On August 16, Jerry Franklin, well-known University of Washington professor and former Forest Service research scientist, looked fully at home standing in the woods of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest (GPNF) as he used his trekking pole to emphasize the importance of maintaining the continuity of biota, structure, and function of the forest ecosystem. Twenty-five members of the South Gifford Pinchot Collaborative (SGPC) made the trip down the narrow dirt road deep in the Upper Wind River valley to hear from Jerry Franklin, along with Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife specialists, about the future of vegetation management and the state of the spotted owl in this area. Field trips offer a unique opportunity for diverse collaborative members to step outside of the traditional meeting room and gather among the trees and beargrass to discuss the challenges and opportunities of forest management.
Dr. Franklin fielded a range of questions before the group moved across the road and into an older patch of forest for an update on the spotted owl in the Pacific Northwest. Vince Harke, US Fish and Wildlife Biologist, described current challenges facing the spotted owl including competition with bard owls, a primary driver for declines in the past decade. Study areas have shown that roughly 75% of historic spotted owl territories are no longer occupied, and protecting the remaining spotted owl territory is critical for their long term survival. Collaborative members discussed the challenges of managing the forest for a diverse range of objectives and values. Back at the cars, the group took a few minutes to reflect on the day and to consider where different types of thinning could enhance forest ecosystem health, support local economies, and benefit endangered species such as the spotted owl.
The collaborative would like to express their appreciation to Jerry Franklin, US Fish and Wildlife Service biologists, and Forest Service staff for contributing their time and knowledge to make this field trip one of the most well-attended tours of the past several years.