Forest Field Program

Heart of the Northwest

Old growth, Keep Cool trail, MBSNF. Photo Brett Baunton

Old-growth forests and other wildlands are the heart of the Northwest. Healthy watersheds, mature forests and grasslands go hand-in-hand with healthy, prosperous communities and abundant wildlife.

Ancient forests also provide vital habitat for northern spotted owls, marbled murrelets, Roosevelt elk, salmon, bull trout and a variety of other iconic and imperiled species. 

Conservation Northwest was one of the first conservation groups to recognize the power of ecological forest restoration and community collaboration. Through our Forest Field Program, these tools help restore and protect forests and other wildlands while also promoting sustainable forestry and benefiting local communities.

Learn more in a 2015 profile article on our Forest Field Program

Since 1989, our Forest Field Program:

  • Protects old-growth forests and helps restore younger forests so they can mature into old growth.
  • Works with state and federal agencies, elected officials, local residents and other organizations to push for state and regional policies on wildfire that support forest resilience and community preparedness.
  • Keeps watch over state and federal public forests and grasslands and objects or appeals risky projects through our National Forest Watch.
  • Advocates for managing public forests for ecological resilience, not purely short term gain. This includes State Trust Lands.
  • Ecologically restores national forests, while supporting efforts to conserve wildlife habitat and working forests on private and state lands.
  • Works with local communities and other groups to protect large “snag” trees which provide vital wildlife habitat, while also respecting the needs and desires of people and communities to sustainably harvest firewood.
  • Works to keep America’s parks, wildlife refuges, national forests and other public lands in public hands.
  • Conservation Northwest and our allies work to decommission unsustainable and out-of-use roads and restore and secure both forest and aquatic habitat.
  • Joins coalitions to work closely with communities to protect and restore forests while also benefiting rural and other communities. This includes leadership in the Northeast Washington Forestry Coalition, the North Central Washington Forest Health Collaborative and other groups.

Old growth

Old-growth forests offer people of all walks of life opportunities for recreation, enjoyment, and enrichment. National forests harbor most of the quality, large expanses of forest remaining in the West and also contain some of the richest remaining wildlife habitat.

Mature and old-growth forests support a diversity of plant and animal life. Downed and standing dead trees provide birds and mammals nests, dens, and protective cover. Healthy wild forests and their rivers are a source of healthy trout and salmon and pure drinking water.

National Forest Watch

One of our longest running programs at Conservation Northwest, our National Forest Watch, protects and restores forests by taking part in projects and policies on our local national forests to track specific projects as they are proposed, comment on policies that affect the national forest and wildlife habitat, and engage collaboratively.

On the east side of the Cascades, we are tracking individual projects as they occur on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest and the ongoing Forest Plan Revision and Travel Management Planning.

We encourage the Forest Service to adopt responsible management and ecological restoration driven by vigorous science to add resilience to vast expanses of even-aged, plantation conifer forests in the Northwest. Our main focus today is forest restoration and collaboration on the Okanogan-Wenatchee and Colville National Forests.

We also work closely with the state Department of Natural Resources, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, forestry companies and other conservation organizations to promote ecological resilience on state and private forest lands.

Restoring forests and rivers
Fishers recovered to Washington, 2008

Forests maintain and restore healthy watersheds. Older trees supply shade for fish and large wood to our streams. Removal and restoration of unused road beds improves rivers, wildlife habitat, and healthy watersheds and drinking water. Learn more.


Our work in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest focuses on restoring dry forest ecosystems while reducing fuels near homes and communities. We also work in the Okanogan-Wenatchee, Mount-Baker Snoqualmie, and Colville national forests to promote restoration of second-growth plantations.

Conservation Northwest is part of a voluntary group dedicated to restoring the health of the Upper Yakima Watershed in Washington and addressing the social, economic, and ecological issues that arise in restoration. The Upper Yakima Watershed Action Group is open to the public and meets quarterly.

We’re working regionally with partners to provide funding and guidance on forest management for watershed health. For example, with your support, we helped achieve a new Lake Whatcom park, the largest local park in Washington, on 15 square miles in the Lake Whatcom watershed near Bellingham, clean drinking water source for 90,000 people.

We’re also working on other local projects like the continued protection of Blanchard Mountain.