Under the towering pines northeast of the community of Liberty, a dense carpet of seedlings quickly turns into a jungle of green just a few feet off one of the many roads that crisscross the area. But that jungle of green is a far cry from the open, park-like conditions that would herald a healthy forest in this area. Wildlife, fish, and prized forest uses are also under threat from increased sedimentation, loss of habitat, and unsustainable recreation. Under a newly released draft decision, the Swauk Pine Forest Restoration Project will improve forest health and watershed conditions across more than 4,900 acres through a combination of thinning, prescribed fire, and watershed restoration projects.
“The fire history of the area, proximity to private property and homes, and overstocked forest conditions require a proactive approach to forest management,” said Cle Elum District Ranger Michelle Capp. “A century of fire suppression has made this area ripe for high intensity fires.”
In addition to forest health, watershed restoration projects are designed to reduce stream sedimentation and stabilize road and trail infrastructure and use.
“Access and recreation are important to everyone, so we’ve worked closely with the community and user groups to balance watershed health and road density,” said Capp. “With the public’s help we were able to identify some creative solutions, resulting in a 14.2 mile increase to the trail network,” she added.
Additional draft decision highlights:
- Approximately 4685 of prescribed fire is planned to reduce the risk of crown fire across the project area.
- Commercial thinning will help restore dense, overcrowded forests on 1,252 acres. Firewood cutting opportunities would be made available in landing piles whenever feasible, once commercial and non-commercial thinning operations have been completed.
- Non-Commercial thinning is planned on 111 acres.
- Numerous aquatic restoration projects are planned including replacing of 14 undersized culverts and placement of large wood along streams for fish habitat.
- A more sustainable road and trail system will result in an additional 14.2 miles of motorized trails while rehabilitating 9.5 miles of existing system roads.
In accordance with federal regulations, the Forest Service will offer a 45-day formal objection period on the Final Environmental Analysis and draft decision notice, which will begin with a legal notice published February 11, 2019. A final Decision Notice is expected in late winter or spring of 2019.