Response to final Snoquera Landscape Analysis decision

Response to final Snoquera Landscape Analysis decision

Conservation Northwest / Apr 07, 2020 / Central Cascades, Forest Field Program, Habitat Restoration, National Forests

Years of stakeholder engagement on the Snoquera Project lays out a final plan for landscape-scale forest and watershed restoration in the Central Cascades.

BY KATHLEEN S. GOBUSH, PH.D. and Laurel Baum, Central Cascades Watersheds Restoration Program

In mid-March, after more than two and half years of planning, the U.S. Forest Service published its decision on restoration actions for the Snoquera Landscape north of Mount Rainier in the Upper White and Upper Green river watersheds on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

A healthy forest in the Central Cascades. The Snoquera Project aims to restore forests and watersheds in this landscape. Photo: Laurel Baum

Like many across the Pacific Northwest, this landscape is in need of help—holistic restoration based on the best available science after decades of use and perhaps overuse, including past logging practices, road-building and other activities. Furthermore, the Upper White River is one of two watersheds identified across the entire 1.7-million acre forest that would benefit the most from proactive management and restoration. That’s to say, there’s a lot of need for improvement on the landscape, and a lot that can be done if we work together.

The Snoquera Landscape is a top priority of Conservation Northwest’s Central Cascades Watershed Restoration program, and one we have deeply engaged on for years. Last year, we submitted an organizational letter and asked you to comment on the Draft Environmental Assessment. We also analysed the draft decision in this November 2019 blog: Snoquera Decision – What it means for Central Cascades watersheds.

Our team is excited to see the fruits of this labor and delve into restoration actions that will improve habitat conditions and connectivity for wildlife living in and moving between Washington’s North and South Cascades for the long term.

An elk in the Central Cascades, near Greenwater. Photo: Laurel Baum

With the Forest Service’s recent decision, the ecological structure and function of the forest and streams in this landscape will be improved over the next decade to more closely resemble historical conditions. The Snoquera project’s goal is to integrate a variety of recreational opportunities with resource protection to improve ecological conditions.

The decision reflects values communicated in consultation with tribes, public meetings and more than 300 comments submitted by the public. The values voiced from these stakeholders included cultural areas and First Foods, diverse recreation opportunities in the face of a growing human population, more big blocks of old-growth forest habitat, and better protection for our many listed fish and other wildlife species, including removal of sediment-producing roads and other fish passage barriers.

With a concentration of efforts in the Greenwater area, in the Upper White River watershed and near Stampede Pass in the Upper Green River watershed, activities in the final plan include:

  • Approximately 12,000 acres of variable density thinning in plantations and 3,000 acres of non-commercial thinning in even younger stands.
  • Enhanced elk foraging areas and huckleberry enhancement, which align with tribal priorities, and planting western white pine in areas burned by the 2017 Norse Peak fire.
  • Improvements to the road network to reduce sedimentation and run-off, with approximately 30 miles of road decommissioning and closures.
  • Better aquatic habitat connectivity with numerous culvert removals, instream wood enhancement and native plantings for riparian areas.
  • Rrailheads, dispersed campsites and target shooting areas will be improved and one shooting area closed, all of which will benefit outdoor recreationists while sustainably protecting the environment.

With the final decision, the work can now begin. Conservation Northwest will be working with partners, contractors and volunteers to help get it done, starting this summer and for years to come.  We will be posting volunteer events, work outcomes and achievements here as they arise—please stay tuned!

A map of the Snoquera Landscape Analysis, between I-90 and Mount Rainier National Park. The upper Green River watershed encompasses nearly half of the project area.
White River in the Greenwater area of the Mount-Baker Snoqualmie National Forest. Photo: Ralph Maughan