Naches Area Little Crow Project on Track for Improved Forest Health, Reduced Wildfire Risk

Naches WA — Driving along the dusty 1902 road, Justin Gelb, a silviculturist with the USDA Forest Service, points to a series of collapsed, partially blocked culverts. Beyond adding to any future storm damage, these culverts are blocking the passage of native, endangered fish like steelhead and Coho salmon to historic spawning beds in Sand Creek. Under the newly released final Environmental Assessment of the Little Crow area, some 11 road culverts that are blocking fish passage will be upgraded or removed to restore fish access to historic habitat.

Other work includes restoring thousands of acres through thinning and prescribed fire.  

“This collaborative project is the right work, in the right places, at the right time,” said Gelb. “We’ve incorporated input from hundreds of folks to find a good balance of public access, restoration, and reduced wildfire risk to adjacent communities.”

Key project information:

  • The project is projected to generate as much as $3.2 million dollars in timber value at the mill and support more than 170 jobs.
  • Over the next 10 years, good fire will be returned to the landscape, reducing hazardous fuels on approximately 10,542 acres with small tree thinning and up to 4,000 acres burned per year.
  • Approximately 9,030 acres of commercial and non-commercial thinning are planned to improve forest health and reduce high-intensity wildfire risk.
  • The project restores wildlife habitat for endangered species such as the northern spotted owl by promoting large, old tree growth.
  • Up to 600 acres of treatment is planned to enhance meadow, riparian and hardwood areas that provide wildlife habitat. Restoration treatments will include prescribed fir, plantings and placement of strategic barriers to prevent vehicle access to sensitive areas.
  • Up to 118 miles of system roads will be structurally upgraded and would remain open to provide for long-term sustainable and safe recreation access while reducing maintenance costs and impacts on streams.
  • Approximately 22 forest roads will be decommissioned and 3.4 miles of forest roads closed to reduce impacts to water quality and wildlife harassment.

“By sharing stewardship with local, state, and tribal representatives, we’re poised to change the future of this area for the better for decades to come,” added Gelb.

In accordance with federal regulations, the Forest Service will offer a 45-day formal objection period on the final Environmental Analysis and draft decision notice which will begin the day following publication in the newspaper of record, the Yakima Herald. Publication is anticipated on November 3, 2019. Project documents are posted here: A final decision is expected in the spring 2020 and on-the- ground implementation starting in 2020.

Culvert replacement on road

Culvert replacement work, as shown here, is planned as part of the Little Crow Restoration Project to help improve road infrastructure, reduce sediment and restore fish access to historic habitat. Credit: USDA Forest Service.


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The mission of the USDA Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender.