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Stemilt-Squilchuck Community Forest highlighted in national report

The Stemilt-Squilchuck Community Forest, a project spearheaded by the Stemilt Partnership, has been highlighted as a success story in a national report on community forests and their benefits to the communities they serve.

“Community Forests: A Path to Prosperity and Connection” was recently released by the Trust for Public Land. Completed in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, the report takes a case-study approach to understanding and exploring the numerous economic benefits provided by community forests created through the U.S. Forest Service’s Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Project (CFP).

The Stemilt-Squilchuck Community Forest is among 17 case studies featured in the report and one of only two featured from Washington state.

“We couldn’t be happier that a national report called out the great work the community accomplished right here in Chelan County,” said Mike Kaputa, director of the Chelan County Natural Resources Department. “The credit for this work goes all around.” 

The report describes the Stemilt-Squilchuck Community Forest as an example of an ambitious project that seeks to maintain both the local landscape and the agricultural community that depends on it.

“This project is a great example of how CFP supports local community-driven initiatives to protect important components of the landscape,” the report concludes. “This particular project conserves the farm economy and ensures that orchards will have a clean supply of water for irrigation. It also preserves key habitat and provides opportunities for the local community to recreate.”

In spring 2007, Chelan County, Washington Department of Fish and Widlife, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Wenatchee Sportsman’s Association established the Stemilt Partnership, a broad coalition of agriculture, wildlife, recreation, development and conservation interests, in response to the proposed privatization of 2,500 acres of public land owned by the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in the Stemilt Basin just south of Wenatchee. The new partners worked together to stop the sale and created a vision for managing the landscape in such a way to protect the water resources and wildlife as well as the community’s strong recreational values.

The project’s first phase was completed in 2012 when Chelan County purchased about 2,500 acres from Longview Timberlands and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife purchased several sections from DNR. In 2013, the second phase of acquisition protected an additional 4,010 acres.

In addition to the $400,000 provided by CFP, this acquisition was funded by the State of Washington through the Washington Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO), DFW, and legislative appropriations, as well as a diverse stakeholder group that included private businesses and people, landowners, multiple irrigation districts and community organizations like Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Wenatchee Sportsmen’s Association. Today the Stemilt Partnership meets regularly to discuss management of the Stemilt-Squilchuck Community Forest.

“When you step back several years later and look at what has been accomplished, it is very rewarding,” Kaputa said. “It is a great example of how to secure habitat, improve recreational opportunities and protect the local farm economy.” 

Read the full report online.

 

Last Updated: 07/13/2021 12:43 PM

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