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Pilot program aimed at restoring forest health

Matthew Weaver

Capital Press

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources is offering a new pilot program to help forest landowners apply commercial thinning to their property. The program provides an incentive of $100 per acre to $200 per acre for lands found to meet specific requirements. Landowner assistance manager Steve Harris says the program will help landowners be proactive in dealing with forest health issues.

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is encouraging Eastern Washington landowners to take action before pests and fires take control of their forest lands.

The department is offering its first incentive program to address forest health problems in the areas around Republic, Curlew, Chesaw, Orient, Kettle Falls and Wauconda.

Steve Harris, landowner assistance manager for the department in Colville, Wash., said bark beetle mortality and spruce budworm defoliation are two primary issues in the region.

If landowners’ forests meets the requirement of being overstocked and in need of commercial thinning, the program will provide an incentive of $100 to $200 per acre.

Landowners who apply will meet with a forester to determine whether their land fits the criteria. If so, the forester will write a prescription for treatment, Harris said.

“This prescription would specify the tree spacing, which trees to leave, which trees to cut,” he said.

Once they receive an approval letter, the landowner will hire a contractor to help with the harvest or conduct the thinning themselves. If the land meets the prescription requirements, they will receive compensation for the acres treated.

Harris said there are “thousands and thousands” of private acres in the watersheds in need of treatment. He estimated 30 to 50 percent of the stands in the area are in need of thinning.

The pilot program is being funded by state capital funds, following a forest health advisory for the majority of Ferry and Okanogan counties issued last year by Peter Goldmark, Washington DNR commissioner of public lands. Harris said $100,000 is available for the pilot incentive program. If successful, the department will pursue additional funding.

One requirement is a current forest management plan for the property, Harris said. If landowners do not have a plan, they should contact a consulting forester to develop a plan.

Harris said the deadline to have funding spent is June 2015.

“No action is not necessarily a good action, because sooner or later the beetles, fires or spruce budworms are going to take action,” Harris said. “It’s best to be proactive in the forest and that’s what this program is all about.”

For an application or more information, contact Harris at 509-684-7474 or steven.harris@dnr.wa.gov or Chuck Hersey at 360-902-1045 or chuck.hersey@dnr.wa.gov



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