Lakeview Stewardship Group
Location: Lakeview Federal Stewardship Unit of the Fremont-Winema National Forest, Lake County, Oregon.
Objective: The Lakeview Stewardship Group has as its goal “a sustainable forest that will ensure quality of life for present and future generations.” It works to achieve that goal through the incorporation of restoration and community values in the management of the Lakeview Federal Stewardship Unit (LFSU).
Participants: The Collins Companies, Concerned Friends of the Fremont-Winema, Defenders of Wildlife, Fremont-Winema National Forest, Lake County Chamber of Commerce, Lake County Resources Initiative, Lakeview High School, Lakeview Ranger District, Oregon Department of Economic and Community Development, Oregon Wild, Paisley Ranger District, Sustainable Northwest, The Nature Conservancy, The Wilderness Society, and local citizens.
History: The Lakeview Stewardship Group (LSG) collaboration began in 1998 to develop a strategy for sustainable forest management of the 500,000-acre Lakeview Federal Sustained Yield Unit (the Unit) in the Fremont-Winema National Forest in southern Oregon.
Established in 1950, the Unit had a single goal – providing a steady supply of timber for local mills. However, by the late 1990s, federal timber sales had plummeted, and all but one mill had closed. In the summer of 1998, with the assistance of Sustainable Northwest, community leaders brought together conservationists, business interests, scientists, timber workers, and other local residents to plan for the future of the Unit and the community. Convening as the Lakeview Stewardship Group (LSG), the participants commissioned a third-party review of the Unit’s operations and, after studying the results, collaboratively developed and proposed a new, restoration-based management approach. The Forest Service responded positively, and in 2001, the re-designated the Unit as the Lakeview Federal Stewardship Unit (LFSU). It also officially adopted the goals recommended by the LSG, which are to:
• Sustain and restore a healthy, diverse, and resilient forest ecosystem that can accommodate human and natural disturbances.
• Sustain and restore the land's capacity to absorb, store, and distribute quality water.
• Provide opportunities for people to realize their material, spiritual, and recreational values and relationships with the forest.
Accomplishments: According to participants, the hard work, honesty, and respect developed among the LSG participants have been rewarded by tangible achievements:
• In 2002, the Lake County Resources Initiative (LCRI), a non-profit corporation, was formed to promote local workforce training and sustainable economic development.
• A biomass utilization feasibility study was completed in 2004.
• The Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) used the proposed Lakeview Biomass Project (LBP) as the basis of a pilot test of the Coordinated Resource Offering Protocol (CROP). CROP is designed to assess how biomass removal from federal land-dominated landscapes can be coordinated among agencies, hopefully giving potential investors in biomass facilities greater confidence in the availability of adequate raw material supplies over the long-term. The LBP CROP report was completed in 2005.
• In late 2007, the Collins Companies opened a $6.6 million small diameter sawmill in Lakeview which can process logs less than 10 inches in diameter, an essential capacity to enable a viable restoration program. The mill processes material from the Collins’ own FSC-certified Lakeview Forest, as well as logs from other private landowners and national forest and BLM lands. A 35 percent tax credit from the State helped make the new mill feasible.
• A year later, Collins was awarded a 10-year Forest Service stewardship contract for restoration work in the LFSU, and the company is hoping to receive a similar contract from the BLM in 2009.
• LCRI is currently working with Marubeni Sustainable Energy as a possible owner-developer of the LBP. The estimated $20-million facility, which is still in the planning stages, would be built at Collins’ Lakeview Sawmill and would produce about 13 megawatts of renewable energy annually, enough to power over 10,000 single-family homes. Marubeni’s current development contract expires in April 2009, but the company has requested additional funding from its parent company in Japan in order to proceed with LBP emissions modeling, a positive move which could lead to contract renewal. Should Marubeni not follow-through, however, three other companies have indicated an interest in developing the LBP.
• LSG, in partnership with the University of Washington, explored the feasibility of addressing invasive juniper stands in the LFSU, using the biomass removed and geothermal energy to generate electricity. • In 2005, LSG completed a long-range management strategy for the LFSU.
• A Biomass Implementation Team was formed in 2006 and developed a framework for planning and implementing LFSU fuels reduction projects. The framework has been adopted, and the Team continues to meet monthly to stay informed on progress
• In 2008 a 20-year supply Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the Forest Service, BLM, Collins Companies, Marubeni Sustainable Energy, Lake County, LCRI, Town of Lakeview, and the City of Paisley. The purpose of the MOU is to “provide a framework for planning and implementing forest and rangeland restoration and fuels reduction projects that address resource needs while being supportive of the Lakeview Biomass Project.”
• Also in 2008, The High Desert Museum of Bend, OR, awarded former Lake County Commissioner Jane O’Keeffe that year’s Donald M. Kerr Award for her role in bringing together the LSG to foster sustainable forest ecosystem management as well as local jobs.
• The LFSU was a pilot for the National Forest Certification Case Study, which compared current land and resource management activities on U.S. national forests with the requirements of the two major forest certification programs (FSC and SFI) now operating. As of April 2009, the Forest Service still had not announced whether it would move forward with seeking certification.
• The LFSU is also a “participating landscape” in The Nature Conservancy’s Northwest Fire Learning Network. The Network engages agencies and communities in “a process that accelerates the restoration of landscapes that depend on fire to sustain native plants and animals.” The threat of catastrophic wildfire is also expected to be reduced as a result.
• The Chewaucan Biophysical Monitoring Project, which has operated continuously since 2002, was designed to answer questions the LSG had about current conditions and effects of management on the Chewaucan watershed. One of the goals of the monitoring plan was to create a link with local schools, and that was accomplished by recruiting and training each year a monitoring field staff composed of high school and college students either currently or previously enrolled in Lake County schools.
• In the first four years, hundreds of permanent transects were established in areas identified as characteristic of the Chewaucan sub-watersheds. These baseline transects were designed to be used as controls in future studies and as indicators of change.
• Beginning in 2006, the CBMT moved beyond the Chewaucan watershed into the rest of the LFSU, although still maintaining a primary focus on the Chewaucan. Emphasis has been placed on matched paired studies, using the initial sites for comparison. Some of the studies performed include: the effects of juniper treatments on soil, water availability, plant communities and erosion; the effects of prescribed burning on soil chemistry, and vegetation response; the impact of conifer removal in aspen stand enhancement; factors affecting mountain pine beetle infestations; the effects of culvert replacements on stream characteristics and fish migration; and a comparison of the recovery of roads decommissioned by sub-soiling, scarification, and blockage.
• LCRI contributed data – a carbon analysis of prescribed fire treatments – to the West Coast Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnership, which is assessing regional options for reducing CO2 in of the atmosphere.
The primary challenge confronting LSG now is coping with severely depressed market conditions in the wood products industry. When the Collins Companies opened their small diameter sawmill Lakeview in 2007, it was recognized as an essential element in the implementation of LSG’s plan for the management of the LFSU. The 10-year Forest Service stewardship contract provides a long-term source of raw material for the mill, with the value of the resulting logs expected to offset the cost of the substantial restoration services that Collins is performing on the LFSU. With a poor market for the logs, however, the equation quickly becomes unbalanced. “The question is, how long can the mill keep operating?” says Jim Walls, LCRI executive director, reflecting on the many mills in the West already shut down temporarily or permanently. But he’s hopeful. “Collins is family oriented, and they really stick with their communities. We’re lucky to have Collins.”
Meanwhile, the LSG is working on solving another problem. The group hopes to offset some of the costs of LFSU management through carbon credit purchases. They found some companies interested in buying carbon credits, but were told that field tests were needed to prove the forest carbon model (developed by the University of Washington and Yale University) that LSG has been using. Testing to prove the model began in May 2006 and should be completed in 2009.
What can other communities learn from LSG’s successes? “If you’re going to get where we are now,” says Walls, “you have to have a strong collaborative group.”