By: Northwest Management, Inc.
For many decades the forest management on public lands debate has been like a pendulum swinging the focus from commercial uses to environmental values, but tools like the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program, Tribal Forest Protection Act, and the Wildland Fire Leadership Conference seek landscape level, multi-ownership solutions that protect ecological diversity and processes while also providing for active management that supports the economic stability of resource-dependent communities.
Similarly, in 2012 the Intertribal Timber Council, backed by a multi-year grant from the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwestern Region, kicked off the Anchor Forest Pilot Project to explore not only the barriers to science-based forest management, but also the tools that can be leveraged to break down those barriers and find new paths forward. While an Anchor Forest may look different in different landscapes, Steve Andringa, Yakama Nation Tribal Forestry Program Manager, defined it best as, “a relatively large multi-ownership area that will support sustainable long-term wood and biomass production levels backed by local infrastructure and technical expertise, and endorsed politically and publicly to achieve the desired land management objectives.” The Anchor Forest concept has four main objectives:
- A reasonable expectation for sustainable wood commodity production, local community benefits and ecosystem services;
- Production levels sufficient to support economically viable manufacturing, processing, and work force infrastructure within the forestry sector to maintain the ability to address declining forest ecosystem health;
- Long-term management plans supported by inventory systems, professional staff, and geographic information systems; and
- Institutional and operational capacity for implementation.
Regardless of the ownership or designation, forests across the nation are facing threats from wildland fire, fragmentation, climate change, and mortality from insect and disease infestations. In addition, infrastructure for management, harvesting, transportation, and processing of forest products is rapidly deteriorating. The loss of processing infrastructure, operational capacity, and local expertise undermines sustainable forest management efforts on both public and private lands.
The Anchor Forest Assessment Project, led by an oversight committee convened by the Intertribal Timber Council, contracted with Northwest Management, Inc. to evaluate the potential for an Anchor Forest to serve as the vehicle for retaining “working forests” in three study areas; South Central Washington, North Central Washington, and Northeast Washington. Each study area was selected given their current ownership patterns, organizational culture, forest condition, and infrastructural capacity. The lessons learned from this project will help inform decisions regarding the potential value of Anchor Forests for maintaining and restoring healthy landscapes in eastern Washington and throughout other regions of the country.
The Anchor Forest concept has a simple premise. Balanced social/cultural, economic and ecologic forest management will sustain ecosystem services and the desired forestland values while reducing the threats of catastrophic wildfire. Anchor Forests are intended to provide a foundation to foster the development of a common vision through collaboration and cooperation across ownership boundaries and among varying interests.
For more information on the Anchor Forest Pilot Project, visit www.anchorforest.org.