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2009 Northwest Environmental Forum – October 2009, Summary Part I

Eastside Forest health Convention: Challenges and Solutions, Spokane, WA

The Northwest Environmental Forum strives to address regional environmental and natural resource issues. The School of Forest Resources is pivotal in helping regional policy makers reach decisions about sustaining natural resource productivity. Other University colleges and centers – Ocean and Fisheries Sciences, Arts and Sciences, Public Policy, Architecture and Urban Planning, Engineering, Information Sciences, Atmosphere and Oceans, Law, Business and Marine Affairs – are integral to the Forum goal.

(This Part I Summary highlights the “Imperatives for Action” as discussed by the Forum Keynote Speakers. Our next issue will highlight “Findings” from the Forum.)

Forest structure and composition have changed significantly in dry forests of eastern Washington. High densities of dead and moisture-stressed trees increase potentials for the spread and intensity of fire, disease, and insect outbreaks, leading to massive environmental degradation, higher costs of management and greater atmospheric pollution.

An invited group of 60 federal, state, tribal and private forestland managers, in conjunction with government and conservation representatives addressed an actionable strategy to restore and maintain the ecosystem services of the eastside dry forests. Resilient eastside forests protect the basic ecosystem services – wood and fiber, water and medicinal resources; environmental services – carbon sequestration, biodiversity, wildlife habitat, erosion control and pollination; and cultural services – community stability, recreation, tourism, educational and spiritual.

Imperatives for Action—A summary of comments by the Forum Keynote Speakers

Mary Wagner, Regional Forester, US Forest Service Region 6

The Imperative is the Land, the People and the Promise. Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack’s new broad vision for American Forests has at its heart an “all lands” approach. All USDA agencies are working together to sustain the entire matrix of federal, tribal state, municipal and private forests. The Forest Service is committed to restoring the resilience of our forests and improve watershed health, sustained water flow quality and quantity, shelter for wildlife, richness of biodiversity, rural prosperity, and our ability to meet a shared vision of healthy, resilient forests.

This Forum is a place to strengthen relationships; expand knowledge, imagine what is next, and grow the capacity to address these challenges.

Peter Goldmark, Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands

Imperative #1-Changed Forest Conditions
The worsening forest health pandemic in the eastern Washington landscape is like a slow moving forest fire. It’s destructive, difficult to tackle, incremental change is hard to see and it’s difficult to drive home the enormity of the issue. How to convince others of the enormity? We must respond. The forest health problem knows no boundaries and it is getting worse.

Imperative #2-Take the Next Step
Build on 2007 Legislature’s bill SB 6141 “Forest Health Law.” Coordinate action across landscapes by many landowners. We need to figure out new ways for cooperation.
Imperative #3-Possible Outcomes and Solutions

  • Support implementation and funding for strategies in place.
  • Colville, WA area-build on collaborative success. Retain infrastructure.
  • Lack of infrastructure for restoration; cost of restoration has to be borne by products extracted.

Steps by WA DNR: DNR bio-mass initiative, with 30 applications for partnerships; DNR supports restoration and bio-mass for renewable fuels. Materials will come from forests at risk as well as from normal logging activities.

Billy Frank, Jr., Chairman, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission

Some people (organizations) are against harvesting. Tribes want foresters to harvest. We need a strong industry. We want you to stay. Tribes are committed to forest health. Tribal infrastructure is in place and needs to be utilized.

(Complete presentations and dialogues of the Northwest Environmental Forum, School of Forest Resources, University of Washington, College of the Environment can be viewed at

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