Victory! We are pleased to announce that the U.S. Forest Service has listened to concerns raised by Cascade Forest Conservancy about the Upper Wind timber sale. Our efforts lead to the removal of more than 150 acres of mature stands of 120-year old trees from their proposal.

While this may seem like a small win in a time when victories in the fight to protect our climate are few and far between, its impact will last generations and it is still important to celebrate.

There is no ecologically-sound reason to harvest mature 120-year old trees; they are poised to be the next cohort of old-growth forests and to provide habitat that is critically lacking in the forests of the southern Washington Cascades. By protecting old-growth and soon-to-be-old-growth forests, we are safeguarding vital habitat for the many species that depend on these habitats, such as the iconic northern spotted owl and the rare fisher. Maintaining these unique ecosystems is also a vital component to addressing climate change. Compared to younger forests, large trees capture and store a disproportionate amount of carbon, and the cooler micro-climates they create are becoming important refuges for species working to adapt to a rapidly changing climate.     

For the past two years, CFC has taken multiple approaches to oppose parts of the Upper Wind timber sale in the Mount Adams Ranger District (MARD) of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. This victory was achieved through collaboration, conversation, advocacy, and the help of people like you who commented during the project’s public feedback period required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Thank you!  

The process of planning timber sales on federally managed land often spans many years. To weigh in on projects as early as possible, CFC participates in Forest Collaboratives: organizations that bring together representatives of the Forest Service, Indigenous communities, timber companies, conservation organizations, rural communities, and outdoor recreation interests. It was over two years ago in a meeting of the South Gifford Pinchot Collaborative (SGPC) that Forest Service representatives first floated the idea we came to oppose—creating a large amount of early seral habitat (forest characterized by the initial stages of regrowth following stand-replacing disturbances like fires and majors windstorms) using a clear-cutting method somewhat misleadingly referred to as regeneration harvest.

There is a need for early seral habitat on the landscape. Plants, animals, and other lifeforms have evolved to depend on and flourish in every stage of the natural cycle of destruction and renewal that characterizes forests in the Pacific Northwest. When the conversation in the SGPC about regeneration harvests began, the percentages of early seral on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest were on the low side. 

Initially, these talks were theoretical because no actual proposal was on the table. We know that wildfire does a fantastic job of creating quality early seral habitats on the forest. We also know that–due to climate change–wildfire activity on our forests (especially in the east side forests that the MARD manages) is increasing. However, we didn’t know where the proposed creation of early seral via regeneration harvest would take place within the planning area, how old the potentially impacted trees were, or how big of a patch size they were targeting. The questions were whether achieving the quality of habitat early-seral-dependent species rely on is even possible without fires or other natural disturbances and, if so, what is the cost of creating this habitat with chainsaws instead of waiting for a natural disturbance?

When CFC found out that the cost would be harvesting 152 acres of 120-year old trees, we opposed that portion of the proposal. In addition to expressing our concerns within the South Gifford Pinchot Collaborative, CFC participated in further discussions by sitting in on the Zones of Agreement (ZOA) policy committee meetings. Even after the Big Hollow fire of 2020 resulted in more early seral than the agency had hoped to create, the Forest Service put forward an initial scoping plan that included large amounts of regeneration harvest in mature stands. 

We responded by submitting comments representing the interest of our large base of supporters and worked to raise public awareness about the threat. Thanks to our collaborative relationships, advocacy work, and grassroots support, we stopped a major clear-cut without having to progress to further objections or lawsuits! 

There are no small victories in the ongoing fight to protect old-growth and mature forests, to slow climate change, and to safeguard critical mature and old-growth habitats. We cannot allow these places to be sacrificed for economic gain or for unsustainable logging practices to be justified as tools for creating a habitat that is already becoming increasingly abundant due to the growing prevalence and severity of wildfires. To meet the challenges we are facing, climate policy and natural resource management need to progress toward respecting the latest science and prioritizing the protection of mature and old-growth habitats. However, we have reasons to be concerned that large-scale regeneration harvest proposals will still be proposed in the future.

Successfully removing these clear-cuts from the Upper Wind timber sale now is helping set an important precedent. In addition to protecting these specific trees, our work on the Upper Wind timber sale solidifies and demonstrates our policy stance to the agencies and organizations that Cascade Forest Conservancy works with. We do not support and WILL continue to oppose large-scale regeneration harvest (and any other cleverly-named clear-cuts) impacting old trees.

Mature Forests, Wildfire, and Regeneration Harvests

2020's Big Hollow fire burning in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in 2020

In October of last year, the Big Hollow Fire swept through over 40,000 acres of forest in the Mount Adams Ranger District of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Following a disturbance event like the Big Hollow Fire, stands that burned at high severity, causing a high degree of tree mortality, will revert to the earliest stage of forest development, creating complex early seral habitat. 

Link to first early seral blog.

The idea of early seral creation on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest surfaced over a year ago when the Mount Adams Ranger District began to release Forest Service proposals for large-scale regeneration harvest in the Upper Wind watershed for the purpose of recreating early seral habitat. This proposal was alarming to CFC for several reasons:

• First, regeneration harvest, simply put, is a “sloppy clear-cut”a silvicultural practice that has immediate, short-term, and long-lasting detrimental impacts on soil health, water quality, and wildlife. 

• Second, the Upper Wind proposal included the clear-cutting of mature forest stands over 120-years-oldsoon-to-be old-growth forest that would take over a century to replace.

• Third, with the increasing prevalence and intensity of wildfires in the Pacific Northwest, it seemed like only a matter of time before a wildfire would create large patches of early seral habit on its own. And it did. 

CFC submitted all of these concerns to the Forest Service last summer when the project came up for scoping before Big Hollow Fire happened. Given the purpose of the Upper Wind proposal was to create early seral habitat determined to be lacking in the forest, we fully expected this part of the proposal to be removed following the fire. 

The Big Hollow fire created upwards of 4,000 acres of complex early seral habitat within the Upper Wind watershed and project area. The Forest Service’s proposal for the creation of 400 acres through regeneration harvesta tenth of the habitat the fire had just created no longer made ecological sense, especially at the cost of older forest stands. Forests in the 80-120 year age range are poised to be the next cohort of old-growthhabitat we are losing at alarming rates from the impacts of climate change. 

Big Hollow Fire Map:

Protecting mature forests and reducing the scale of regeneration harvest has been at the forefront of our timber work over the last year. This project is unlikely to be the last threatening large-scale clear-cuts on federal lands. Once more abundant in our Pacific Northwest forests, early seral habitat is returning quickly as the prevalence and size of wildfires return to our landscapes. Preserving older forests is our best chance of protecting our forest ecosystems from the accelerating impacts of climate changethey are not suitable candidates for clear-cutting.

ALERT: CFC and coalition files lawsuit protect the Pumice Plain

Monday, March 22

Today, Cascade Forest Conservancy and a coalition of scientists and conservation groups challenged in federal court a U.S. Forest Service plan to build a road through the Pumice Plain, the blast zone of Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, to assess the integrity of a natural dam on Spirit Lake created by the volcano’s eruption in 1980. The road would end dozens of irreplaceable scientific research projects, many dating back 40 years to just after the eruption, by destroying research plots and permanently changing the unique ecological conditions in the vicinity.

“Callous land managers are seeking to exercise dominion over the landscape at Mount St. Helens, but this landscape is more than just special, and more than just delicate,” said Susan Jane Brown, staff attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center, and Cascade Forest Conservancy Board Director. “The Pumice Plain is teaching the world new things we couldn’t learn in any other way, in any other place, which is what Congress intended when it created the National Volcanic Monument. Prudent planning can achieve a win for everyone: to ensure public safety while preserving this scientific jewel and the future discoveries that require its continued existence.”

The 1980 eruption provided scientists and researchers a unique and rare opportunity to study ecosystem recovery and formation, available nowhere else on earth. Nearly all aspects of terrestrial and aquatic ecology are under investigation at Mount St. Helens generally and on the Pumice Plain and in Spirit Lake specifically. This research could prove enormously beneficial to science, nature, and even to society.

Many ongoing studies rely on a single plot at the location of the first known plant to establish on the Pumice Plain, which was found to host a previously unknown species of moth. The proposed route for the road would go directly through this plot, destroying it and forestalling the insights it would provide us about biodiversity and landscape regeneration.

“Over the past four years, we have offered the Forest Service many alternatives to this project that protect public safety, preserve research plots on the Pumice Plain, and mitigate environmental impacts. Instead, the agency is pushing this project forward without adequate environmental analysis, or consideration of the permanent impacts the construction of a road will have on this incredible landscape,” said Lucy Brookham, Policy Manager for the Cascade Forest Conservancy. “Our members will see 40 years of research destroyed, recreation in a no-longer roadless landscape permanently altered, as well as the progress of newly forming wildlife, watersheds, and plant species halted in their tracks.” 

In addition, the project would build a road on top of the Truman Trail, one of the most popular hiking trails in the Monument. This road would damage newly forming streams and watersheds, introduce invasive species, and severely detract from the experience of hikers on the only trail that connects public access from Johnston Ridge to Windy Ridge across the Pumice Plain.

The safety of residents downstream of Spirit Lake is extremely important, which is why thoughtful planning is essential. However, the Forest Service has not yet developed a comprehensive approach to ensuring the safety of downstream communities as well as protecting the internationally known research occurring at Mount St. Helens. Instead, the agency is piecemealing its management of this area. The Forest Service must achieve the shared goal of ensuring public safety while maintaining the Congressionally designated purpose of the monument: scientific study and research

“Insights from the scientists working at the monument inform ongoing restoration projects across Washington. Further understanding of these processes will be permanently destroyed if the proposed project is implemented as planned” said Becky Chaney, conservation chair of the Washington Native Plant Society. “The work is significant enough for WNPS to help fund the research through its grant program. The science on recovery and succession has resource and restoration applications to the conservation of native plants, to wildlife habitat recovery, and to my own work as a forest planning consultant.”

BREAKING: Judge rules federal agencies once again violated federal environmental laws in approving mining exploration near Mount St. Helens.

NEWS RELEASE | February 23, 2021

Portland, Or – Thursday, a federal court ruled that the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service violated federal environmental laws by issuing mineral prospecting permits to a Canadian mining company. The permits would allow Ascot Resources to drill 63, 2-3 inch diameter exploratory holes from 23 drilling pads across hundreds of acres of Washington’s Green River Valley adjacent to the Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument to search for copper, gold, and molybdenum. Environmentalists say mining in the area would cause irreversible impacts to the environment, recreation opportunities, and drinking water. The lawsuit brought by Cascade Forest Conservancy and represented by Earthrise Law Center and Western Mining Action Project is the organization’s third lawsuit seeking to block the prospecting in Southwest Washington. The agencies withdrew their approval of the drilling in 2011 after a lawsuit was filed, and in 2014 the federal agencies’ attempt to approve the drilling was also struck down by the federal court.

The 55-page opinion, released on Thursday, held that the agencies violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when considering recreation impacts. The opinion stated the agencies did not take a hard look at the impacts that 24-7 noise, created by the drill pads, would have on nearby recreators and how the project closures would prevent recreational access to the area. The judge also ruled that the agencies violated NEPA by failing to properly analyze the critical groundwater resources that would be affected by the drilling.

The Cascade Forest Conservancy, formerly the Gifford Pinchot Task Force, has been fighting mining outside of Mount St. Helens in the Green River Valley for over 15 years. Once considered for inclusion in Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, parcels in the Green River Valley were eventually purchased by the Forest Service through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The LWCF purchase intended to promote recreation and conservation for the area; however, the public lands in question have been under assault from mining challenges since 2005.

The parties will now confer and likely submit additional legal briefs addressing remedy issues. The Court will then rule on the appropriate legal remedy for the federal agencies’ violation of federal law.

“This is a positive step towards preventing mining in this spectacular landscape,” said Lucy Brookham, Policy Manager for Cascade Forest Conservancy. “The Green River Valley is no place for a mine, and we hope the agencies’ decision to permit prospecting in this beautiful place will be vacated following this ruling.”

”Cascade Forest Conservancy has repeatedly asked the federal agencies to fully evaluate and disclose the impacts of the proposed mineral prospecting on outdoor recreation and groundwater resources, and those agencies have now failed to do so twice, said Thomas Buchele, Co-Director of the Earthrise Law Center. “Their failure to fully disclose the adverse impacts to outdoor recreational uses is particularly troubling because both agencies obviously know what those impacts will be but have chosen not to fully disclose them to the public.”

 “Once again, the federal court correctly found that the agencies’ review and approval of this ill-advised project violated federal laws designed to protect water and public resources,” stated Roger Flynn, Director and Managing Attorney of the Western Mining Action Project, a non-profit environmental law center specializing in western mining issues.

“There are, of course, parts of the Court’s opinion that we disagree with, including its interpretation of the Land & Water Conservation Fund,” said Molly Whitney, Executive Director for Cascade Forest Conservancy. “The funds Congress allocated and the Forest Service used for the purchase of these lands exist to provide the public with opportunities to enjoy and recreate on our public lands–the opposite of what an open-pit mine would provide to this landscape. We remain hopeful that the Forest Service will reconsider its consent after it has reevaluated and fully disclosed the impacts to outdoor recreation and groundwater resources from the proposed mineral prospecting.”


Last week, more acreage in Washington burned during a single day than had during the last 12 years combined. Record-breaking fires are burning across the West. Our thoughts are with the thousands of people who have been forced to make the painful decision to flee their homes, not knowing if they will ever see them again. Entire communities have been destroyed, and people have even lost their lives. 

You can help people affected by fires by donating to the Red Cross Western Wildfire Relief fund here.


Wildfires shaped the evolution of the plants and animals in our region and remain important to our region. Healthy Pacific Northwest forests are complex patchworks of stands in various stages of growth and regrowth. They are young and old, disturbed, undisturbed, and ever-changing. One reason they look this way is that wildfires do not burn through an area uniformly. Some forest stands in fire-affected areas will ignite while others escape untouched. The resulting mosaic of varied habitats supports diverse communities of plants and animals including some species that thrive in these unique post-fire conditions.

But studies are showing that today’s fires are more intense, and some are burning the same areas in quick succession, compared to historic patterns. These “short-interval”, high-intensity fires are negatively affecting increasingly rare old-growth stands, which are evolved to be resilient to fire, but can still be damaged by high intensity and repeated burns. These fires are also making it harder for affected areas to bounce back by depleting seed banks, and eroding forest soils. CFC staff have seen firsthand what scientists are describing. Some of the post-fire areas we’ve visited that should have been sites of vigorous regrowth were recovering slowly and with low biodiversity compared to what we typically expect to see.

A major contributing factor to the current situation with wildfires is ongoing climate change. Rising temperatures and changing weather patterns have left our forests particularly dry and warm. “Forest fuels” are as dry as they’ve ever been, and are releasing more energy when ignited, meaning fires are hotter, more destructive, and more unpredictable. In Oregon and Washington, big fires usually occur less frequently on the west side of the mountains and more commonly in more arid climates east of the Cascades. This year’s drought conditions have enabled fires to burn in areas close to major population centers west of the Cascades—areas that are too damp to sustain major burns most other years. Although climate change is the primary reason fires in the west are getting worse, it is not the only factor.

Not only are fuels drier and more volatile, they are also more abundant across our forests. For generations, indigenous people used controlled fires to sustainably manage the forests in the Pacific Northwest. But settlers and colonizers dangerously mismanaged the forest to devastating effect. Federal and State government agencies adopted policies of universal fire suppression and other unsustainable forestry practices. Across America, many fire-resilient, biodiverse old-growth forests have been clear-cut and replaced with crowded, overgrown, homogeneous, single-species stands of trees designed to grow fast and be harvested for maximum profits. Over the last hundred years, responsibly managed, dynamic, and healthy forest ecosystems have been systematically replaced by what is essentially a tinderbox.


What can be done to prevent severe fires in the future?

One of the most commonly proposed solutions to the problem is thinning. But thinning these forests alone doesn’t help and in many cases, it exacerbates the problem. Thinning that focuses on removing large trees—the most fire-resistant material—will do more harm than good from a fire resilience perspective. Responsible thinning in conjunction with prescribed burns, like the current work happening to protect old-growth ponderosa pine and douglas fir stands south of Mt. Adams, can do a lot to protect mixed conifer forests from wildfire. While these and similar methods can help protect specific stands in certain types of mixed conifer forests, this doesn’t apply universally to all forests in the western US and there is no realistic way to continually protect 350 million acres of overgrown forests from severe fires. 

The problem of intensifying wildfires is a complicated one, and no single solution will work in every forest. The effects of climate change will likewise not be the same for every forest, but will continue to cause universally destabilizing effects. Our best chance to prevent the situation from becoming worse is to do all we can now to stop or slow climate change. Fire-proofing homes and properties in forested areas is another important step for reducing the life-changing impacts of these types of fires. 

We expect unusually large and severe fires in our region to continue happening, so Cascade Forest Conservancy is working to help make our forest more resilient to fires now to mitigate some of the damage when it does happen. We address the issue using a wide variety of tools, from scrutinizing proposed timber sales to ensure they account for insights from current ecology and climate science, to working on-the-ground to restore habitats to more natural conditions, therefore reducing the risk of catastrophic burns. For example, post-fire seeding can help kickstart regrowth and biodiversity in areas impacted by successive fires, and dams built by beavers we reintroduce help store water higher up in watersheds, which slows some of the drying resulting from climate change and helps create fire breaks.


Do your part to help elect local, state, and federal officials who believe in climate science and will fight to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and conserve our forests.

Take steps to reduce your carbon footprint.  


In the past few years, Cascade Forest Conservancy has become increasingly concerned about the reemergence of regeneration harvest on National Forests and public lands. Regeneration harvest is a harmful harvesting practice, similar to a clearcut, where only 10-20% of the tree stand is left behind. While conservationists see regeneration harvests as harmful to forests, it is lucrative for landowners, timber companies, and land management agencies. Regeneration harvest is not a new issue. However, the inclusion of this method to create early seral habitat is something we are experiencing with increasing frequency and scale on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.



Following a stand disturbing event like wildfire, disease, and major wind disturbances, a forest typically progresses through several stages from its resurgence to becoming an old-growth stand. The different types of forest habitat created throughout this process can be categorized in seral stages.

As seen in the diagram above, the early seral forest stage is initially dominated by grasses and shrubs. Shade-intolerant tree species also establish in the early seral stage. The mid seral stage has a mix of species, with early seral species and mid seral species present in almost equal amounts. Late seral stands have both mid seral and late seral tree species present. The Potential Natural Community (PNC) stage where old-growth trees are present, features a composition where early or mid seral species are scarce or absent altogether.



EARLY SERAL – Grass and seedlings

MID SERAL – Saplings and young forest

LATE SERAL – Mature forest

PNC – Old-growth forest

Different kinds of wildlife prefer different seral stages as their habitat. For example, certain birds, butterflies, and moths prefer early seral habitat, whereas the northern spotted owl requires late seral and old-growth forest. Healthy forests contain a mix of various stages of regrowth.



Although early seral habitat is less abundant on the landscape than it has historically been, sacrificing mature forests to restore early seral habitat does not make sense. Early seral habitat can be created relatively quickly and easily; late seral habitat and mature forest can only be created with time. Additionally, the quality of early seral habitat created by stand-replacing wildfire or disease cannot necessarily be recreated by regeneration harvest. What this means is that we could end up losing critical mature forest on the landscape to create a habitat that may not provide the ecological benefit used to justify creating early seral through harmful forest management practices in the first place.



Cascade Forest Conserevancy has encountered timber sales for the last few years that have incorporated regeneration harvest for early seral creation. Six years ago we weighed in on Swift, a timber sale in the Mount Adams Ranger District (MARD) that proposed just under 200 acres of regeneration harvest. Through our work in the collaborates and participation in the public commenting and objection process, the size of the regeneration harvest was reduced to 123 acres. We are now faced with a new proposal in the Upper Wind planning area of MARD that proposes 450 acres or regeneration harvest with nearly 200 acres proposed in mature, 120-year-old forest. We are concerned with the scale of regeneration harvest and the inclusion of critical mature forests. We will be working with our collaboratives and the Forest Service, as well as participating in the public commenting process over the coming months to remove older mature forest stands from the proposal and reduce the overall acreage of regeneration harvest.