover magazine and High Country News. Our study to show the potential for beavers to store water in thousands of miles of creeks in eastern Washington has just been released – a result of thousands of hours of hard work by Brian Walker, Amanda Parrish and Anne Martin. We found nearly 10,000 miles of creeks are suitable for beaver and the combined potential for water storage is similar to a giant reservoir. As a result we will begin to implement our vision this year by re-introducing five beaver families to sites in eastern Washington. Streamside restoration in the Spokane area will also continue this spring as several days of planting Ponderosa Pine and other native species will take place. We are also working with Lewis and Clark High School students to hand out 1000 ponderosa pine seedlings during Earth Week in late April.
Last fall I reported that talks on new Wilderness and better forest management were moving forward on the Colville and Idaho Panhandle National Forests. I am pleased to report that we are closer than ever to finding agreement on the Colville with a goal to have Wilderness legislation introduced in US Congress later this spring. In January I traveled to Washington DC with a group that included Brad Miller, Chair of the Ferry County Board of Commissioners; John Stensgar, Vice Chair of the Colville Tribe Business Council; and three representatives of the timber industry, including Vaagen Brothers Lumber. We were warmly received by Senators Cantwell and Murray and Representative Mc Morris Rogers, who greatly appreciate our collaboration efforts. In Idaho we are also working with US Representative Walt Minnick to find common ground on forest management and new Wilderness and have recently seen support from timber companies for new Wilderness on the Idaho Panhandle and Kootenai National Forests.
Wilderness negotiations in Idaho and Washington
The mountains are starting to accumulate a winters snow and the daylight is shorter, but that hasn’t slowed the busy pace around The Lands Council. Jeff and I just returned from a visit to Libby, Montana and the Kootenai Forest Stakeholders Coalition. We believe we have made a little breakthrough on our efforts to improve forest management and create new Wilderness, since the Coalition is going to take our memo for moving forward as a starting point. That memo outlines a pathway to success like we are having on the Colville National Forest. On the Colville negotiations are taking place to create a forest plan alternative that will include Wilderness recommendations and I believe we will have a draft agreement by late winter. Not to leave out north Idaho, we are also taking part in talks with timber, counties and the Kootenai Tribe that may lead to similar gains on the Kaniksu portion of the Idaho Panhandle National Forest. Like the other collaborations, our goal is to permanently protect roadless areas, as well as see the rest of our regions forest managed sustainably.
Our other big efforts this fall are finishing up our report on beavers and water storage, which is being reviewed by the Department of Ecology, and our plans on re-introducing beaver next year. Our goal is to place beaver families in five or six streams in 2010 and let them do what they do best – build dams, create wetlands, and store water. Be sure to let me know if you want to be involved in this project, we will have lots of opportunities in the spring to do field work.
I hope to see many of you at our annual Holiday Party, this year in the Community Building lobby, starting at 5 PM on December 9th.
Help us preserve new wilderness
I have some good news to share! Our efforts to preserve new wilderness and better forest management in the Colville National Forest are reaching new heights.
On August 14th, Senator Maria Cantwell and Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers held a listening session in Spokane. I gave a brief presentation about the success of the Northeast Washington Forestry Coalition in bringing together mill owners, recreationalists, environmentalists, local government and the Forest Service to find common ground in how we utilize and protect the Colville National Forest. Support from our elected officials was very high at the session.
Despite our success, we still have several challenges to preserving wilderness. The Forest Service’s wilderness evaluation process is a big challenge. The Forest Plan leadership team found only a few roadless areas met their criteria for Wilderness. Members of the Coalition are concerned they have applied the criteria too narrowly. We are both disappointed, but cautiously optimistic that the Forest Service will increase their support for Wilderness and follow our lead in finding balance in the forest. Our other big challenge is to increase support from local elected officials, ranchers and the Colville Confederated Tribe – we are hard at work on multiple fronts.
I am very hopeful about achieving new Wilderness and pleased that the Colville Listening Session moved us closer to our goals. U.S. Senators and Representatives are taking notice of our work. The head of the Forest Service is taking notice. Now, I need your help to keep the momentum going!
Another Victory For Our Forests
The Lands Council played a major role in last week’s Forest Listening Session, hosted by Senator Maria Cantwell and Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers. Support was very high for our forestry coalition to gain new Wilderness and improved forest management on the Colville National Forest. The Colville has not had appeals or litigation on timber sales for over six years and the timber industry is supporting Wilderness for most of the roadless acreage on the forest! The work of the Northeast Washington Forestry Coalition, which we helped found, showcase how collaboration can work to protect forests.
We have not done this by changing environmental laws, but by getting out in the forest, working with the Forest Service, and finding a common set of interests. We still have a couple of challenges. The Forest Service’s Colville wilderness evaluation process is a big challenge. The Forest Plan leadership team found only a few roadless areas that met their criteria for Wilderness. We are concerned they have applied the criteria too narrowly. We are both disappointed, but cautiously optimistic that the Forest will increase their support for Wilderness and follow our lead in finding balance in the forest. Stay tuned this fall as we work to gain the first new Wilderness in our region in 25 years.
TLC staff is out in the field and ready for summer
The late spring burst of snow and rain has turned into the heat of summer, and we are busy out in the field – measuring beaver dams, looking at forest projects, and working to restore the Spokane River and tributaries. Our Beaver Solution project was featured in a recent High Country News article and we are excited at the support we are receiving to study how beavers can be restored to eastern Washington to help store water and repair damaged streams. Click here for a copy of the article.
One of our important projects is to protect the Ponderosa Pine forest in Spokane and the surrounding region, as well as plant new trees where they once existed. To that end we are investigating swale regulations, tree ordinances, and low impact developments that might keep trees on site during construction. We have a couple thousand young pines to plant in September, be sure to check our website for volunteer opportunities.
I will be travelling to Washington DC this summer to promote new Wilderness for the Colville National Forest. Our forestry coalition has been successful at helping the Forest Service reduce fuels around communities, as well as restore areas on the forest that were logged and are now unnaturally thick with thousands of little trees per acre. Now the coalition is going to focus on permanently protecting roadless areas, so that the wildest parts of the forest will remain that way for future generations.
Our work to protect kids by screening them for elevated levels of lead is in full swing this summer. You may see our volunteers and staff at events or even at beaches along the Spokane River. I hope you enjoy our wonderful outdoors this summer and I really thank all of you for your support!
Gearing up for spring
While it may officially be spring, the recent snowfall is challenging that assumption and reminds me that climate is always variable and weather unpredictable. The good news is that all the recent snow and rain is helping bring our region close to normal precipitation, which helps our rivers and the fish, wildlife, and humans that depend on them. The Lands Council is at the table in the negotiations over the cleanup of the Spokane River, where the focus is reducing the level of phosphorus going into the river. Up in the forested headwaters we are working hard to gain support for new Wilderness on the Colville National Forest and challenging projects that would log old growth on the Idaho Panhandle and Kootenai National Forests. Spring also finds us gearing up for tree planting and river restoration projects, and now that both Kat and Nicole are back from trips to South America our work to identify and test kids who may have been exposed to lead is in full swing, with a premier of our new lead documentary on May 1st 2009.
Director Mike Petersen reports back from D.C. visit
I have just returned from a visit to Washington D.C., where I met with leaders about the prospects of a Wilderness Bill for the Colville National Forest. The meetings went well and there is excitement by many that President Obama will bring new energy and smarts to the White House – with a focus on moving our country to a greener economy. In additiion to the ice storm I slid my way through there was a certain distraction permeating the air. The economic crisis is so imposing that the Congressional offices I visited were swamped with calls and visits about the stimulus package, how the money should be spent and how deep the crisis would go. In addition to Wilderness, I was able to talk about our innovative beaver project. I found considerable interest in our idea that restoring this native species to its former habitat would not only create new wetland habitat, but also send water downstream in the late summer when it is most needed. Stay tuned for progress reports on all of our conservation projects.