What is it that compels Salmon each fall to embark on what might seem like an impossible task? They exert enormous amounts of energy, pushing past obstacles at every turn, going against the current — all to ensure that the cycle of life continues.
Humans have these instincts, too: to provide for their families, to protect resources, to ensure that the bounty and beauty of nature continues into the future.
Pinchot Partners shares this regenerative spirit in what sometimes seems like an uphill battle. And, as with the Salmon, finding open channels can make all the difference.
In 2018, a new channel opened up when Congress expanded the 2014 Farm Bill and created the Good Neighbor Authority program, clearing the way for federal and state agencies to work together to keep the forests healthy. It made possible one multi-agency collaboration in which Pinchot Partners played a vital part.
That year, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) provided a grant to Pinchot Partners. Some of it went toward funding active projects, but a portion was used to help DNR fund the hiring of restoration specialist Sean Tran.
“I am very interested in this idea of shared stewardship, so this was a great opportunity,” Sean said.
The intention was to open the channels between federal and state agencies, working on common ground, to increase the pace and scale of restoration projects, such as aquatic habitat restoration for Salmonoid species, plantation thinning, fuels reduction, roadwork, and more.
Working with the US Forest Service in the Cowlitz Valley Ranger District, Sean coordinated a plantation thin along US Forest Road 25. The stand had been previously logged and was now overgrown without the diversity recognized as a quality of a healthy forest. Variable density thinning in these types of stands opens up the canopy and the new growth provides foraging habitat for elk and deer. The remaining trees have less competition for water and nutrients in the soil. Some of the trees were relocated to nearby stream banks to provide better aquatic spawning habitat.
The sale of the timber to the local mill, Hampton Lumber, provided jobs for local residents and helps keep the mill operating with skilled labor needed for ongoing work. Proceeds from the sale were earmarked for other restoration projects in the same forest, such as Aquatic Organism Passages.
Part of the proceeds were used for much-needed stabilizing of crumbling parts of Forest Road 25, which connects the upper and lower Pinchot forest communities, keeping that human channel open as well.
The road work was performed through a contract with Skamania County, becoming the first GNA project where federal, state, county, business, and nonprofits worked collaboratively, opening even more channels to work together on common ground.