Pacific Northwest forests face increased threats from severe wildfires, insects, disease and climate change, according to a new assessment released Wednesday by the U.S. Forest Service.
The Bioregional Assessment evaluated 19 national forests and grasslands across the Pacific Northwest. It found that the Northwest Forest Plan and other directives were not fully achieving desired outcomes when it comes to the forests' potential social, economic and ecological benefits.
Related: Unpacking The Science Behind The Northwest Forest Plan
Under the 1994 Northwest Forest Plan, management plans changed dramatically for federal forests from the Canadian border into Northern California. The plan, adopted by the Clinton administration, curtailed logging and aimed to protect imperiled northern spotted owls and other species that depend on old-growth forests.
“The world we were in 1994, when the Northwest Forest Plan amended most of these forest plans, so much has changed ecologically, socially, the economy was different,” USDA Public Affairs Specialist Wade Muehlhof said. “So, it was time to really take a hard look at all the things that have changed, figure out what can do better, what we need to retain.”
The newly-released assessment came up with a list of recommendations from five different categories for the Forest Service and other federal land management agencies. They are required by law to develop plans that guide long-term management of public lands.
The five categories are: ecological integrity, fire and fuels, sustainable timber, habitat management, and sustainable recreation. There are also three significant ecological threats that stood out — invasive species, uncharacteristic fires, and climate change, such as increased temperature, drier summers, and wetter winters storms will likely be more frequent in Southern Oregon.
Muehlhof said the assessment is another step to modernize land management plans and there is no time frame if and when land managers will make changes.