Natural Resource Based Stewardship

Long-term stewardship of our region’s natural resources is our fundamental priority.

Kid planting tree.

Tree planting day on the Mt. Adams Community Forest. photo by Lindsay Cornelius

The Mt. Adams landscape is a patchwork of public, private and tribal lands. Some are protected as wilderness or resource conservation areas; others provide recreational opportunities and support a tourism economy; but most exemplify the working lands that have been the backbone of local timber and agricultural economies for more than a century. All perform a host of important ecological functions.

Sustaining, or enhancing, the ecological and economic value of our region’s working forestlands and natural areas is at the heart of our work. But this is no small task.  Today, the Mt. Adams landscape is faced with threats from large wildfire events, insect epidemics, a changing climate, shifting land ownership patterns and conversion to non-forest/farm uses.  MARS has developed programs to address some of these threats, driven by the belief that as our forests go, so will our communities.

Much of our work can be described by what some call “community-based forestry (CBF)”, or community forestry.  CBF is noted as, “…an innovative approach to managing forests and providing Americans with the forest products and environmental services that they need. Community forestry is rooted in the belief that forests and rural communities are inextricably linked and that we can protect our environment while creating jobs. Community forestry uses democratic processes to ensure decisions about our public lands involve all citizens” (Sustainable Northwest).

CBF represents a way for us, as a community with strong ties to the forest, to engage in forest management in ways that bring about greater prosperity for the broader community while promoting healthy, functional forest ecosystems.


What is a Community Forest?

In 2011 MARS established Washington’s first non-profit owned, working community forest. Read more about community forests below and more about the Mt. Adams Community Forest here.

Community Forestry

Interest in community ownership of forests is growing in western communities that have experienced rapid development of their resource lands, or diminished returns and benefits to local economies and people as those making decisions about land management are increasingly disconnected from local communities.  There are few examples of community forests in the West due to a number of factors.

An early interest of MARS was the exploration of a community-based approach to ownership and conservation of a major tract of forestland with a widely recognized legacy of sustainable forest management.  After years of analysis, discussion and community-based process, a 100 acre parcel was purchased in 2011 officially establishing the Mt. Adams Community Forest.  In 2014, 285 acres known as the Pine Flats Tract, was added to the effort.

Among the contributions these forests makes to our community are forest-based jobs, production of commodities, recreation opportunities, aesthetics, and valuable ecosystem services. Led by local efforts and supported by public and private institutions at both the regional and national level, the Mt. Adams Community Forest is already a model of collaborative, local efforts to conserve working forestlands in a way that honors local knowledge, restores local access to values associated with these forests, and guarantees the long term conservation of these lands.

Moving forward, MARS continues to engage with local communities and stakeholders in an effort to identify additional properties of high conservation and community value, while striving to manage community forestlands already owned in exemplary fashion. We are currently exploring the development of a fund that would combine various sources of capital to a scale that would allow us to more quickly respond to opportunities for larger purchases from willing sellers.

 


Public Lands Collaboration—South Gifford Pinchot Collaborative

We’ve made a commitment to supporting our public land stewards as a founding and sustaining member of the South Gifford Pinchot Collaborative.

Collaborating for Success

Well-intentioned, value-driven stakeholders can, and do, disagree about resource management decisions on public lands. Stalemates over management priorities in recent decades have served the land poorly, however. While people argue, millions of public acres have ended-up on a path toward disease and lower diversity, and thousands of forest workers have lost their jobs. Outcomes that no one desires.

In 2009, Mt. Adams Resource Stewards was one of several founding members of the South Gifford Pinchot Collaborative on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest–a diverse group that now includes community leaders, environmental interests, timber industry representatives, and tribal members. This group was born of frustration with the inability of conventional processes, courts and lawsuits, to come up with a clear path forward for rural communities and the management of our national forests. While the consensus-based process of collaboration is incredibly time intensive, it is slowly gaining traction as participants are able to compromise and support land management activities that range from huckleberry field restoration to road removals and plantation thinnings.


Stewardship Planning and Land Management

Through our land management efforts we have overseen contracting work on more than 6000 acres of public and private land.

Planning for the Future

To support our interest in keeping forestlands working for people and the environment, Mt. Adams Resource Stewards provides support services to family forest owners, as well as land trusts and public agencies. This includes development of management plans, resource inventories, product marketing, and assistance with cost-share programs. Our work seeks to bring high quality forest management planning together with our network of local contracting professionals to provide the greatest benefit for forest owners and Mt. Adams communities.

Over the past several years, Mt. Adams Resource Stewards supported planning and implementation work on thousands of acres of private and public forests in the Mt. Adams area. Through this program we are able to engage with a diversity of landowners to promote stewardship measures that are critical to our mission.

Sample Public Lands Projects:

Gotchen Area Mixed-Conifer Restoration

Visitors to the Mt. Adams Region over the past decade can point to forest health as a critical issue. The western spruce budworm and other pests have taken advantage of forest conditions that have departed significantly from what they were historically, as humans altered the composition of forests, changed the role of wildfire, and introduced various other stressors. The result has been widespread tree mortality over tens of thousands of acres, resulting in increased wildfire risk, loss of wildlife habitat, poor watershed function, etc.

In recent years the U.S. Forest Service prioritized watersheds for treatment and restoration, and the initial project on the Mt. Adams Ranger District was the Gotchen Risk Reduction and Restoration Project. Initially we were involved with documenting current forest conditions associated with the Gotchen restoration project, in order for conditions to be tracked and evaluated after forest treatments are implemented. This work continues as we develop our relationship with the Forest Service and other stakeholders and begin to assess new project opportunities across the forest.

In 2010 we administered stand exam contracts across 4,000 acres of the Coyote planning area, saving the USFS nearly $20,000 and speeding up NEPA analysis by a full year. This work will translate into  a significant source of economic activity as the project is implemented over a three year period.

Conboy Lake NWR Habitat Projects

The Glenwood Valley is home to Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge, managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Several thousand acres of mostly seasonal lake bottom and wetland habitat protect and enhance habitat for amphibian species and waterfowl during their spring migration. The refuge is home to Washington’s only nesting populations of greater sandhill cranes and is one of the last strong-holds of the Oregon spotted frog.

Most of the species that the USFWS manages for at Conboy benefit from open wet meadow habitat, and many of these meadows are being encroached upon by young stands of lodgepole pine. In 2013 MARS began working with the USFWS to remove pine from certain meadow sites and restore wooded upland habitats that are home to rare species including white-headed woodpecker, pygmy nuthatch, flammulated owl, and American badger. This project provides local contractors with work opportunities on an ongoing basis.

Aspen Restoration

Quaking aspen represent a unique and locally important habitat in the Mt. Adams Region, valued as high quality forage for a number of wildlife species and nesting sites for songbirds. Aspen stands have also been documented to have other important ecosystem impacts – including reducing the intensity of wildfire behavior and improving watershed function and water yield. Many visitors to our forests find their fall colors to be of great appeal as well.

Aspen inhabit a couple of distinct ecological niches in our area, and in particular dry-site (upland) aspen stands have suffered from the effects of fire exclusion, browsing from livestock and relatively high elk populations. Most upland aspen stands are in a serious state of decline in the Mt. Adams area.

Recognizing this, we teamed with the Mt. Adams Ranger District to restore key aspen stands in the vicinity of the historic Gotchen Guard Station. With funding provided through the South Gifford Pinchot Resource Advisory Committee, contracts were let to remove as many competing conifers as was permitted by forest management plans for this area, and a buck-and-pole fence was constructed to exclude deer, elk and cattle that browse on aspen suckers. MARS helped with contract preparation, administration and is monitoring the project in order to evaluate long term impacts.