Make the McKenzie Connection!

Update coming for 30-year-old Northwest Forest Plan

The U.S. Forest Service has announced its intention to update a 30-year-old plan for managing forests in the Northwest.

The agency has issued a Notice of Intent to amend the Northwest Forest Plan. The plan covers management for 19 million acres of forest in California, Oregon, and Washington and was adopted in 1994 but has not changed since.

Nick Goulette, co-executive director of the Watershed Research and Training Center, said the plan needs improving, especially as climate impacts on the region increase.

“It really requires active management to protect the remaining old trees and to really work with fire as a natural process,” Goulette pointed out. “The plan didn’t do a good job of understanding the sort of real diversity of forests.”

Goulette acknowledged that despite the need for improvements, the plan has largely been successful in conserving habitats. A draft of the updated plan's Environmental Impact Statement is expected by June.

Ryan Reed, co-founder of the FireGeneration Collaborative and member of the Karuk, Hupa, and Yurok tribes in Northern California, said tribes in the Northwest were not part of the 1994 plan. This time around, Reed stressed the critical importance of their meaningful inclusion in the process.

He believes Indigenous insight is critical in the traditional use of fire and reestablishing its good use on the landscape as a suppression tool for the larger fires the region is increasingly seeing.

“The Indigenous use of fire doesn’t exclusively benefit or impact Indigenous communities ourselves,” Reed emphasized. “It impacts everyone in the ecosystems. It impacts everyone who depends on ecosystems, right, no matter what sector you are or whatever stakeholder you are.”

Goulette contended promises were made to rural, forest-dependent communities under the Northwest Forest Plan but never realized. He argued that updating the plan is a chance to rectify problems and focus on areas like recreation, management of timber resources, and stewardship.

“There’s a lot that these rural communities stand to contribute and a lot they stand to benefit from being really active participants,” Goulette added. “The plan for getting more focused on and some additional components that focus on rural communities is really important to us.”


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