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Vaagen Brothers wins state contract for restoration work on the Colville National Forest

UPDATED: Fri., Aug. 31, 2018, 8:15 p.m.

The Vaagen Brothers Lumber yard is seen during a tour on Wednesday, June 7, 2017, at Vaagen Brothers Lumber Inc in Colville, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Vaagen Brothers Lumber Inc. was the successful bidder on a timber sale aimed at making 604 acres of the Colville National Forest less vulnerable to wildfires.

The $1.5 million contract was awarded to the Colville-based company by the Washington Department of Natural Resources under an arrangement called the “Good Neighbor Authority.” The agreement allows states to enter into contracts for restoration work on U.S. Forest Service lands as an agent of the federal government, but the states must follow federal laws.

About 5.8 million board feet of timber will be harvested through the project, which is near the town of Northport. Mechanical thinning will be used on dense stands of trees, which were identified as a priority in the state’s 20-year strategic plan to improve forest health. Additional treatments to reduce wildfire fuels will take place after the thinning.

The Sheep Creek Fire in Stevens County burned 458 acres near the project site in August.

This is the first time Washington DNR has used the Good Neighbor Authority. Money from the contract will go into a special fund created by the Legislature, ensuring it gets spent on forest restoration work.

“This project is a great example of the partnership we need to address the forest health crisis that has filled Washington’s skies with smoke over the past couple of summers,” Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz said in a news release. “Wildfire doesn’t care about who owns the forestland. Neither can our restoration efforts.”

The state of Idaho has used the Good Neighbor Authority for timber sales for several years.

Idaho Forest Group recently put in the winning bid of $2.3 million for a 520-acre timber sale 8 miles north of Priest River on the Idaho Panhandle National Forests. The state Department of Lands auctioned off the timber and will administer the sales contract.

Through the sale, Idaho Forest Group will log fire- and insect-prone stands of trees and replant the site with hardier Western larch, ponderosa pine and western white pine, according to a news release. About 8.6 million board feet of timber will be harvested.