Chewelah Project Deserves Community Support

By Mark Burrows



Alberta Newspaper Group


Chewelah is a growing, dynamic, beautiful community where residents and visitors can enjoy the outdoors across all four seasons. This area is known as the southern gateway to the Colville National Forest. I believe we need to build on the community’s momentum by making sure the local forests remain healthy, green, safe and accessible for everyone. Like many of you, I have lived and recreated in the mountains near Chewelah for years. I served as a local police officer for three decades and retired as Chewelah’s Chief of Police. During that time I have developed connections with thousands of people and can confidently say that there is overwhelming local support for what is known as the Chewelah A to Z Project. Additionally, as Stevens County Commissioner for two years, I see a very high value in protecting our local timber resources through proper management. I’m submitting this letter to encourage citizens to contact the Colville National Forest Office at 509- 684- 7000 and express your support for this important project. The U. S. Forest Service has determined these forests need to be thinned to reduce the risks of a devastating wildfire. A devastating wildfire would threaten nearby homes, destroy local wildlife and their habitat, damage water resources and air quality across the region, and harm recreational opportunities. We deserve to have our rural communities safe from wildfire so residents and visitors can enjoy the amenities our area currently offers. We only need to look at communities like Greenville and Paradise in California to see how catastrophic wildfires can destroy a way of life. Thankfully the U. S. Forest Service is planning a much-needed forest restoration project on the landscape surrounding our beautiful community. The goals of this project are to reduce hazardous fuels in the wildland- urban interface, where forests and homes intersect, as well as to improve recreational opportunities, and restore our streams and safeguard water quality. The large, 58,358- acre, Chewelah Project area is located within the Iron Mt., Sand Canyon, Burnt Valley, Flowery Trail, and Cottonwood Creek areas east of Highway 395. An analysis found that approximately 99 percent of this area has a moderate, high, and very high potential for wildfires in closed canopy, overstocked forests with high levels of insects and disease. A severe wildfire would negatively impact recreation by restricting access to its 189 miles of high- use transportation routes. In addition to healthier and more resilient forests, the project will reduce wildfire risks to residents and natural resources in Pend Oreille County, and allow for improvements to Forty-Nine Degrees North that is known as one of the Pacific Northwest’s best ski areas for families! This forest restoration work will also produce much needed sawlogs for our local mills that support economic activity and provide hundreds of jobs in our area. Most people support good forest management that benefits both the environment and the economy. But not everyone wants to see the project move forward. At least one misguided anti- forestry group is objecting to the project and want it stopped. This type of legal gridlock ties the hands of our public lands managers and keeps these agencies from doing more positive work for the land. An example of this type of gridlock is the recent litigation against the Sanpoil Project in Ferry County. Those of us who value our green forests, the recreation they provide, and the safety that well-managed forests offer should applaud the Forest Service for planning this work! Please join me by calling today and encouraging them to move forward and quickly implement this much-needed restoration effort. Don’t allow a small minority to speak for you. Again, please take a minute to contact the Colville National Forest Office at 509- 684- 7000 and encourage them to implement the Chewelah Project quickly. Respectfully, Mark Burrows Stevens County Commissioner