Nearly ten percent of the 740 million acres of forest lands within the conterminous United States are in a hazardous condition as a result of historic management practices and wholesale fire suppression for much of the 20th century. Within the western U.S. forests store, filter, and provide more than half of the clean public drinking water for nearly 64 million people. As land conversion occurs to support a growing population many forestlands will continue to be lost to wildfire, insects, and disease without proactive on-the-ground management. Under healthy conditions these forests sustain a myriad of social/cultural, economic and ecologic services society enjoys.
Eastern Washington is experiencing severe forest-health issues without strategically planned ecological management. More than 1 million acres of Washington forest land are being impacted annually, leading to an increase in the size and frequency of wildfire. Specifically, this assessment has acknowledged the greatest need for forest treatment exists on NFS lands managed by the USFS within eastern Washington.
One of the foremost challenges facing forest stewardship is in identifying the framework needed to maintain and expand working forests on the landscape that provide resource sustainability and improve ecosystem function. The proper framework will support an increase in the value and extent of ecosystem services provided by healthy forest lands.
“Ultimately, the people who are best able to take care of the land are those who live on the land, work on the land, and love the land. They have the knowledge, skills and motivation to care for the land. We need to empower them.”
– Gale Norton, U.S. Secretary of Interior, on August 31, 2005 when announcing the Department of Interior’s participation in the National Conference on Cooperative Conservation