Colville National Forest management plan finalized

RaeLynn Ricarte

The U.S. Forest Service has released its final management plan for the Colville National Forest that includes 61,000 acres of Wilderness, which government officials in the region have strongly opposed.
Regional Forester Glen Casamassa signed the revised plan into the Federal Register on Oct. 21 and it goes into effect in 30 days.
Jennifer Knuston, spokesperson for the Forest Service, said Congress has to sign off on any proposed expansion of Wilderness. Until that designation is official, Knutson said uses allowed now, such as chain saws for trail clearing and mountain bike riding, will continue as long as resources are protected.
The recommended new Wilderness areas are: Abercrombie-Hooknose (29,300 acres); Bald Snow (17,400 acres); and Salmo-Proiest Adjacent (14,900 acres).
About 56,177 acres of the expanded Wilderness are already within inventoried roadless areas that are off-limits to timber production or motorized recreation.
Under the revised plan, about 9% of the 1.1 million acre forest will be managed as Wilderness.
Stevens County Commissioner Steve Parker said, even though elected
officials throughout the region opposed more Wilderness, they appreciate the efforts the Forest Service made to find a compromise.
At the beginning of the planning process, which began in 2004, the amount of proposed Wilderness topped 200,000 acres, said Parker.“We’ll work with what’s before us and give input as far as forest management,” he said.
He said it is important for the Tri-County Forest Group to continue collaboration with environmental groups to find common ground in management practices. He said there is a growing awareness that removal of dead, diseased and overstocked stands of trees will reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire, and treatment supports the lumber industry and hundreds of jobs.
The Kettle River Conservation group is unhappy about harvest levels in the revised plan.
“I and hundreds of local stakeholders participated in countless Forest Service-led plan revision collaborative meetings since 2004 and never once did anybody ask for more clearcut logging. The Forest Service told us ‘forest restoration’ would be the goal of the new Forest Plan,” wrote Timothy Coleman, executive director, in a guest column published on Page A4
“Apparently, their definition of ‘restoration’ includes clearcutting, which has been renamed a “regeneration harvest,” stated Coleman.
Parker said maintaining grazing rights in the forest is also a big issue for Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties, where agriculture is a huge part of the economy.

Find more on this story in the Oct. 30 issue of The Statesman-Examiner.