The Teanaway Community Forest Celebrates a Decade of Partnership

In October, the Teanaway Community Forest (TCF) celebrated their first decade with a joyous gathering in the Teanaway Camping Area. The TCF, a 50,241-acre landscape once intended for development, is now uniquely managed with community input for the restoration, health, and enhancement of the rivers and forests on which we all depend. 

Ten years ago—in 2013—the state of Washington purchased the TCF from a private timber company to protect a vital piece of the Yakima River Basin watershed under the provisions of the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan. Lawmakers directed the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Fish and Wildlife to manage the property as Washington’s first state-run community forest. The citizen-driven TCF Advisory Committee worked with the agencies to develop a forest management plan and continues to provide input on forest management today. The Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust has been involved with the Community Forest and the Advisory Committee since its inception. During the Greenway Trust’s Annual Dinner on November 1, hundreds came together to honor the TCF’s 10-year anniversary in the Parade of Accomplishments

Waterfall in the Teanaway Community Forest. Photo by Danielle Palmer

The legislation that established the TCF required that the management plan “must ensure that the land is managed in a manner consistent with the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan principles for forest land acquisitions,” including the following: 

  • To protect and enhance the water supply and protect the watershed 
  • To maintain working lands for forestry and grazing while protecting key watershed functions and aquatic habitat 
  • To maintain and, where possible, expand recreation opportunities consistent with watershed protection, such as hiking, hunting, fishing, horseback riding, camping, birding, and snowmobiling 
  • To conserve and restore vital habitat for fish, including steelhead, spring Chinook, and bull trout, and wildlife, including deer, elk, large predators, and spotted owls 
  • To support a strong community partnership, in which the Yakama Nation, residents, business owners, local governments, conservation groups, and others provide advice about ongoing land management
Left to right: Larry Leach (DNR), Perry Harvester (DFW), and Phil Rigdon (Yakama Nation), welcome the community to the TCF 10 Year Celebration. 

At the celebration on October 28th, over 80 community members—including neighbors, legislators, and Advisory Committee members—gathered for a potluck and partner project fair. They were welcomed by Perry Harvester (WDFW), Larry Leach (WA-DNR), and Phil Rigdon (Yakama Nation). The community was reminded of the importance of this landscape and of how much progress has been made in the last ten years.  

Leach spoke about how the Teanaway River used to flood into the Yakima River brown and muddy, but, following the road work by DNR and river restoration work by the Yakama Nation, Mid-Columbia Fisheries, and the agencies, now even during high flows the river runs clean and clear. The Teanaway Camping Area, where the celebration was held, used to be a maze of roads with a single migrating picnic table and potholes big enough to swallow a pickup truck. Now it is a beautiful, navigable loop with 67 fire rings and sites, perfect for a community gathering. Harvester thanked those who have been involved with the forest, from its inception until today, and Rigdon emphasized how the TCF is an example of successes achieved by unlikely partnerships and the involvement of the Yakama Nation in stewarding the landscape. 

Following the welcome, people piled their plates high with the side dishes that covered four tables, and they drifted through the partner displays or congregated around the campfires to connect with other community members. Washington Trails Association, Back Country Horsemen of Washington, Kittitas County Field and Stream, Mid-Columbia Fisheries, and Mountains to Sound Greenway all had tables at the event where visitors could learn about the work they do with the forest and how volunteers could engage with river restoration, habitat monitoring, or West Fork Trails Plan implementation. Winning photographs from the 2023 TCF Photo Contest were on display on one side of the event, while a wildlife camera footage slideshow played on the other.  

Despite the 40-degree weather, people were warmed by feelings of appreciation and accomplishment (and also by the campfires and the sun). The Celebration affirmed the positive impact of partnerships and the people who put the “community” in community forest. 

Community members gather for a potluck and partner project fair

Later in the day, the TCF Advisory Committee held their quarterly meeting at the Swuak Teanaway Grange. TCF Advisory Committee meetings are always open to the public and provide an excellent opportunity for people to learn more about how the forest is managed. October’s meeting featured presentations on habitat, grazing, river restoration, and highlights from the last ten years.  

As we reflect on the TCF’s first decade, it serves as a model for responsible land management, demonstrating that successful conservation involves the active participation of diverse stakeholders. The involvement of the Yakama Nation, residents, businesses, and various organizations has not only fulfilled legislative mandates but has also created a thriving community forest. The TCF Celebration not only recognized past accomplishments but also inspired continued engagement, inviting community members to learn more about forest management and participate in shaping the future of this unique landscape. 

Looking ahead, the Teanaway Community Forest stands as a living testament to the positive outcomes achievable through collaborative, community-driven conservation. The TCF’s commitment to preserving water resources, supporting local economies, and enhancing recreational opportunities sets a valuable precedent for other regions seeking sustainable solutions. As the TCF moves into its second decade, the spirit of shared responsibility and environmental stewardship will undoubtedly continue to guide its path, ensuring a legacy for generations to come. 

Want to become part of community-driven conservation with the Teanaway Community Forest? Learn more about TCF Advisory Committee meetings and see when the next one will be held to join the conversation.