Teanaway Community Forest draft plan available
Members of the Teanaway Community Forest Advisory Committee are positive about their experience putting together a plan for the brand new forest.
The diverse group of 20 people started meeting in early 2014 to come up with a long-term management plan that deals with wildlife and fish habitat, recreation, grazing, forest management, and water supply and watershed protection. The state purchased 50,000 acres of private forest land in 2013 to create Washington’s first community forest.
Kitty Craig, who works for The Wilderness Society and sat on the committee, said the group’s camaraderie grew throughout the process as members addressed many issues.
“I think the task we had was pretty huge,” she said. “I’ve been really pleased with the outcome. … The issues this plan addresses are so broad. We’ve worked really hard to get to where we are.”
Jeri Downs joined the group because she is a resident of the Teanaway and her land abuts the forest.
“It was great everybody being able to have input on what they wanted and being able to discuss it with agencies and with the other people in the committee and have a broad spectrum of people with different backgrounds,” Downs said.
Mike Reimer joined the committee in July to represent the interests of motorized vehicle users, filling a position vacated by Steve Justham who resigned, citing medical reasons.
“Being an ORV representative I am cautiously optimistic at least we were included in the recreational study plan and I’m hoping that through this process we can find a place for everybody to recreate the way they like to recreate,” he said. “I think it’s heading down the right path, but it’s a bit early to tell.”
Reimer said the challenge in the process has been getting everybody to look past their own interests at the bigger picture.
Kittitas County Commissioner Gary Berndt, also on the committee, said the attitude of the committee has been “great.”
“The progress, has been oftentimes a little bit painful as we all listen to other’s opinions and representations,” he said. “The plan is probably imperfect, but I hope that it has a chance to be successful.”
The Teanaway Community Forest Advisory Committee held its final work session on March 26, and will begin the public review process on the draft plan this month.
The Legislature purchased the land with the goal to preserve the environmental integrity of the area, which is the headwaters of the Yakima River system, allow public use of the land and undertake ecosystem improvement projects. It is part of the bigger Yakima Basin integrated management plan, which covers water and habitat issues in Yakima, Kittitas and Benton counties.
The citizen-based advisory group was appointed by the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Department of Natural Resources, and each person represented a different interest group.
The advisory committee has been working since March 2014 to develop recommendations. The forest management plan must be in place by June 30.
Rick Roeder, Department of Natural Resources assistant division manager, said March 26 was the advisory committee’s last working group session. The Department of Natural Resources and Fish and Wildlife drafted the plan using the input from the committee, and allowed the committee to review the document and make edits.
“It’s a reflection of the conversations the committee had,” Roeder said.
Roeder said the biggest challenge was addressing the number of interests and the wide range of objectives, finding common ground and bringing it all together.
“I think it’s been a great conversation,” Roeder said. “People have been in problem-solving mode. They’ve been cooperative.”
The draft plan is available online at www.dnr.wa.gov/teanaway.
The next part of the process is for the document to undergo the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), a formal outreach process required for every state agency, county, city, port and special district when making key decisions. The SEPA process ensures public involvement in the evaluation of any potential adverse environmental impacts.
Roeder said the SEPA process is expected to start around April 6, and will run concurrently with the advisory group’s own public review process that starts at the same time.
The Department of Natural Resources will schedule a formal Teanaway Community Forest public open house for people to attend, expected to occur this month with the date, time and location to be decided.