Tribal partnership with forest service expands restoration projects

Hundreds of potentially hazardous trees are finding new purpose in restoration projects, thanks to a partnership between North Sound tribes and the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

The National Forest regularly assesses trees in developed recreational sites, removing those that are diseased or otherwise in danger of falling. Trees that are close enough to a stream or river are placed directly into the water. Others are being donated to North Sound tribes for salmon habitat restoration projects in Whatcom, Skagit and Snohomish counties.

“This is a great win-win opportunity,” said Peter Forbes, Darrington district ranger for the forest. “We are making our recreation areas safer for visitors while also offering a valuable resource for habitat improvement. This is a critical partnership.”

The partnership began in 2013, with 40 logs donated to the Nooksack Indian Tribe’s engineered logjam projects in the Wildcat reach of the North Fork Nooksack River. An additional 23 logs were donated in 2015 for the tribe’s Farmhouse reach project. The tribe has continued to partner with the forest service and is working to acquire logs for upcoming and future North Fork Nooksack projects.

In the Skagit watershed, the Skagit River System Cooperative (SRSC) provided the crew to transport cut hazard trees to two projects so far. The wood restored 2,000 feet of fish habitat in Cumberland Creek, completed in January 2014, and more than 100 logs have been donated to the ongoing Illabot Creek restoration.

The National Forest also is planning to contribute logs to some of the Stillaguamish Tribe’s upcoming restoration projects.

“The Forest Service is invested in salmon recovery and wants to help enhance projects that the North Sound tribes have identified as priorities for salmon recovery,” said Erin Uloth, Mount Baker district ranger.

The logs include 40-foot-long Douglas fir, hemlock and cedar trees with diameters 24 inches and larger.  Because of the sheer abundance of sizable logs, engineers have been able to expand the logjam designs to increase habitat benefits at little or no additional cost.

“With the especially large logs donated by the Forest Service, we will be including larger habitat structures than originally planned for the Illabot Creek project, and these logs also help meet our grant match requirements,” said Devin Smith, SRSC senior restoration ecologist. “With this partnership the Forest Service is making a valuable contribution to salmon recovery.”