To support the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest in the aftermath of the Carlton Complex fire, the North Central Washington Forest Health Collaborative has actively supported post-fire restoration by taking action to accelerate restoration on adjacent Forest Service lands before the next lightning strike. The Mission project is a 50,000-acre landscape at the western edge of the Carlton Complex fire perimeter. It was a priority landscape for the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, the next project to move into planning after the Methow Valley Ranger District issued a decision on another project titled the South Summit. The South Summit decision notice was weeks from being signed when the Carlton Complex fire broke out, burning 70% of the project’s 50,000 acres.
Since the Carlton fire was contained in August 2014, NCWFHC partners have:
- provided funds (The Nature Conservancy) for a contractor to interpret a landscape analysis and develop potential proposed actions for the Mission Project area.
- conducted a field trip to identify and recommend to the MVRD post-fire restoration potential, and later, issued a support letter for the South Summit II project;
- conducted a Mission field trip with local landowners, and is working to develop consensus around key project elements;
- provided funds (Colville Confederated Tribes) to integrate an aquatic assessment into the Mission project analysis;
- coordinated volunteers to conduct Mission project stream and road surveys this summer; and
- searched for resources to implement South Summit II aquatic elements, and for Mission project cultural surveys.
All of these efforts, from funds leveraged to boots-on-the-ground, are allowing the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest to move towards implementing projects across a 100,000-acre landscape, all within two years of the largest fire in Washington’s history. This innovative, collaborative effort was facilitated by the Upper Columbia Salmon Recovery Board with funds provided by the National Forest Foundation (CCLS Program). A recent flight organized through LightHawk provided aerial footage of the burn and proposed restoration area.
(Don Seabrook Photos)