Colville National Forest plans for larger 2018 harvest

(By Jamie Henneman/Chewelah Independent)

Tony Hansen, of Chewelah, brings in a drag in a 1992 John Deere 648E Skidder on the Hansen Logging jobsite near Arden, Wash. 

Programs will allow for up to 120 million board feet…

After two years of low timber harvest on the Colville National Forest, forest officials are saying that 120 million board feet (MBF) could be harvested this year due to federal programs and private initiatives.

According to CNF Public Relations staffer Franklin Pemberton, programs in the 2014 Farm Bill have been utilized to help forest management work more efficiently.

“The 2014 Farm Bill provided some new authorities we’ve been able to utilize including the Good Neighbor Authority that has allowed us to work more seamlessly with our partners to get work done,” Pemberton said. “We’ve also been successful in fully utilizing Stewardship Authority in the Mill Creek A to Z project with the help of Congresswoman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers’ office. We have also been successful in fully utilizing the insect and disease area designation in the Farm Bill. Generally speaking, we are fortunate to have highly skilled and creative experts working for us to leverage every advantage we can get to acres treated. So far, we have been successful in the courts and our local elected officials support the good work we are doing.”

The Mill Creek A to Z project has been a unique program designed to allow private business to partner with CNF staff to clear some of the regulatory hurdles associated with timber harvests and restoration projects. The private mill company Vaagen Brothers Lumber, which was awarded the 10-year contract for the A to Z project, addressed the cost of the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) study required for timber work on the forest by hiring a private company to do the study. The project will address thinning and restoration work over 54,000 acres of the 1.2 million acre forest. The 10-year project includes selective logging, controlled burns, stream restoration and road maintenance work.

The A to Z project survived a court appeal last summer by the Alliance of the Wild Rockies who sought to stop the project, arguing it would harm the pine martens and fishers that live in the forest. The court denied the group’s request to stop the project from going forward.

In addition to the A to Z project, there will be three timber sales this year on the CNF, primarily addressing land in Ferry County and one in the wedge area in Stevens County.

Pemberton said the sales have been made possible via efforts from CNF staff and the Farm Bill funding.

“We are reaping the benefits of a lot of hard work by a highly efficient workforce and the new authorities in the Farm Bill and the A to Z project,” he said.

In addition to the timber harvests, the CNF plans to do some salvage of areas that experienced wildlifes in recent years, including a project in the Noisy Creek Fire area in Pend Oreille County.

Local impacts
Local logging businesses are optimistic about the news from the CNF to cut 120 MBF, saying it will provide a positive benefit to the area.

“A larger harvest on the national forest will be absolutely beneficial to us and to the mills in the area,” said Hansen Logging General Manager Sherri Hansen. “They haven’t cut that much timber on the forest since the 1980s. We are so far behind on harvests and that’s why we have had fires and bug kills. It’s because the forest hasen’t been managed. So I am really glad to see it. I hope it happens.”

Hansen and other locals do have room to be skeptical about the 120 MBF goal, as harvest goals in recent years have not always been fulfilled.

The CNF only harvested 70 million board feet in 2017 and in the last several years the harvest level has struggled reach 50 million board feet. Harvest goals in the late 1980s also fell short , only averaging 47.6 MBF despite a goal of 80 MBF.

The drop in CNF harvest can leave businesses like Hansen Logging searching for alternatives like state land or private land contracts. The decline can also have effects on the community, said Hansen.

“We employ 35 people with a payroll of $2 million but we also support local fuel suppliers, automotive parts and tire dealers and many other businesses in the community,” she said. “It can hurt the community when the CNF timber harvests don’t happen.”

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