MOUNT VERNON — The Washington state Department of Natural Resources has made public its forest action plan for the year and identified the Skagit River watershed as a priority.
The department manages, protects and preserves millions of acres of forestland across the state.
The five-year plan sets the stage for public land managers and private property owners to continue collaboration on how to keep forests healthy, The Skagit Valley Herald reported.
“It’s pretty clear that if we’re going to accomplish some of the big goals we have for forest health and salmon and orca recovery and wildfire resiliency, we have to work across ownership boundaries,” lead plan author Andrew Spaeth said. “No single forest owner in the state is going to be able to” tackle that work alone.
Federal and state land and wildlife management agencies, scientists at the University of Washington scientists and researchers at The Nature Conservancy wrote the latest plan edition after analyzing existing data about habitat, water quality, wildlife and climate projections to determine where forest land was most at risk.
The Skagit River watershed was deemed a priority because it is likely to be heavily impacted by climate change and drought, Spaeth said. The Skagit River is in northwestern Washington state and runs for about 150 miles (240 kilometers) into Canada.
He said many of the state’s forests lack drought-tolerant species, which could impact water quality, wildlife habitat and revenue for small forest landowners.
“Now the hard work is really in front of us to identify projects and opportunities to help protect those forests and resources with sustainable management in the watershed,” Spaeth said.
The plan also helps link priorities in other department plans, including the agency’s forest health strategic plan and wildland fire protection plan.