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Report: Existing Forest Service policy could have lessons for old-growth forest restoration

FILE - Old growth Douglas fir trees stand along the Salmon river Trail on the Mt. Hood National Forest outside Zigzag, Ore.
Rick Bowmer
FILE - Old growth Douglas fir trees stand along the Salmon river Trail on the Mt. Hood National Forest outside Zigzag, Ore.

Last year, the Biden administration issued an executive order to conserve ecologically important mature and old-growth forests. A recent report suggests that an existing policy could serve as inspiration.

It’s a mouthful, but the bipartisan Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP) was created by Congress in 2009. It has funded a number of projects - many in our region - developed with conservation groups, industry, tribal governments and others.

In a recent report, the Wilderness Society and Forest Stewards Guild found “over 90% of all CFLRP proposals and all of the selected CFLRP projects” addressed mature and old growth forests, and many included them in project goals and treatment plans.

“This review shows that old-growth conservation is widely accepted and practiced within collaborative forest restoration efforts,” the report reads. “And that there is a broad zone of agreement on protecting and restoring old-growth as a primary component of forest restoration and fuel reduction.”

“To the extent that the Forest Service is like, ‘what do we do? How do we do this? What policies do we create? What does the policy look like? How is it going to work? What's the mechanism?’ You know, there's a lot of vexing questions when writing policy for any issue really,” said Josh Hicks, the Wilderness Society’s conservation campaign director. “And I think the program shows you have a flagship program that is already a priority within the Forest Service, where you're already doing this in some ways. So you don't need to go too far out on a limb to figure this out.”

One project cited in the report was in the Zuni Mountains of West-Central New Mexico. Among its goals were “protecting old and large trees” and the “restoration of pre-fire suppression old-growth forest.”

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUNC in Colorado and KANW in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Hey everyone! I’m Murphy Woodhouse, Boise State Public Radio’s Mountain West News Bureau reporter.