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Northeast Washington Forestry Coalition

Since 2002, the Northeast Washington Forestry Coalition has drawn together broad interests and community collaboration to pay big dividends for the Colville National Forest in northeastern Washington's Columbia Highlands.

Coalition in the field. Photo by Jim Doran
Coalition in the field. Photo by Jim Doran

Conservation Northwest is part of an innovative forestry coalition that has labored together since 2002 to find solutions and a future for the Colville National Forest. The successful collaborative group includes timber mill owners (including Vaagen Bros. Lumber Company), conservationists (including Conservation Northwest), government workers, contract loggers, and many others.

Together participants have moved from controversy to common ground for the Colville National Forest.

Community collaboration on the Colville

What the Coalition has forged through successful collaboration is a ground-breaking plan for the national forest that balances forest restoration with working forests and wilderness protection.

  • Collaborative members promote projects with broad public support. All agree that controversial logging practices such as clearcutting, logging of old-growth trees, or logging in roadless areas are not acceptable. 
  • Working together has brought common ground among people of many different stripes.
  • Collaboration has also brought success for forest restoration and timber jobs. For example, the Coalition's cooperative Quartzite Timber Sale, just an hour north of Spokane, brings second-growth logs to a local mill, while safeguarding the 5,000-acre Quartzite roadless area and its old-growth stands of western red cedar, fir, and pine.
  • Forest appeals have stopped, replaced by timber projects all can agree on.
  • Broad-based support by people who live in the area.

Origins of the coalition

In 2002, several local leaders met in the Colville City Council chambers to hammer out fundamental agreements that became the Northeast Washington Forestry Coalition. Those leaders were Russ Vaagen, manager of Vaagen Brothers Lumber, Tim Coleman of the Kettle Range Conservation Group (who later became a Conservation Northwest employee), consulting forester Maurice Williamson, forester Lloyd McGee, Mike Petersen of The Lands Council, and former Twisp Mayor Jim Doran.

The coalition started by establishing areas of common agreement—rather than areas of disagreement—and applying those standards to decision making: Principles of good forestry, old-growth forest restoration, and wilderness protection.

What coalition members share is the desire to find collaborative solutions that restore damaged forests, protect homes and communities from wildfire, support timber and recreation economies, and protect habitat for wildlife in and around the Colville National Forest.

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