Monday, December 19, 2016

Multiple Approaches for Accelerating Pace and Scale of Restoration

East face of the Elkhorn Mountains on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. Photo by Jamie Knight, Oregon Dept of Forestry

As the old saying goes - there's more than one way to skin a cat.  Across the Pacific Northwest, many innovative planning efforts are underway to accelerate the pace and scale of landscape restoration. There is no "one-size-fits-all" approach to making meaningful progress towards this goal of the Cohesive Strategy. 

Sustainable Northwest highlights some great examples in their recent blog post of how agencies, communities and organizations are coming together to find real-world solutions to the challenges facing the huge landscapes in need of restoration for resilience. 

From the Forest Resiliency Project to the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Projects (CFLRPs) to the Joint Chiefs Landscape Restoration Partnership Projects, many forests and communities are undertaking the grand challenge - finding solutions to move the resilience needle on large landscapes.  These efforts are resulting in the creation of NEPA efficiencies, long-term stewardship agreements and broad community engagement. 

From the blog:

The Forest Resiliency Project is one attempt to accelerate the pace and scale of restoration planning. This project is an experiment that tests what is needed for a forest manager to make an informed decision, using the best available science and modeling methods to inform a large landscape-scale analysis that discloses resource impacts from proposed activities. This project was intentionally designed at a large scale, across 1.2 million acres (total) on portions of the Ochoco, Umatilla, and Wallowa-Whitman National Forests. 

The Malheur National Forest is bringing on new employees for planning and implementation, and dedicating time and resources to restoration, making a significant investment in accelerated restoration, success working locally with two collaborative groups and an ongoing ten year stewardship agreement with local industry. 

Regionally, five Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Projects (CFLR) are underway on  the Deschutes, Okanogan-Wenatchee, Malheur, Colville and Fremont-Winema National Forests. The CFLR program was established to encourage collaborative solutions for restoration on priority forest landscapes. Forests in the Pacific Northwest with CFLR projects have increased their fuel treatments by 43% since 2010 when the CFLR projects were designated (compared to an overall 10% increase regionally), and have increased timber volume sales 14% (compared to a 7% regional increase). Selective harvest is not the only treatment in place on these forests. CFLR funding also goes toward mechanical treatment of small trees and prescribed burning following the timber treatments. 

The Joint Chief’s Landscape Restoration Partnership is another effort to increase restoration and improve the health of forest ecosystems, which is a shared funding partnership between the Forest Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The goal of this partnership is to restore lands across large public and private landscapes, reduce wildfire threats to communities and landowners, protect water quality and supply, and improve habitat for at-risk species. In 2016, five Joint Chief’s Projects were selected for funding in the Pacific Northwest on the Wallowa-Whitman, Colville, Okanogan-Wenatchee, Deschutes and Rogue-Siskiyou National Forests. 

Other projects, like the Mill Creek A-Z Project on the Collville National Forest, are using creative and innovative approaches to complete planning.  This project is unusual in that all phases of the project, from pre-NEPA through implementation, will be completed under a 10-year stewardship contract. 

Many great innovative planning efforts are taking place around the Pacific Northwest to accelerate the pace and scale of restoration. No matter the method, all agree that engaging communities in these projects is essential to achieving a truly resilient landscape. Successfully accelerating the pace and scale of restoration absolutely depends on strong collaborative relationships, connections to science, and broad agreement about the purpose of a project.

Read full blog post and link to others here

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