Columbia Highlands Initiative

A balanced plan for working lands, wildlife, and recreation

In the Columbia Highlands of northeastern Washington, we have a unique opportunity to look at the landscape as a whole and plan ahead for a future that will maintain our timber and ranching jobs, special places, and wildlife. The Northeast Washington Forestry Coalition, a novel collaborative group of timber industry leaders, local business owners, community leaders, conservationists, public agencies, and others who have been finding solutions for people and wildlife since 2002,  has crafted a balanced land management plan for the Colville National Forest.

Hiking the Kettle Crest Trail

Coalition members including Kettle Range Conservation Group, Conservation Northwest and The Lands Council are building off of this plan by seeking Congressional designation of new national conservation, national recreation, and wilderness areas in the Colville National Forest in a balanced proposal called The Columbia Highlands Initiative. This proposal also includes ongoing support for stewardship projects to keep our national forests healthy and maintain timber jobs, as well as new recreation areas and work with ranchers, including raising private funds for easements to keep several key ranches in operation for cattle production and protection of wildlife habitat.

Columbia Highlands Initiative: The Proposal (more details here)

1) Recommendations to the US Congress for designation of National Conservation, Recreation, and Wilderness Areas:

National Conservation Area (145,700 acres)

These are lands of high conservation value and will be managed with an emphasis on primitive and semi-primitive recreation, wildlife habitat and restoration forestry to reduce wildfire risks. This area contains four inventoried roadless areas. Existing livestock and recreational uses will continue.


Snowshoeing in Ferry County

Three National Recreation Areas (70,500 acres)


A recreation focus coupled with healthy forests are the long-term forest management objectives with an added emphasis on recreation such as ATV riding, mountain biking, horseback riding, and hiking. Motorized access on designated routes will be allowed and could be expanded.  Livestock grazing will continue.

Six new wilderness areas (215,000 acres) in the Colville National Forest

These beautiful road-free areas provide important wildlife habitat and primitive recreation opportunities, such as hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, horseback riding, and hunting. Existing livestock grazing will continue. About 33,000 acres will be “delayed” wilderness areas, which will be designated as wilderness after the Forest Service has addressed restoration and motorized trail relocation needs.

2) Recommendations to the US Forest Service for forest plan designation of distinct forest restoration, wildfire risk reduction and forestry management zones, as well as recreation infrastructure improvements in the Colville National Forest;


Dawson Ranch in Stevens County--photo by Paul Bannick

3) Provide assistance to local ranchers to help keep their family ranches viable and provide essential wildlife habitat.


Find out more about the Columbia Highlands Initiative here.  Or contact Conservation Northwest for more information on ways you can get involved at 509-747-1663.

You can also watch a short multi-media Google Earth tour of the Columbia Highland’s wild areas at: 

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