Court sides with Forest Service, conservation groups in favor of Mission Project

Court sides with Forest Service, conservation groups in favor of Mission Project

Conservation Northwest / Dec 02, 2020 / Forestry, National Forests, News Releases, Protecting Wildlands

This project rooted in science and local collaboration provides a valuable model for landscape-scale forest and watershed restoration.

This week, the U.S. District Court for Eastern Washington dismissed a request for summary judgement brought forward in a challenge by a Montana-based group against the Mission Forest Restoration Project on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest in north-central Washington’s Methow Valley.

The North Central Washington Forest Health Collaborative, Yakama Nation and conservation organizations including the Methow Valley Citizens Council, Conservation Northwest, The Wilderness Society and Trout Unlimited defended the Mission Project as a science-based plan with a balanced mix of forest and watershed restoration and timber harvesting. Several of the groups filed an amicus brief in August.

“We’re pleased to see the court affirm the restoration value and scientific integrity of the Mission Project,” said Michael Liu, Okanogan Forest Lead for Conservation Northwest based in Twisp. “This ruling is an example of where collaboration, community engagement and sound environmental analysis prevailed to advance a project that’s a win-win for the forest, wildlife and local economy.”

“This is the first project implemented through the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest’s collaborative Restoration Strategy in the Methow,” said Jasmine Minbashian, Executive Director for the Methow Valley Citizens Council. “Working cooperatively allows us to get more quality forest and watershed restoration work designed and completed,” Minbashian added.

The Mission Project is the product of collaboration between the Methow Valley Ranger District, conservation groups and others involved in the North Central Washington Forest Health Collaborative. The Project primarily involves the Libby Creek and Buttermilk Creek drainages but also comprises a small portion of the Twisp River watershed. In the 50,200-acre planning area, there will be 8,300 acres of non-commercial thinning, 1,800 acres of commercial thinning, 10,200 acres of prescribed fire, 34 miles of road decommissioning, culvert replacement, coarse woody debris additions to streams, and beaver habitat restoration.

“The Mission Project doesn’t include all the restoration pieces we would have liked to see, but that’s the nature of forest collaboration,” said Liu. “Allowing this project to move forward provides a valuable model for landscape-scale forest and watershed restoration in response to climate change and the effects of poor forest management during decades past; we hope to see it replicated around the region.”

Groups involved in developing the Mission Restoration Project contributed scientific expertise for forest and watershed assessments, organized volunteers for road and culvert surveys, organized field trips and public outreach events, and advocated for robust forest and aquatic ecological restoration outcomes. Groups also raised funds and have completed several restoration actions authorized by the Mission Project.

More information about the project is available from the North Central Washington Forest Health Collaborative.
Forest collaboration in the Methow Valley is restoring habitat and forest healthy through the Mission Restoration Project, one of many such efforts we’re involved in. Photo: USFS