DNR and Skamania County Team Up to Restore Watersheds, Improve Road in Gifford Pinchot National Forest
March 11, 2020
Agreement made possible through the Good Neighbor Authority
OLYMPIA – The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has signed an agreement with Skamania County that funds much-needed road improvements in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and supports watershed restoration efforts on federal land.
The new partnership, made possible under the Good Neighbor Authority (GNA) agreement between DNR and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service, will provide approximately $300,000 in state and federal funds for Skamania County crews to pave and stabilize six, 100-foot sections on a 5-mile stretch of Forest Road 25. The project will also prevent sediment runoff into streams and help maintain critical infrastructure in the forest that supports rural economies and recreation access. The agreement was signed Thursday, March 5, and work is expected to begin this summer.
“At DNR, we believe that restoring our watersheds and forests takes an all hands, all lands approach, and I’m proud to see this innovative local, state and federal partnership improve fish and wildlife habitat in Skamania County,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, who leads DNR. “This partnership will support the local community with a safer road and use resources already present to improve watershed health for our struggling salmon.”
A portion of the project’s funding comes from the state’s Natural Resources Federal Lands Revolving Account. Money made from GNA timber sales within a national forest goes into the account; then it’s used to restore watersheds and make other habitat improvements in that same forest. In this case, two timber sales – named Wake and Sebo – will help fund these improvements. Overseen by DNR’s Federal Lands Program, these forest-restoration thinnings will improve deer and elk foraging habitat and support the development of healthy and complex forest conditions in the Gifford Pinchot. All projects conducted under GNA adhere to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
“The Good Neighbor Authority provides great opportunities to work with our DNR partner and local communities,” said acting Gifford Pinchot National Forest Supervisor Tom Torres. “This agreement further enhances critical watershed restoration work and provides for safer roads for the thousands of people who visit the forest each year.”
Eighty percent of Skamania County is federal forestland. The Gifford Pinchot’s Forest Road 25 is one of the few major roadways in the forest that connects the northern and southern parts of the county, and it receives heavy traffic from commercial and passenger vehicles.
“We are cautiously optimistic that our engagement in this project will lead to a greater involvement of county governments in the GNA Shared Stewardship process,” Skamania County Commissioner Tom Lannen said. “We commend DNR for diligently working to find a seat at the table for us. Our hope is that over time these mutually beneficial projects will lead to increasing the scale and scope of Shared Stewardship projects, which could provide a revenue stream to local government entities.”
A Faster Path to Healthier Washington Forests
Congress permanently authorized the Good Neighbor Authority (GNA) in the 2014 Farm Bill. The GNA allows state agencies, tribes and counties to enter into agreements with the USDA Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to conduct forestland, watershed, and rangeland restoration services on federal land as an agent of the federal government, with the added benefit of using state procedures and policies to conduct the work. Under the GNA, the state must follow all applicable federal laws.
A video about the Good Neighbor Authority is available here.
A photo of Commissioner Franz is available here.
A map of Skamania County proposed roadwork is available here.
Washington State Department of Natural Resources