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Okanogan County

Upcoming Event

Forests of Okanogan County: A Balanced Resource Symposium will convene a citizen's forum on roadless issues on Saturday, April 4, 1998. The event will be held at the Omak Performing Arts Center in Omak, Washington from 8 AM to 4 PM.

This will be the third in a series of local meetings that have followed on the Seventh American Forest Congress (the first and second meetings are summarized below). The purpose of these meetings is to "make people aware of resource management issues affecting forests of Okanogan County and the Colville Reservation, to find common ground in our vision of the Okanogan forests for future generations, to develop principles that guide us in achieving the forest we envision, and to propose 'action steps' to assure the vision is met."

The invitation letter for the April 4th forum states that policies resulting from the discussions now being held on the national level concerning management of roadless areas will impact the citizens of Okanogan County. The forum has therefore been designed to present various viewpoints concerning roadless areas, and to facilitate discussion among local stakeholders on how these areas should be managed. A morning program of speakers will be followed by an afternoon of facilitated roundtable discussions. The organizers state that "it is anticipated that participants will have a better understanding of the issues, and an understanding of differing opinions that will lead to the discovery of common ground."

Phone 1-800-225-6625 for information on how to register for the forum.

Previous Events in Okanogan County

In the summer of 1996, a mixed group of about 14 people came together as a steering committee to explore how the vision from the Seventh American Forest Congress might be applied to local issues in and around the Okanogan National Forest (north-central WA). The group decided to hold a meeting on November 16, 1996 aimed at bringing local people together with all of the major local landowners (e.g., National Forest, Washington State Department of Natural Resources, Colville Tribe, non-industrial private forest landowners).

The rough agenda for the meeting, entitled "Forests of Okanogan County: A Balanced Resource Symposium" was:

  • Lay out objectives of the meeting, keynote address, resource overview identifying areas of agreement/disagreement, and panel discussion by key stakeholders;
  • Lunch, featuring a video on ecosystem management; and
  • Develop a vision, principles, and action steps for the Okanogan forests.

    The symposium was attended by about 165 people. The report from the symposium (FCIC has a copy) summarizes the vision statements, guiding principles, and action steps developed by the 17 table teams. A number of elements were common to the vision statements developed by all of the table teams for Okanogan County's forests 25 - 50 years from now:

  • Sustainable, renewable resources producing a broad range of products
  • Long-term vision for future generations
  • Biologically diverse and healthy forests and ecosystems
  • Integration and availability of good scientific data
  • Diverse land owners, communities and culture interests
  • Local input cooperation/collaboration/informed with improved relationships
  • Multiple use
  • Good stewardship
  • Protection of habitat, wildlife, fish, many species and domestic animals
  • Recreational access and enjoyment of landscape

    The guiding principles developed by each table team were broken into the four categories Policy/Management, Research, Community Interaction, and Education. Each participants then indicated their top four principles. The summary report contains both the entire list of principles and the top ten "vote getters" in each of the four categories. Common themes the symposium steering committee gleaned from this exercise were that the participants:

  • feel strongly about using scientific information, coupled with common sense, to achieve long-term, site-specific goals;
  • want management of the forests on a landscape scale;
  • acknowledge that the forest is in a state of constant change;
  • want to ensure a diversity of forest habitats;
  • want the forest to provide employment for the local workforce;
  • desire a voice in the management of the forest and an opportunity to contribute to the decision-making process;
  • want to be educated to the policies and processes that drive forest management agencies; and
  • want the forest management agencies to become informed of the needs of the local community.

    Following is the Steering Committee's summary of the long list of action steps generated by the participants, as contained in the report of the November 96 symposium:

    "This [symposium] is a beginning. There is a strong need to continue and this experience should be shared with others. Bringing diverse people together is a must. The Steering Committee should bring together follow up sessions, which might include: more discussions on commonalities; how the Vision can be implemented; how the Guiding Principles can be analyzed and presented; outreach to speakers with in-depth knowledge of issues; and how to be more specific in defining attainable goals. [The participants] want to be part of a developing community that implements the Vision. [The participants] feel the information generated at the Symposium should be shared with the community, government officials (local, state, and federal), and the media, with the hope that public land managers will respond to the suggestions and adopt the top ten priorities. Share the Vision with elected representatives and elicit their support. Monitor their responsiveness and consistency to the Vision. Lobby Congress for a long-term stable budget directed at the Vision. County leadership should facilitate more positive open collaborative dialogue on resource issues and they should evaluate the timber and open space classification."

    "[The participants] encourage this (symposium) type of collaborative communication rather than town hall forums. [The participants] want the agencies to listen to their input, to simplify the scoping process. Ranger Districts should hold open house when presenting projects and action plans, as well as using the Internet, Websites, and newspapers for sharing information early on. [The participants] would like to have available project information, background, policy and scientific basis for decision making and policy changes."

    "More money should be devoted to research on sustainable forestry. Lands should be managed to maintain biodiversity, healthy ecosystems, and productivity on a bio-regional basis."

    "FACA should be changed to allow broad-based partisan public involvement. A formal process might be developed based on changes in State and Federal law that would facilitate local review of public land management decisions."

    "Keep the dialogue going by increasing awareness and understanding of resource issues though mailing lists, field trips, open houses, the Internet and Websites, newspaper and radio media. Establish a county-wide 800 number or hotline to communicate upcoming events."

    "Develop an education process that flows both ways (e.g., from kindergartens to colleges, from communities to agencies). Agencies need to become more involved in public schools through science projects, field trips, development of natural resource curricula, work study programs. Schools should require training in communication skills. Agencies and interest groups could use mentorship programs."

    "Allow science to guide management activities, not politics. Establish experimental forests to try different management approaches on private and public lands, and publicize results of the test plots and monitoring sites. [The participants] would like to see researchers improve the transfer of research information to practitioners and public, and identify alternative sources for timber."

    "A few specific issues identified for action were:

  • Protect riparian areas from livestock without imposing undue economic burden. Reduce road densities.
  • Develop a county-wide migratory corridor connection, refugia.
  • Adopt a policy to manage lands on a bio-regional basis.
  • Implement selective logging and controlled burning to get forests back into productive state. Process burned and diseased areas quickly.
  • Make a complete watershed analysis across the county."

    Participants said they enjoyed the opportunity to meet with people of differing views at the symposium, they felt they were given a chance to be heard, and the experience had been well worth the effort in spite of the one-day time commitment involved. They also said they would like to be involved in a follow-up session, which was held in April 1997. This meeting resulted in the formation of several teams to explore initiatives in the action areas of commodity production, conservation, economy, education, decision making, and research/science.

    As of the spring of 1998, the status of several of these action teams is as follows:

    Education Action Team

    Mission statement: 1) To respond to community direction regarding forest resource education needs as they were developed at the April 1997 Forests of Okanogan County symposium; and 2) to develop a process to get natural resource education to the various segments of the Okanogan County community.

    "As a base upon which to work we perceive the Okanogan community to consist broadly of two audiences: K-12 students and the general population of adults. Our current goal is to prepare a resource directory that includes a speaker list and bibliography of other print material that can address topics from natural resources, recreation, range, minerals, natural history, wildlife, etc. Methods of disseminating information we are currently looking into include: Web Site for the committee's activities, distributing hard copy directories to libraries, public education facilities, public service organizations, and tourist information centers. We are planning guided monthly nature walks through the summer that will provide information on various aspects of Okanogan's natural resources. The first walk will focus on wildflowers of our region and is tentatively scheduled for June 13, 1998. We meet the fourth Monday of each month at the Virginia Grainger Elementary Library, Okanogan, WA at 6:30 PM. For further information, Contact Sam Bjelland, 509-485-3463 or"

    Economic Action Team

    "The Okanogan County Council for Economic Development has taken the lead in developing an economic vision for the county. To this end, initial briefings on the economic condition of the county have been presented within several communities of the county. While these briefings have been concentrated in the Okanogan Valley, the response is similar in each location -- 'We need to do something'.

    To that end, five town hall-type meetings are being organized throughout the county. Citizens are invited to attend in order to develop a vision of where their communities should go in the future. Each meeting will be approximately two and a half hours in length."

    Decision Making Action Committee

    "Status of Committee: No meeting has been held by those who expressed an interest in this topic. Sam Gehr (USFS) and Ken Hires (DNR) will convene those who volunteered and invite others to represent a cross section of the county.

    Purpose of the Subcommittee: To obtain input from citizens about how they might be involved in giving input to decision makers; to develop ways to inform citizens of existing opportunities for them to be involved in decisions made by land managers; to inform citizens on effective involvement means; and to inform citizens of legal and policy constraints/mandates on local decision makers.

    Time of Activity: Beginning spring 1998. Target date for recommendation from subcommittee is November 1998."

    Contact: Sam Gehr, Forest Supervisor, USDA Forest Service, Okanogan National Forest, S.2nd Avenue, Okanogan, WA 98840, Phone: 509-826-3068


    A steering committee of about two dozen people representing the forest products industry, state and federal land management agencies, environmental organizations, native American groups, academia, and interested citizens initiated meetings in the summer of 1996 to continue the process begun at the Seventh American Forest Congress.

    One of the first things the steering committee did was to send a survey to everyone in Washington State who attended the Seventh American Forest Congress, asking them to indicate their level of support for some kind of follow on activity in the state. 29% of the 121 WA State residents who attended the 7AFC responded; of these 88% had a good experience and will support a state follow-up.

    The steering committee subsequently developed a charter and "team principles" to guide the conduct of its operations. The steering committee also decided to focus its initial efforts in four areas and split into working groups charged with making significant progress toward acheiving their tasks by mid-summer 1997. The focal points are:

    At some point after these steps are taken, the idea of reconvening a statewide roundtable in Washington may be revisited.

    Contact: Scott Marshall, Weyerhaeuser Company, MS - WWC2H6, Tacoma, WA 98477, Phone: 206-924-3677, Fax: 206-924-2402.

    [Scott Marshall also reports that the Weyerhaeuser Company has "mapped" its management strategies against the vision and principles produced at the Seventh American Forest Congress, and a document describing the results of this exercise will be available in the near future.]

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