U.S. Forest Service officials hope their restorative actions in Washington state produce a resilient “restoration economy”

On May 11, 2023, U.S. Forest Service officials at the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest proposed a variety of restorative treatments across the approximately 53,009-acre Midnight Restoration Project.

They say that, over the long term, improving resistance and resilience to forest disturbance, such as wildfires or insect and disease outbreaks, will protect and provide more productive wildlife habitat while also promoting a sustainable restoration economy.

The project lies west and northwest of Twisp, Washington in the upper Twisp River, Rader Creek, and lower Wolf Creek drainages.

The proposed activities will help restore the landscape to conditions more consistent with naturally occurring disturbance regimes and expected impacts of climate change.

These sub watersheds were initially part of the larger 2019 Twisp Restoration Project, which was well into the project development effort prior to July 2021 when the Cedar Creek fire burned into portions of the Twisp Project area,” said Methow Valley District Ranger Chris Furr.

We dropped the 53,009-acre fire affected portion from the larger project in order to take a closer look at changed conditions,” he added.

This past year partners with the North Central Washington Forest Health Collaborative worked with a contractor to complete the landscape evaluation that informs what treatments are needed across the landscape.

The landscape evaluation is part of our Forest Restoration Strategy process and is completed early in the planning process to identify the needs and inform development of the proposed action.

The support we received from the collaborative has allowed this project to begin sooner than would otherwise have been possible. The collaborative also provided their recommendations for a preliminary proposed action.

Those recommendations will be under consideration by the district’s interdisciplinary team, who will also be considering the analysis completed as part of the Twisp Restoration Project and their post-fire fieldwork, as they develop the proposed action for analysis.

USFS is still early in the planning process and the proposed action is still under development, which is why public input during this scoping period is so important.

District staff are evaluating the needs for terrestrial habitat restoration, vegetation restoration, hazardous fuels reduction, and road management in the Midnight Restoration Project area.

Proposed restoration and wildfire risk reduction treatments and transportation management actions under consideration include thinning, prescribed fire, road construction and decommissioning, and more.

The Midnight Restoration project is one of several restoration projects that we’re preparing under the Central Washington Initiative, which is part of a national 10-year national strategy to reduce the risk of wildfire near communities where it poses the most immediate threat,” explained Furr.

This all hands, all lands effort promotes resilient landscapes and communities adapted to changing wildfire conditions. Under this effort, we have an unprecedented opportunity to meaningfully change the trajectory of wildfire risk to our communities and to promote forest health and resilience,” he continued.

We invite you to learn more about the project and to share your knowledge, ideas or any concerns regarding the project area and proposal to assist the interdisciplinary team in shaping this project as they move forward with analysis.

The Forest Service will host an open house informational meeting Thursday, May 18 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Methow Valley Community Center gym, 201 State Route 20 in Twisp, Washington to answer questions about the proposal and introduce the Interdisciplinary Team (IDT) who will be conducting this analysis.

The IDT will finalize the proposed action in July; a draft analysis expected in fall 2023, and final decision in June 2024.

Photo of Okanogan–Wenatchee National Forest is by Miguel Vieira via Wikipedia.

See description of project proposals and maps on the Midnight Restoration Project website.

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