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Report to shape update to Northwest Forest Plan

In this May 8, 2003 photo, a northern spotted owl sits on a tree branch in the Deschutes National Forest near Camp Sherman, Ore. (Don Ryan / Associated Press)
In this May 8, 2003 photo, a northern spotted owl sits on a tree branch in the Deschutes National Forest near Camp Sherman, Ore. (Don Ryan / Associated Press)
By Kimberly Cauvel Skagit Valley Herald

The U.S. Forest Service released Monday a report that will help with an update to the Northwest Forest Plan, according to a news release.

The report reviews and summarizes applicable science that has emerged since the Northwest Forest Plan was adopted in 1994.

The Northwest Forest Plan directs management of 17 national forests in California, Oregon and Washington, including the portion of the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in eastern Skagit County.

The Northwest Forest Plan was created to protect the critical habitat of the northern spotted owl while maintaining a viable forest products industry in the Pacific Northwest, according to the Forest Service.

It covers 24 million acres of land managed by the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service.

The report reviews how protected species have fared on federal lands and addresses new concerns that have emerged, including climate change.

One of the most significant findings is that the plan has protected old-growth forests that provide habitat for important species, according to the release. Another finding shows that using fire as a land management tool can promote forest resilience.

Species of concern addressed in the report include several that are found in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, including threatened Puget Sound chinook salmon and Puget Sound steelhead trout.

The report was authored by about 50 scientists from Forest Service regional research stations, other federal agencies, universities and tribes. Compiling the report was managed by the independent science organization The Ecological Society of America, according to the release.

A draft of the report was released in November 2016.

Over the past year and a half, public input was gathered, peer review was completed and the final document was written.

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