Russ Vaagen

As Vice President of Vaagen Bros. Lumber in Colville Washington, I personally spend a great deal of time with the members of our communities engaging about the importance of good forest management. This season’s fires are evidence of the importance of quality forest management. Working with our Northeast Washington Forestry Coalition, we have worked on more than 30 successful Forest Service Projects that have reduced fuel loads in overstocked stands. We left some of the best and healthiest trees behind to serve as habitat and seed source for the next generation of trees. These project areas performed well in this year’s fires and allowed firefighting teams to manage the fires and control their progress. The areas that weren’t managed burned dangerously hot and fast which keeps firefighters at a distance with very little opportunity to alter the fires. This is important work that serves the economy of our rural communities, improves the health of our forests and related habitat, and reduces the risk of catastrophic wildfires by restoring the types of forests that can withstand and thrive in dry, fire prone areas.

Working with the communities isn’t always easy. Some people want to hold on to their historic positions from all sides, but to move forward we need new solutions that require new ways of thinking. Working with others, even if they seem to be from a different background is essential to meeting our collective interests. These issues are bigger than just National Forests. They affect all of us including private, state and tribal lands because fire and forest health knows no boundaries. This work is rewarding and I very much look forward to providing positive influence to our forests for generations to come.