N3C opposes Twisp Restoration Draft EA
By David Fluharty
The North Cascades Conservation Council (NCCC) is deeply troubled by the proposed Twisp Restoration project as it is described and assessed in the Draft Environmental Assessment (DEA). NCCC has strongly criticized the approach in the DEA and calls for a complete restart of the planning process, the development of other alternatives, and a more realistic timeline and actions consistent with what can reasonably expect to be funded over the 30-year time frame for the project.
It may seem strange that NCCC is opposing what the USFS terms a long-term, purportedly ecosystem-based management approach to “restoration” of the Twisp River Watershed. However, the only thing that NCCC can be sure of is that virtually every available tree will be harvested to achieve a “new” logged-over forest ecosystem. Further, the USFS own economic assessment shows that logging will not pay for itself, much less pay for other project elements. The final blow is the inclusion of a totally unrelated element to open more forest roads to ATV use.
Under the Twisp Restoration proposed plan, the public is forced to commit to a 30-year carte blanche to allow wide range of management actions for forest health—ostensibly to reduce the likelihood of stand-replacing fire, avoid insect infestations, etc. However, the extensive interventions proposed only substitute management actions for nature’s own self-healing restoration. The plan neglects to recognize that much of the watershed has recently burned and is well on its way to recovery as a result of natural succession. Can the USFS do a better job than Mother Nature at healing an ecosystem?
NCCC’s assessment of the proposal indicates that it is most likely in violation of many existing laws like the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act as well as not following the Roadless Area Rule and the Northwest Forest Plan. All of these failures point to the likelihood that legal action is necessary. Complicating things is the fact that our friends in other environmental organizations are of the opinion that they can collaborate with the USFS and endorse these plans even though they are in violation of our Nation’s most important environmental protection laws. NCCC takes the position that self-appointed environmental groups cannot negotiate away the application of laws of the land and the USFS is bound to uphold them as well.
The change of Presidential administrations may bring some sanity back into forest management decision-making. In his first day of office President Biden issued Executive Order 13990 directing all federal agencies to review this type of agency action in light of best available science and the administration’s goals, including “nature-based” solutions. It is uncertain how the Twisp Restoration project will fare under this scrutiny. NCCC hopes that it goes back to the drawing boards. Those who know and love the Twisp River Valley deserve better management of the incredible scenic, wildlife, and water resources it contains as well as its trails, roadless and wilderness values.
/Published in Winter 2021 issue of The Wild Cascades
/Photo (c) 2020 Jim Scarborough, “Twisp River Basin from near Elbow Coulee”