Take action to restore the Nooksack Watershed
Conservation Northwest / Mar 30, 2021 / Action Alert, Forest Field Program, National Forests
WILD NW Action Alert #317: Through April 3, comment on the North Fork Nooksack Project Environmental Assessment in favor of restoring ecological processes and improving forest health.
Last April, the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest (Forest) unveiled a dramatic proposal to intensively log steep slopes above important habitat for Chinook salmon, steelhead and bull trout in the Nooksack watershed. This was a startling shift from a holistic forest and watershed restoration project that had been proposed earlier, including plans to restore plantations, remove old roads, restore stream and aquatic health, and repair trailheads and other recreation accommodations.
THANK YOU to the nearly 1,500 people who took action by submitting comments on this proposal using our alert last summer!
Recently, the Forest released its Environmental Assessment (EA) for the North Fork Nooksack Vegetation Project. Although some of our initial concerns have been addressed, we still have concerns about the departure from a more integrated restoration-focused approach in this watershed, as well as potential negative impacts to the watershed’s extensive riparian and aquatic habitat.
Submit public comments using the U.S. Forest Service’s online portal, and feel free to copy and paste our suggested comments further below.
We are glad the plan has improved some since it was initially presented and we submitted comments, however we plan on submitting additional comments on the recent Environmental Assessment and raising several remaining concerns, including the potential misidentification of Riparian Reserves and the potential short-term impacts of “Variable Retention Harvest”, which can remove too much vegetation, altering hydrologic patterns and impacting sensitive fish habitat. Please feel free to copy and paste our talking points below and submit your own public comments on the Forest Service website!
Suggested talking points on Nooksack Project:
- I advocate for Alternative 2, modified to give additional consideration to identifying Riparian Reserves and treatment plans in riparian areas, particularly within the Canyon Creek subwatershed. I believe this alternative will restore ecological processes to improve the health of this forest in the long term, while safeguarding soils and habitat in the short-term, and still provide commercial return for timber products.
- The EA has a potential misidentification of Riparian Reserves, especially within the Canyon Creek subwatershed. Proper Riparian Reserve designation is critical to the protection of riparian habitat conditions and the achievement of the Northwest Forest Plan’s Aquatic Conservation Strategy objectives.
- The potential short-term impacts of Variable Retention Harvest are concerning, including opening up the canopy, altering hydrologic patterns, and impacting stream flow and sedimentation in Canyon Creek’s sensitive fish habitat.
- Also concerning is the potential for increased landslides or mass-wasting events due to soil disturbance, root instability, and a loss of vegetation cover, particularly in the steep and unstable landslide-prone terrain of the Canyon Creek subwatershed.
The EA fails to quantify the existence and distribution and quality of complex early seral habitat across the landscape that includes non-federal lands adjacent to the project area.
Our organizational comments will also express concerns about whether or not the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) believes the Limited Operating Periods proposed in the project to limit disturbance to owls and murrelets nesting near harvesting areas will be sufficient, as well as whether or not the USFWS and National Marine Fisheries Service believes the no-cut buffers and best management practices proposed in riparian areas will be sufficient to achieve Aquatic Conservation Strategy objectives and limit impacts to fish habitat and populations.
While some of these problems will need to be addressed in both proposed actions, we will be advocating for Alternative 2, modified to give additional consideration to accurately identifying Riparian Reserves and treatment plans in riparian areas, particularly within the Canyon Creek subwatershed where landslide patterns exist.
Alternative 2 excludes Variable Retention Harvest and the harvest of extra-large trees (with diameters larger than 20 inches), as well as enables 62 miles of forest service road maintenance and reconstruction and the deconstruction of 20 miles of temporary roads. We believe these actions will better maintain and restore ecological processes to improve the health of this forest in the long term, while safeguarding soils and habitat in the short-term, and still provide commercial return for timber products.