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Forests

Washington: Meet Philip Rigdon

"I have found that the stakeholders often have more in common than we do our differences.” Philip Rigdon

The Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation have occupied lands in and around the Columbia Plateau in what is now Washington, Oregon and Idaho since time immemorial.

The Yakama People have always felt a strong spiritual and cultural tie to their land, Mother Earth. The Yakamas have always been active stewards of the land, knowing full well how to manage their lands to provide for an abundance of foods and medicines while preserving and protecting their sacred lands.

In 1855, the Yakamas ceded some 10 million acres of land to the U.S. government in exchange for the establishment of their 1.4 million acre Reservation. By doing so, the Yakamas maintained treaty rights in the Ceded Area and all Usual and Accustomed places, many of which are now part of the U.S. Forest Service lands.

The Yakama Nation has seen the generational changes in the land as stories and memories have been passed down from one generation to the next. This strong spiritual tie to the land is one of the reasons why the Yakama People are partners in the Tapash Sustainable Forest Collaborative, a Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration project.

Having seen the changes to their forests, with growing concern about insect epidemics, diseases, and catastrophic wildland fires, the Yakama sought to act.

“We have experienced some of the same forest health problems on the Yakama Nation forest lands as those of our neighboring federal lands,” says Philip Rigdon, Deputy Director, Yakama Nation Department of Natural Resources. “We have been rather successful in combating those forest health issues using scientific and traditional knowledge,” he says.

Philip notes the problems know no borders, which contributes to a sense of collaboration.

“I have found that the stakeholders often have more in common than we do our differences,” says Rigdon. “The protection, enhancement and restoration of these resources is something we all seem to agree on.”

The Yakama Nation owns and operates the only log milling facility in southeastern Washington. CFLR projects are an ideal mechanism to utilize small diameter logs on Forest Service lands to address the forest health issues, while also creating economic opportunities for the local economy.

The Yakama Nation successfully reduced the 200,000 acre outbreak of the Western Spruce Budworm on Tribal Lands. At the same time, the Nation has increased prescribed burns and precommercial thinning to greatly improve forest health.

Says Rigdon, “We need to showcase our results to our neighbors in the hopes that our approach can be replicated through the CFLR Program. By restoring these important resources, we all benefit.”

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