DNR announces first Good Neighbor Timber sale
OLYMPIA, Wash. — The Washington State Department of Natural Resources has awarded its first Good Neighbor Authority restoration timber harvest sale.
Colville-based Vaagen Brothers Timber Company was the successful bidder Tuesday for a project that will reduce hazardous timber overgrowth on 604 acres of forest in the Colville National Forest.
“This project is a great example of the partnerships we will need to address the forest health crisis that has filled Washington’s skies with wildfire smoke the past couple of summers. Wildfire doesn’t care about who owns the forestland; neither can our restoration efforts,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz. “With this sale, we are taking a big step towards the goals laid out in our 20-year Forest Health Strategic Plan that will make our communities safer from wildfire and forests more productive.”
Commissioner Franz signed a Good Neighbor Authority agreement with the United States Forest Service in March of last year. The agreement authorizes DNR to conduct forest, watershed and rangeland restoration projects on federal land.
The project, known as the Block of Nine, will use mechanical thinning to restore the health of an area identified as a priority under Commissioner Franz’s 20-year Forest Health Strategic Plan.
The sale of that timber will generate upwards of $1.5 million and boost the economy of northeast Washington by making 5.8 million board feet of timber available.
Revenue generated by the timber sale will be used to fund further restoration projects within the Colville National Forest.
The Washington State Legislature last session created a new fund for DNR to hold this revenue to ensure it is then used to speed the pace and scale of forest restoration work on federal lands.
Additional follow up restoration fuels treatments will occur following the completion of the Block of Nine.
“This represents another step towards increasing the pace and scale of improving forest health on the Colville National Forest” said Rodney Smoldon, Supervisor of the Colville National Forest. “We are proud to be working so closely with our neighbors and partners in the state to get this important work done.”
The Block of Nine was recently threatened by the 458-acre Sheep Creek fire that started 1/4 of a mile away from the project area. Now contained, the Sheep Creek fire burned across private, state trust lands, and forest service lands demonstrating the dire need to conduct forest health treatments across ownership boundaries in this area.
“We are all affected by the impacts of poor forest health and wildfires,” said George Geissler, Washington State Forester and Deputy of DNR’s Wildfire and Forest Health Division. “Here in Washington and across the United States, state and federal partners are working together to bring cohesive, cooperative solutions to our nation’s forest health crisis.”
“We have followed the authority since its inception and are excited to be a part of it,” said Josh Anderson of Vaagen Bros. “We loved seeing Commissioner Franz embrace this new opportunity and work with the Forest Service to restore fire-prone forests on the eastside of the state. The Colville National Forest is a great place to work and a great partner and there is no better place to see this get going.”
The GNA was permanently authorized by Congress in the 2014 Farm Bill. It authorizes state agencies like DNR to enter into agreements with the USFS and BLM to conduct forestland, watershed, and rangeland restoration services as an agent of the federal government, with the added benefit of using state procedures and policies to conduct the work. Under the GNA, the state must follow all applicable federal laws.
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