News

Not 
NICE

Forestry plan could allow extensive logging in Nooksack watershed

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

The upper Nooksack is a rugged, forested landscape that carries glacial melt and rainfall to feed more than 1,400 stream and river miles that comprise a vast watershed. Most of the upper watershed is under federal control, and in recent years was spared the wrost ravages of commercial forestry. Until now.

In a reversal of ecological policy that’s become common in the Trump administration, the U.S. Forest Service has apparently scrapped its integrated conservation and enhancement plan (NICE) for the upper reaches of the Nooksack River and proposes instead a more extensive logging plan for the North Fork and its tributaries.

The management plan—now called the North Fork Nooksack Vegetation Project—encompasses nearly 4,000 acres just east of the town of Glacier, along Highway 542 in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. If approved, the project would allow commercial logging of nearly three square miles of forest habitat, with selective thinning on an additional 2,000 acres.

The proposed project includes a mix of commercial logging, huckleberry restoration, and repair and removal of forest roads in the North Fork Nooksack watershed. Although most of its watershed lies within the boundaries of Whatcom County, it also drains into streams in Canada and Skagit County. 

“We are looking at how to improve habitat and forest health along this corridor,” District Ranger Erin Uloth, USFS Mt. Baker Ranger District, noted in a statement. “Our goal is to create a diverse, resilient forest that provides habitat to many species of plants and animals. In this case, that means cutting trees. Cutting trees allows us to relieve overcrowded forests, speed up progress to an old-growth condition, and provide different kinds of forest habitat.”

Forestry officials say thinning in densely stocked young stands allows larger trees to grow bigger, faster—by reducing competition from overcrowding. Thinning also helps increase the amount of light that reaches the forest floor, resulting in an abundance of “understory” plant diversity and wildlife habitat.

Conservation groups and tribal governments agree there are ample opportunities for restoration in the upper reaches of the Nooksack, but say the project moves well beyond selective thinning and includes extensive clearcuts in areas prone to landslides in a critical watershed and salmon habitat. The federal forestry agency has received more than 1,500 comments on its plan.

“The Trump administration may be in its waning months, but it’s pulling out all the stops to maximize extraction of natural resources on our public lands while it still can,” board members of the North Cascades Conservation Council said in a statement. “The details of this proposal read like something from the bad old days of National Forest logging.

“It threatens to turn our green backyard in the shadow of Mount Baker into a pulp farm for Trump’s business cronies in the timber industry for years to come.”

“Regenerative harvests, also known as clearcuts, dramatically change the environment and have little environmental benefit,” Karlee Deatherage, land and water policy manager for the public policy group RE Sources, said in comments about the plan. “We strongly encourage the Forest Service to reduce or completely remove stand regeneration harvests from this plan and instead employ more environmentally sound harvesting regimes.”

Indeed, the pivot from a holistic landscape plan to restore waters and forests simultaneously as originally proposed by NICE to a more aggressive and traditional forestry plan took many conservation groups by surprise.

“For many years, the initial effort proposed some careful thinning of plantations to create conditions that will more rapidly develop into older forest conditions, doing aquatics work and road decommissioning,” Dave Werntz, science and conservation director for Conservation Northwest, said.

“This was the plan about one and a half or two years ago. The Forest Service announced NICE and started public outreach around that, and we expected that would be what was proposed,” he recalled. “Suddenly, in March or April, that comprehensive restoration effort was cancelled. About a month after that, this new project was proposed.

“‘Vegetation management’ is a term that is often used by the Forest Service to describe not a restoration project but just a forestry project—where can we cut trees—the kind of forestry that we haven’t seen in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie under the Northwest forest plan,” Werntz explained. “It proposes instead what they call ‘regen harvest,’—which can mean many things, but it typically means a clearcut: You’re removing all of the forest overstory, and you’re regenerating a new stand in its place.

“It was a surprise to us that you would propose doing this kind of intensive forestry in a riparian areas at all.”

Like many rivers in Washington, the Nooksack River has seen a century of hard use. Its upper reaches are still mostly pristine, protected as park and national forest lands. But much of the rest has been heavily logged, hardened with levee walls, farmed and altered for development.

“Given the scope of the proposed project and the very significant environmental impact it could have on the North Fork Nooksack watershed, we strongly encourage the Forest Service to complete an environmental impact statement (EIS),” Jim Davis, president of the Bellingham-based Shuksan Conservancy, noted in comments about the plan. “The unique nature of the North Fork Nooksack watershed (i.e., steep slopes, high diversity of wildlife, free-flowing rivers and streams, multiple salmon populations, and heavy recreation use) precludes application of a cookie- cutter approach to managing these National Forest lands.

“An in-depth analysis of environmental conditions, tribal treaty rights issues, and recreation needs is needed to prevent irreparable damage to the watershed,” he said. “The EIS should consider the cumulative impacts of proposed timber harvest and ongoing climate change.

“If conditions supporting Chinook degrade in the North Fork due to further timber harvest or other factors associated with the vegetation management proposal, extinction of that population will be hastened. This issue alone should compel requirement for an EIS,” Davis said.

Others expressed concerns about the steep terrain around Canyon Creek and the potential for landslides.

“The county has spent considerable money and personnel resources in the area of this proposed project, particularly to improve public safety and fish habitat in the Canyon Creek Area,” former Whatcom County Council member Carl Weimer commented on the plan. “This area is prone to rain-on-snow events that have caused major flooding in the Canyon Creek area. In 1989, 1990, and 1995 large debris floods destroyed four homes and damaged a private resort, a county road, salmon habitat, and interim flood control efforts in the lower mile of Canyon Creek in the Glacier Springs community. Clear-cutting has been shown to add to these debris flood issues in many areas,“ Weimer said, cautioning that extensive clear cuts could trigger similar future debris floods.”

“To date no loss of life has resulted from these hazards, but significant risk to life safety is interpreted due to the presence of large platted developments on the Canyon and Glacier Creek alluvial fans and the very active SR 542 transportation corridor,” Whatcom County Public Works Director Jon Hutchings noted in comments on the plan.

“The combination of unstable lands, highly erosive soils and generative clearcutting is a recipe for aquatic harm in Canyon Creek,” Werntz said.

“The focus in this area should instead be in improving conditions for fish and wildlife habitat, and improving public use that can produce byproducts of restoration that can go to the mill and achieve other objectives for public lands.

“Our hope as a collective of interests is to try to shift the focus back to where the Forest Service had started, and encourage them to take up that restoration work again,” he said.

“We hope to work closely with the public on this project from the very beginning as we take a look at the area to determine what is important and what needs work,” Uloth said.

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Briggs Shore at Good Earth

11:00am

Vases, planters and drinking vessels by Briggs Shore will be on display and for sale from 11am-5pm Mondays through Saturdays (closed Tuesdays) and 12pm-5pm Sundays through April 30 at Good…

Recycled Art & Resource Expo

11:00am

A “Recycled Art & Resource Expo” can be visited from 11am-4pm Tuesdays through Saturdays through April 30 at Allied Arts, 1418 Cornwall Ave. In addition to providing a platform for…

An Artist's Universe

10:00am

View painter and mixed-media master David Syre’s latest installation, “An Artist’s Universe,” hanging throughout the corridors, lobby and dining room of Hotel Bellwether and the Lighthouse…

Art-iversary Exhibit

10:00am

From 10am-5:30pm Mondays through Saturdays through April 30, celebrate 20 years of ownership for Sheri Wright of Fourth Corner Frames, 311 W. Holly St. A wide variety of works are for sale as…

Scatter Sunshine

11:00am

From 11am-5pm Wednesday through Sunday, visit La Conner’s Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum, 703 S. Second St. Currently on display are “Scatter Sunshine: La Conner in Bloom…

Tulip Poster Artists, Past and Present

11:00am

The fifth annual “Tulip Poster Artists, Past and Present” exhibit can be seen from 11am-5pm Wednesday through Sunday through May 2 in Anacortes at the Scott Milo Gallery, 420 Commercial Ave.…

Spring Into Art

11:00am

View works by Stanwood-Camano Arts Guild members from 11am-5pm Wed.-Sat. in Stanwood at A Guilded Gallery, 8700 271st St. NW. A “Spring Into Art” regional juried art show can be seen through…

Briggs Shore at Good Earth

11:00am

Vases, planters and drinking vessels by Briggs Shore will be on display and for sale from 11am-5pm Mondays through Saturdays (closed Tuesdays) and 12pm-5pm Sundays through April 30 at Good…

Recycled Art & Resource Expo

11:00am

A “Recycled Art & Resource Expo” can be visited from 11am-4pm Tuesdays through Saturdays through April 30 at Allied Arts, 1418 Cornwall Ave. In addition to providing a platform for…

Whatcom Art Market

11:00am

Works by as many as 45 Whatcom Art Guild members can be viewed from 11am-5pm Tuesdays through Sundays at Whatcom Art Market, 1103 11th St.

Origins and Evolutions Exhibit

11:00am

“Origins and Evolutions: Five Generations” can be seen from 11am-4pm Tues.-Thurs., and by appointment, at least through May 22 at Gallery Syre, 465 Stuart Rd. The show gathers together…

A Road Well Traveled

12:00pm

“Max Benjamin: A Road Well Traveled” can be seen from 12pm-4pm Thursdays through Sundays at La Conner’s Museum of Northwest Art, 121 First St. The solo exhibit featuring the work of the…

Great Skagit Scavenger Hunt

12:00pm

Individuals and teams can participate in COVID-safe activities and challenges during the Great Skagit Scavenger Hunt taking place April 16-18. Participants will have the opportunity to earn…

Seeds of Culture at Whatcom Museum

12:00pm

View “Seeds of Culture: The Portraits and Voices of Native American Women,” “Fluid Formations: The Legacy of Glass in the Pacific Northwest,” “Jac Trautman: The Specter of the Indigenous,”…

Tiptoe Through the Treasures

9:00am

Peruse collectibles, vintage treasures, furniture,  dishes, crystal, home decor and housewares the Skagit County Historical Museum has been collecting when you reserve a spot to attend the…

An Artist's Universe

10:00am

View painter and mixed-media master David Syre’s latest installation, “An Artist’s Universe,” hanging throughout the corridors, lobby and dining room of Hotel Bellwether and the Lighthouse…

Art-iversary Exhibit

10:00am

From 10am-5:30pm Mondays through Saturdays through April 30, celebrate 20 years of ownership for Sheri Wright of Fourth Corner Frames, 311 W. Holly St. A wide variety of works are for sale as…

McKnight and DeLacy

10:00am

Mixed-media works by Bainbridge Island-based artist Aaron McKnight and sculptures by Marceil DeLacy can be viewed from 10am-5pm Fridays through Sundays through April 25 in Edison at Smith &…

Spring Into Art

11:00am

View works by Stanwood-Camano Arts Guild members from 11am-5pm Wed.-Sat. in Stanwood at A Guilded Gallery, 8700 271st St. NW. A “Spring Into Art” regional juried art show can be seen through…

The Work of Jesus Guillén

11:00am

“The Work of Jesus Guillen: An Artistic Legacy of Love and Courage” can be seen from 11am-4pm Fridays through Sundays through May 2 in La Conner at the Skagit County Historical Museum, 501 S.…

Briggs Shore at Good Earth

11:00am

Vases, planters and drinking vessels by Briggs Shore will be on display and for sale from 11am-5pm Mondays through Saturdays (closed Tuesdays) and 12pm-5pm Sundays through April 30 at Good…

Whatcom Art Market

11:00am

Works by as many as 45 Whatcom Art Guild members can be viewed from 11am-5pm Tuesdays through Sundays at Whatcom Art Market, 1103 11th St.

Scatter Sunshine

11:00am

From 11am-5pm Wednesday through Sunday, visit La Conner’s Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum, 703 S. Second St. Currently on display are “Scatter Sunshine: La Conner in Bloom…

Rock, Paper, Paint

11:00am

“Rock, Paper, Paint” shows from 11am-4pm Fridays through Sundays through April 25 in Edison at i.e. gallery, 5800 Cains Court. The exhibit features new “drop” oil paintings by Allen Moe, rock…

Tulip Poster Artists, Past and Present

11:00am

The fifth annual “Tulip Poster Artists, Past and Present” exhibit can be seen from 11am-5pm Wednesday through Sunday through May 2 in Anacortes at the Scott Milo Gallery, 420 Commercial Ave.…

Sculpture Northwest Exhibit

11:00am

The works of 15 Sculpture Northwest artists can be viewed both indoors and out from 11am-5pm Fridays through Sundays (and by appointment) through April 23 on Camano Island at Matzke Fine Art…

Origins and Evolutions Exhibit

11:00am

“Origins and Evolutions: Five Generations” can be seen from 11am-4pm Tues.-Thurs., and by appointment, at least through May 22 at Gallery Syre, 465 Stuart Rd. The show gathers together…

Recycled Art & Resource Expo

11:00am

A “Recycled Art & Resource Expo” can be visited from 11am-4pm Tuesdays through Saturdays through April 30 at Allied Arts, 1418 Cornwall Ave. In addition to providing a platform for…

Spring Juried Exhibit and More

12:00pm

A “Spring Juried Exhibit,” “Winter Textile Explorations,” Lisa McShane’s “A Decade of Landscapes,” and Ron Pattern’s “The Seasonal Forest” can be viewed from 12pm-4:30pm Thursdays through…

Seeds of Culture at Whatcom Museum

12:00pm

View “Seeds of Culture: The Portraits and Voices of Native American Women,” “Fluid Formations: The Legacy of Glass in the Pacific Northwest,” “Jac Trautman: The Specter of the Indigenous,”…

A Road Well Traveled

12:00pm

“Max Benjamin: A Road Well Traveled” can be seen from 12pm-4pm Thursdays through Sundays at La Conner’s Museum of Northwest Art, 121 First St. The solo exhibit featuring the work of the…

Green Home Tours and Talks

10:00am

Sustainable Connections’ first virtual Green Home Tours & Talks takes place Saturday and Sunday on Zoom. Attendees at the online event can take virtual tours of six green homes in Bellingham…

Art-iversary Exhibit

10:00am

From 10am-5:30pm Mondays through Saturdays through April 30, celebrate 20 years of ownership for Sheri Wright of Fourth Corner Frames, 311 W. Holly St. A wide variety of works are for sale as…

McKnight and DeLacy

10:00am

Mixed-media works by Bainbridge Island-based artist Aaron McKnight and sculptures by Marceil DeLacy can be viewed from 10am-5pm Fridays through Sundays through April 25 in Edison at Smith &…

An Artist's Universe

10:00am

View painter and mixed-media master David Syre’s latest installation, “An Artist’s Universe,” hanging throughout the corridors, lobby and dining room of Hotel Bellwether and the Lighthouse…

Briggs Shore at Good Earth

11:00am

Vases, planters and drinking vessels by Briggs Shore will be on display and for sale from 11am-5pm Mondays through Saturdays (closed Tuesdays) and 12pm-5pm Sundays through April 30 at Good…

Rock, Paper, Paint

11:00am

“Rock, Paper, Paint” shows from 11am-4pm Fridays through Sundays through April 25 in Edison at i.e. gallery, 5800 Cains Court. The exhibit features new “drop” oil paintings by Allen Moe, rock…

Sculpture Northwest Exhibit

11:00am

The works of 15 Sculpture Northwest artists can be viewed both indoors and out from 11am-5pm Fridays through Sundays (and by appointment) through April 23 on Camano Island at Matzke Fine Art…

Spring Into Art

11:00am

View works by Stanwood-Camano Arts Guild members from 11am-5pm Wed.-Sat. in Stanwood at A Guilded Gallery, 8700 271st St. NW. A “Spring Into Art” regional juried art show can be seen through…

Scatter Sunshine

11:00am

From 11am-5pm Wednesday through Sunday, visit La Conner’s Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum, 703 S. Second St. Currently on display are “Scatter Sunshine: La Conner in Bloom…

The Work of Jesus Guillén

11:00am

“The Work of Jesus Guillen: An Artistic Legacy of Love and Courage” can be seen from 11am-4pm Fridays through Sundays through May 2 in La Conner at the Skagit County Historical Museum, 501 S.…

Whatcom Art Market

11:00am

Works by as many as 45 Whatcom Art Guild members can be viewed from 11am-5pm Tuesdays through Sundays at Whatcom Art Market, 1103 11th St.

Recycled Art & Resource Expo

11:00am

A “Recycled Art & Resource Expo” can be visited from 11am-4pm Tuesdays through Saturdays through April 30 at Allied Arts, 1418 Cornwall Ave. In addition to providing a platform for…

Origins and Evolutions Exhibit

11:00am

“Origins and Evolutions: Five Generations” can be seen from 11am-4pm Tues.-Thurs., and by appointment, at least through May 22 at Gallery Syre, 465 Stuart Rd. The show gathers together…

Tulip Poster Artists, Past and Present

11:00am

The fifth annual “Tulip Poster Artists, Past and Present” exhibit can be seen from 11am-5pm Wednesday through Sunday through May 2 in Anacortes at the Scott Milo Gallery, 420 Commercial Ave.…

Spring Juried Exhibit and More

12:00pm

A “Spring Juried Exhibit,” “Winter Textile Explorations,” Lisa McShane’s “A Decade of Landscapes,” and Ron Pattern’s “The Seasonal Forest” can be viewed from 12pm-4:30pm Thursdays through…

A Road Well Traveled

12:00pm

“Max Benjamin: A Road Well Traveled” can be seen from 12pm-4pm Thursdays through Sundays at La Conner’s Museum of Northwest Art, 121 First St. The solo exhibit featuring the work of the…

Seeds of Culture at Whatcom Museum

12:00pm

View “Seeds of Culture: The Portraits and Voices of Native American Women,” “Fluid Formations: The Legacy of Glass in the Pacific Northwest,” “Jac Trautman: The Specter of the Indigenous,”…

Tulip Pedal Bike Ride

7:00am

Choose from 20-, 40-, and 60-mile routes to ride on your own as part of a modified Tulip Pedal Bike Ride taking place from 7am-4pm near the tulip fields between Mount Vernon and La Conner…

An Artist's Universe

10:00am

View painter and mixed-media master David Syre’s latest installation, “An Artist’s Universe,” hanging throughout the corridors, lobby and dining room of Hotel Bellwether and the Lighthouse…

McKnight and DeLacy

10:00am

Mixed-media works by Bainbridge Island-based artist Aaron McKnight and sculptures by Marceil DeLacy can be viewed from 10am-5pm Fridays through Sundays through April 25 in Edison at Smith &…

Sculpture Northwest Exhibit

11:00am

The works of 15 Sculpture Northwest artists can be viewed both indoors and out from 11am-5pm Fridays through Sundays (and by appointment) through April 23 on Camano Island at Matzke Fine Art…

Scatter Sunshine

11:00am

From 11am-5pm Wednesday through Sunday, visit La Conner’s Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum, 703 S. Second St. Currently on display are “Scatter Sunshine: La Conner in Bloom…

Whatcom Art Market

11:00am

Works by as many as 45 Whatcom Art Guild members can be viewed from 11am-5pm Tuesdays through Sundays at Whatcom Art Market, 1103 11th St.

The Work of Jesus Guillén

11:00am

“The Work of Jesus Guillen: An Artistic Legacy of Love and Courage” can be seen from 11am-4pm Fridays through Sundays through May 2 in La Conner at the Skagit County Historical Museum, 501 S.…

Tulip Poster Artists, Past and Present

11:00am

The fifth annual “Tulip Poster Artists, Past and Present” exhibit can be seen from 11am-5pm Wednesday through Sunday through May 2 in Anacortes at the Scott Milo Gallery, 420 Commercial Ave.…

Rock, Paper, Paint

11:00am

“Rock, Paper, Paint” shows from 11am-4pm Fridays through Sundays through April 25 in Edison at i.e. gallery, 5800 Cains Court. The exhibit features new “drop” oil paintings by Allen Moe, rock…

Briggs Shore at Good Earth

11:00am

Vases, planters and drinking vessels by Briggs Shore will be on display and for sale from 11am-5pm Mondays through Saturdays (closed Tuesdays) and 12pm-5pm Sundays through April 30 at Good…

A Road Well Traveled

12:00pm

“Max Benjamin: A Road Well Traveled” can be seen from 12pm-4pm Thursdays through Sundays at La Conner’s Museum of Northwest Art, 121 First St. The solo exhibit featuring the work of the…

Seeds of Culture at Whatcom Museum

12:00pm

View “Seeds of Culture: The Portraits and Voices of Native American Women,” “Fluid Formations: The Legacy of Glass in the Pacific Northwest,” “Jac Trautman: The Specter of the Indigenous,”…

Commemorative Group Reading

4:00pm

Red Wheelbarrow Writers and Writers on the Wall will join Village Books for a Commemorative Group Reading at 4pm on Zoom. The virtual event will commemorate loss in the year of COVID. Those…

Kitchen Table Tunes with Robert Blake

5:00pm

Bellingham-based singer and songwriter Robert Sarazin Blake hosts a “From the Kitchen Table” concert from 5pm-7pm on Facebook Live. Tonight, he’ll be joined by Willie Carlisle. The livestream…