Skokomish Tribal Forest Certified

Tribal lands are first in Washington to gain FSC® certification!

The Skokomish Indian Tribe has earned Forest Stewardship Council® certification (license code FSC-C008225) through NNRG’s FSC® group certificate for its 2,086-acre forest at the south end of Hood Canal in Mason County. This makes it the first tribe in Washington state to gain certification as a well-managed forest.

The Skokomish Tribe join three other Indian tribes in the United States in maintaining FSC® certification: the Coquille Tribe in Oregon, the Hoopa Valley Tribal Council in California, and the Menominee in Wisconsin.

The Skokomish Tribe hired NNRG to help steward its forests in 2014, when it brought in Kirk Hanson, NNRG’s Director of Forestry, to develop a management plan for its forest holdings. Those forests — including more than 1,500 acres on the reservation and about 500 acres at Skokomish Park by the shores of Lake Cushman — held great potential for ecological forestry after maturing largely on their own for the last 80 to 100 years. The forests were becoming more structurally complex and thus able to provide habitat for a wider diversity of creatures.

“The Skokomish Tribe’s forests present a fantastic opportunity for what we call uneven-aged forest management, or the opportunity to manage for multiple ages and species of trees,” said Hanson. “By thinning the mature Douglas-fir that’s dominant across the forest, we can make room for other tree species that are beginning to naturally emerge in the understory, such as maple, cedar and even new generations of Douglas-fir.”

Photo of a field mouse on Skokomish lands taken by NNRG Forester Jose Narvaja

The tribe saw active forest stewardship as a promising tool to simultaneously support the health of the forest for cultural resources and biodiversity, as well as derive sustainable income from from the land.  “Recognizing that many tribal members may have concerns about active forest management practices,” says a recent article in the tribe’s monthly newspaper, The Sounder, “the Tribe wanted to have a third-party review of its plans and management operations to assure the community that forest practices would meet the highest environmental standards.”

Forest certification under the FSC’s auspices provides that independent review. Timber harvests by all members of NNRG’s group certificate receive an on-the-ground inspection by NNRG staff, and then a sample of those are reviewed in the field by the FSC-accredited certifying body that grants NNRG’s group certificate — currently Soil Association.

The tribe’s first certified harvest is planned to take place later this year, and is currently out to bid.

Image of Skokomish forest floor by Jose Narvaja.

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