Many hands make for light(er) forest health work

Welcome to the Stemilt Basin. To some, it looks like verdant, green forestland. To others, it looks like a travesty waiting to happen.

Just 20 minutes southwest of Wenatchee lies a watershed so valued by the Wenatchee Sportsman’s Association and Apple Country Snowmobile Club alike that they’re willing to donate time and money to help the Department to manage these lands on behalf of the public. The Stemilt’s annual snow pack supports cherry farms, a ski resort, popular fishing lakes, and summer forage lands for one of the state’s most significant elk herds.

Yet, its also a landscape at risk.

Forests to both its east and west have already burned, and there are areas where overly dense trees put the area at risk. WDFW has been working as part of the Stemilt Partnership to address this challenge.

The Department has been treating its own lands with a combination of mechanical thinning and prescribed fires. WDFW is getting ready to treat another 295 acres of these lands with a thinning effort that will create elk-friendly gaps, retain large and habitat trees, and add man-made snags created from existing trees for woodpeckers. Just a few miles down the road is another section that WDFW crews will treat this fall with prescribed fire.

WDFW Director Kelly Susewind recently visited the area with representatives from Chelan County to better understand how WDFW’s engagement is helping to achieve the landscape-scale forest health efforts.

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In one example, he learned that as part of the WDFW’s upcoming project, WDFW is assisting the County by including in the treatment a small 23-acre section of adjacent County-managed land that would impossible (given mobilization costs) for them to address on their own. This, in turn, helps WDFW by reducing the wildfire risk to the important habitat that we manage here for public benefit. The County then assisted WDFW with the unit layout and thinning prescription, across both land ownerships.

WDFW marks its 25th Anniversary this year knowing that we will only be able to meet the growing needs of our state’s fish and wildlife through habitat collaborations like these.

Thanks Stemilt Partnership for all you do to help us keep our lands whole and functioning!

Written by

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is dedicated to preserving, protecting and perpetuating the state’s fish and wildlife resources.

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