By MATTHEW WEAVER
COLVILLE, Wash. -- The Northeast Washington Forestry Coalition and Colville Chamber of Commerce will host a community forest forum this week.
The forum will be from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 13, at the Ag Trade Center in the fairgrounds complex at 317 W. Astor Ave., in Colville, Wash.
Coalition president Russ Vaagen, of Vaagen Brothers Lumber, said the goal is to get a variety of interests together to discuss forestry-related issues involving the Colville National Forest and the region.
Members of other interest groups will share their input and are necessary to get larger projects done, Vaagen said. He cited interests in cattle grazing allotments or biofuel interests as examples.
The forum includes panelists that will talk about interests specific to their industry and how they relate to the national forest.
"We're trying to speed up the process to provide the forest service with as broad and articulate a public opinion as possible," Vaagen said. "The real goal here is to help bring the community together to provide a united voice."
The coalition acquired a National Forest Foundation grant to hold the workshops.
Vaagen said many stands are small diameter trees and overstocked.
"Where there might be a need for a few hundred trees per acre to have a healthy stand, we're probably in the tens of thousands of trees per acre," he said.
Dense stands impact forest health and grazing productivity for livestock and wildlife.
There's a need to thin more acres on national forests in Colville and throughout the West, Vaagen said. Typically, treatments entail logging to thin stands, leaving the best and biggest trees.
"If there is a lightning strike and there's a small fire, it doesn't burn more than a couple acres before it runs out of fuels," Vaagen said. "Today, if we get lightning strikes in certain areas, tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of acres, are susceptible to being burned."
The coalition hopes to understand the interests of all stakeholders, to develop projects that better reflect those interests, he said.
"The best way to do that is to get more players to the table and figuring out what the common ground is, so we can push the federal government in treating more of those acres," he said.
The forum is free and open to the public.