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Forestry Tour Highlights Northeast WA ’s Diverse Timber Industry and Collaboration on Colville NF Projects

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

For more information contact:
Russ Vaagen, Forestry Coalition President, 509-684-5071
Ron Gray, Forestry Coalition Vice President, 509- 738-1502
Laura Jo West, Colville National Forest Supervisor, 509-684-7000

Colville, WA—Northeast Washington Forestry Coalition (Forestry Coalition) and Society of American Foresters (SAF) members hosted 35 SAF National Convention attendees from around the nation on a tour around the Colville and Kettle Falls areas Sunday, October 28. Former Forestry Coalition President and past SAF Inland Empire regional chapter Chair Lloyd McGee and other local members of both organizations planned and hosted the tour and the SAF national convention, which was held in Spokane October 24-28 and attended by 1,700 people, including U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers also attended and spoke at the convention and highlighted the need for increased forest management and the successful forest collaboration efforts on the Colville National Forest .

Northeast Washington ’s diverse timber industry and collaboration on forestry projects that have been happening for the past 10 years were the focus of the field trip, which was coordinated and guided by local forester and SAF member Bill Berrigan. The tour included visiting two of the region’s forestry businesses and a Colville National Forest fuels reduction project in the Bangs Mtn. area west of Kettle Falls.

Colville National Forest Supervisor Laura Jo West and District Ranger Rodney Smoldon were also in attendance to welcome SAF tour participants to the forest, which has been nationally recognized as a leader in successful collaboration. "Collaboration isn't easy, but it's the right thing to do,” said Colville National Forest Supervisor Laura Jo West.  “Engaging in productive ways with the coalition and with the rest of our communities is essential to sound forest management.  We make better decisions, better for the land and better for the present and future generations that will depend on it.  That's the ultimate payoff," added West.

The theme of this year’s SAF convention in Spokane was “resilient forests,” and tour organizers including Ron Gray, Fuels Manager for Avista’s Kettle Falls Biomass Plant, noted that active timber industry infrastructure is absolutely necessary to make the work to increase forest health and resiliency economically viable. “That’s why we thought it was so important that the tour highlight some of northeast Washington ’s diverse timber industry infrastructure,” said Gray. “We don’t always realize how fortunate we are to still have a relatively robust timber industry here until you hear stories from other places in the West where the local mills are gone but the need for forest health and fuels reduction treatments have increased,” added Gray.

The tour also made a stop at Vaagen Brothers’ Lumber in Colville to highlight one of the tri-county area’s largest employers that has remained competitive through innovations and state-of-the-art upgrades. “My father, Duane Vaagen, spent some time in Scandinavia and saw that we needed to transition from medium sized logs (8” to 24”) to processing small diameter logs (4” to 10”) effectively as the companies there did. We made the investments necessary to be the best at processing the logs that result from good forest health projects. It is and has been our hope that the Forest Service will recognize this and treat more acres rather than the reductions that we have seen over the past 20 years,” said Russ Vaagen, who serves as President of the Northeast Washington Forestry Coalition (Forestry Coalition).

Vaagen also credited collaboration between timber industry and environmental representatives of the Forestry Coalition and the Forest Service for helping to keep the remaining local mills in business. “Collaboration helped bring in an extra million dollars in federal Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program funds for additional restoration work in Ferry and Stevens Counties this year,” noted Vaagen. “That extra funding helps the Forest Service get more projects completed and more logs coming off of the forest that keeps our mills in business putting local people to work. It’s a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done,” he said. The timber industry infrastructure in the tri-county area includes six sawmills, a plywood mill, a paper mill, and a state-of-the-art biomass plant.

A visit to the Bangs Mtn. area west of Kettle Falls in Ferry County led by Forest Service silviculturist Scott Brogan and Forestry Coalition board member Dick Dunton was also part of the tour. Participants got to see first hand what one of the Colville National Forest ’s recent fuels reduction projects looks like. The Bangs Wildland Urban Interface Project included nearly 1,000 acres of thinning and several thousand acres of prescribed burning to reduce fuel loading and the risk of extreme wildfire conditions. The project was one of nearly 30 that Forestry Coalition members have collaborated on with the Colville National Forest .


“The Bangs Mtn. project is an excellent example of the type of projects that the Forestry Coalition and Colville National Forest are looking to expand across the forest,” said Gray. The Colville is expected to receive an additional million dollars from the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program each year for the ten year life of the program, which will fund several large forest restoration projects on the forest, mostly in Ferry County . “Getting millions of dollars in additional federal funds for restoration work on the Colville just wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t have the history of people with different viewpoints collaborating and working together,” said Gray. “And neither that collaboration nor the on-the-ground restoration work would be possible if we didn’t have the mills and skilled forestry workers that we are so fortunate to still have here in Northeast Washington” added Gray.

The Northeast Washington Forestry Coalition, working collaboratively with the Forest Service, elected officials and citizens, has helped move forward over 30 forestry projects on the Colville National Forest since 2002.

More information:

Forestry Coalition:
Society of American Foresters:
Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP):