Category Archives: Washington Office

Washington signs on to Forest Service’s first Shared Stewardship agreement

OLYMPIA, Wash. (May 10, 2019) – Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Director Kelly Susewind, USDA Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen, and Regional Forester Glenn Casamassa today signed a “Shared Stewardship” Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), calling it a model for other states to follow.

The MOU, only the second of its kind in the nation, establishes a framework for Washington state and the USDA Forest Service to work collaboratively toward mutual goals and effectively respond to the increasing suite of challenges facing communities, landscapes, and natural resources across the state. The partnership will work together to improve forest health – a cornerstone of clean water and abundant wildlife habitat – and create exceptional recreational and outdoor opportunities across the state.

“The challenges we face transcend boundaries,” Chief Vicki Christiansen said. “This agreement strengthens and advances an already strong partnership between federal and state agencies in Washington state. Working together, we can ensure that we’re doing the right work at the right scale to improve forest health, reduce wildfire risk, and benefit local communities.”

“Wildfire, forest health, and habitat loss are not issues that respect property lines,” Commissioner Hilary Franz said. “To truly tackle our wildfire and forest health crisis, at the pace and scale this crisis demands, we need a strong partnership between Washington state and the USDA Forest Service. This agreement ensures that our response will be unified, well-coordinated, and deliver maximum benefit for the people.”

“Washington’s fish and wildlife are facing real challenges,” Kelly Susewind,
WDFW Director, said. “Large-scale collaborations like this are critical if we are to preserve our native species. It is encouraging to have the state’s three largest landowners come together in this new agreement and work more effectively to promote healthy wildlife and ecosystems in Washington.”

DETAILS:

  • The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) establishes a framework to allow the State of Washington and the USDA Forest Service to collaboratively advance shared priorities, coordinate investments, and implement projects on a landscape scale across Washington.
  • Under this Shared Stewardship strategy, agencies will focus on forest and watershed restoration projects that improve ecosystem health, reduce wildfire risks, and benefit fish and wildlife habitat, among other priorities.
  • The “Shared Stewardship” MOU is just the second of its kind in the nation, serving as a model for other states. Idaho was the first state to sign such an agreement (December of 2018).
  • The MOU builds on strong, existing partnerships, such as the Good Neighbor Authority agreement between DNR and USFS. Signed in 2017, the Good Neighbor Authority allows DNR to conduct forest health work on federal lands. A Good Neighbor Authority agreement with WDFW signed in January this year provides additional opportunities.
  • The agreement supports Washington state goals and existing plans, such as DNR’s 20-Year Forest Health Strategic Plan, which will restore the health of 1.25 million acres of federal, state, private, and tribal forest.
  • By working together, the agencies will maximize resources and create the efficiencies needed to return Washington’s forests to health, which is a cornerstone to healthy wildlife habitat and clean water.
  • This partnership creates a unified voice on issues before Congress and the state Legislature.

Source information: USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region, Washington State Department of National Resources, and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (joint press release).

Building a Recreation Economy: Community development grant applications due May 31 (webinar May 7)

A woman navigates whitewater rapids while kayaking on Mt. Hood National Forest, May 11, 2012. USDA Forest Service photo.

WASHINGTONMay 6, 2019 — The USDA Forest Service, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Northern Border Regional Commission will offer a webinar for community representatives interested in applying for planning assistance through the new Recreation Economy for Rural Communities initiative Tuesday, May 7, 2019 from noon-1 p.m. PDT.

Program applications for the summer, 2019 cohort are due May 31, 2019.

The federal agencies are jointly accepting applications from communities seeking help in revitalizing their economy through outdoor recreation as part of a pilot program created in support of President Donald Trump’s Executive Order on Promoting Agriculture and Rural Prosperity in America in 2017.

“By partnering alongside EPA and the Northern Border Commission, the Forest Service is proud to help communities deliver recreation experiences that better meet the needs of visitors and support local economies,” Vicki Christiansen, Chief of the USDA Forest Service, said. “We are committed to sustaining the nation’s forests and grasslands through public-private partnerships that engage people directly in the shared stewardship of their natural resources.”

According to the Outdoor Industry Association’s 2017 report on The National Outdoor Recreation Economy, outdoor activities – including hiking, biking, boating, fishing, hunting, bird watching, off-road vehicle riding, skiing, snowmobiling, and viewing historic places – generated $887 billion in annual spending and created more than seven million jobs. These activities can bring new investment to local economies, heighten interest in conservation of forests and other natural resources, and improve quality of life for residents and visitors.

A planning team will help selected communities bring together local residents and other stakeholders to decide on strategies and an action plan to grow the local outdoor recreation economy. The planning assistance process will take place over a period of four to six months, focused on a two-day facilitated community workshop during which participants will work together to identify a vision, goals, and specific actions to realize their goals.

Partner communities are encouraged to pursue activities that foster environmentally friendly community development and main street revitalization through the conservation and sustainable use of public or private forests or other natural resources, such as:

  • building or expanding trail networks to expand use and attract visitors and new businesses
  • ​developing in-town amenities, such as broadband service, quality housing, or local shops, restaurants, or breweries, to serve residents and help attract new visitors and residents with an interest in nearby outdoor assets;
  • marketing main street as a gateway to nearby natural lands and recreational opportunities; and
  • developing a community consensus on the management of outdoor assets.

USDA Forest Service and its federal partners expect to announce the selection of eight communities for planning assistance during summer, 2019 and anticipates repeating a second round of pilot planning projects in 2020.

To register for the webinar, visit: https://epawebconferencing.acms.com/ec93eh7zih6m/event/event_info.html.

The deadline to apply for the program is May 31, 2019.

Special consideration will be given to communities that are:

  • small towns;
  • economically disadvantaged, such as those in Opportunity Zones; and/or
  • in the Northern Border Region.

The USDA Forest Service develops and implements place-based recreation planning using collaborative processes with communities and outdoor recreation and tourism providers within regional destination areas. Forest Service recreation programs support over 205,000 jobs, the majority of which are in rural gateway communities near national forests.  The agency partners with states, tribes, local communities, and landowners to promote shared stewardship of public and privately-owned forests and grasslands.

The Northern Border Regional Commission provides federal funds for critical economic and community development projects throughout the northeast.  These investments lead to new jobs being created and leverages substantial private sector investments. 

EPA’s Smart Sectors program also provides support to grow the outdoor recreation economy. In 2018, EPA offices in the New England and Mountains and Plains regions established Smart Sectors programs that recognize the wealth of natural resources and outdoor recreational opportunities that can be leveraged to create jobs, spur new businesses, and support economic revitalization.

For more information:

USDA Forest Service – https://www.fs.fed.us/

EPA Community Revitalization and Smart Sectors partnerships – https://www.epa.gov/community-revitalizat and https://www.epa.gov/smartgrowth/recreation-economy-rural-communities.

Northern Border Regional Commission – http://www.nbrc.gov/


Source information: U.S.Environmental Protection Agency Public Affairs (joint press release)
https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/trump-administration-help-rural-communities-grow-recreation-economy

USDA Forest Service releases final instructions on objections for Blue Mountains Forest Plan revisions

PORTLAND, Ore. – March 14, 2019 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service has released final objection instructions for the Umatilla, Malheur, and Wallowa-Whitman Forest Plan Revisions.

The Regional Forester has been instructed to withdraw the draft Record of Decision, Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), and the three Revised Plans.

Forest Service Acting Deputy Chief and Reviewing Officer Chris French issued a letter to Regional Forester Glenn Casamassa explaining his instruction.

“Many factors compounded to produce revised plans that would be difficult to implement,” French wrote. “While my review did not identify any specific violations of law, regulation, or policy, significant changes occurred over the 15-year time period of the planning process.”

French said that a number of plan modifications occurred that were often complex and not well understood, and there were a number of changes in organizations, stakeholders, and key Forest Service staff.

The Revised Plans also did not fully account for the unique social and economic needs of local communities in the area.

“The resulting plans are very difficult to understand, and I am concerned that there will be ongoing confusion and disagreement as to how each Revised Plan is to be implemented,” French said.

The Forest Plans for the Umatilla, Malheur, and Wallowa-Whitman have been under revision for nearly 15 years.

The Final EIS, three Revised Plans, and the draft Record of Decision were released in June 2018 for the pre-decisional objection process.

Approximately 350 objections were filed on a variety of issues, most significant being access and travel management, impacts of the plan decisions on local communities, the Aquatic and Riparian Conservation Strategy, wildlife issues, and forest management.

Objection resolution meetings were held in five different communities in November and December of 2018. Over 300 people participated voicing concerns and clarifying objections on a wide variety of issues.

“I recognize the hard work and commitment of your employees over the last 15 years,” French wrote. “I also realize how much dedication, energy, time, and effort that the public has put into this process. I am confident that the information and data collected and analyzed, as well as the breadth of objection issues, can be used to inform our next steps.”

Existing Land and Resource Management Plans, as amended, will remain in place as the Forest Service determines next steps for the Umatilla, Malheur, and Wallowa-Whitman National Forests.

In the coming months, Forest Service officials will engage stakeholders to explore ways of working together to support a path forward on shared priorities including strengthening local economies, reducing wildfire risk, ensuring access, and supporting healthier watersheds.

“We are committed to the responsible stewardship of National Forest System lands and confident that we can find common ground for the long-term sustainable management of these forests,” said Regional Forester Casamassa. “I look forward to joining local and state officials, partners, Tribes, and members of the public to explore how we can best work together in shared stewardship to pursue common objectives.”

More information on the Blue Mountains Forest Plan Revision Objection and Resolution Process can be found here.


Source information: USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Region staff (press release)

In the News: Capitol Christmas Tree-lighting

Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen gives a speech during the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at the Capitol Building in Washington DC, December 6, 2018. USDA Forest Service photo by Cecilio Ricardo

In keeping with tradition, the 2018 U.S. Capitol Christmas tree, harvested from the Willamette National Forest’s Sweet Home Ranger District, was lit by the Speaker of the House (with help from Oregon 4th grader Bridgette Harrington) Dec. 6.

“This tree traveled 3,000 miles from Oregon, involving many different people of all ages and all walks of life, with events in many different communities, with celebrations along the way,” Vicki Christiansen, chief of the USDA Forest Service, said.

“Indeed, the entire journey, from the selection of the tree to its arrival in Washington DC reminds us of what we can accomplish if we unite for a common purpose. If we work together to sustain our nation’s forests, we can produce trees like this for generations to come.”

Below is roundup of media coverage as the tree completed it’s journey from Sweet Home, Ore. to Washington D.C., and the tree-lighting event.

Washington Post:

USA Today:

Albany Democrat-Herald:

Salem Statesman-Journal

The Oregonian / OregonLive: