Natural Resources

Stemilt-Squilchuck Forest Health Restoration

Stemilt-Squilchuck Forest Health Restoration

The Stemilt Basin was identified as a Priority Planning Area under the DNR 20-Year Forest Health Strategic Plan. Facilitated through the Stemilt Partnership, a landscape-scale strategy for restoring forest health and resiliency to wildfire in the upper Stemilt and Squilchuck Basins is currently underway. Through partnerships with state agencies, federal agencies, and private landowners, Chelan County has treated several hundred acres of forestland in need of fuels reduction, and plans to expand on these partnerships to increase the pace and scale of forest restoration in the watershed. Through the lenses of public safety, protection and enhancement of water resources and wildlife habitat, and restoration of forested acres to a fire-resilient and sustainable structure, Chelan County is working to identify priority treatment areas and implement treatments across ownership boundaries. See below for a list of resources including the Landscape Evaluation recently completed by Washington Conservation Science Institute to identify high priority areas taking a range of values into consideration. 

DNR 20-Year Forest Health Strategic Plan summary

Stemilt-Squilchuck Landscape Evaluation Final Report

Project Brief Flyer Sent to Stemilt-Squilchuck Residents October 2020


Ongoing Work Forest Health Work in the Stemilt-Squilchuck Watershed

To date, Chelan County and Partners have accomplished the following: 

  • 646 acres treated in 2018/2019
  • 397 acres planned for treatment in 2020
  • 173 acres planned for prescribed burning in 2020
  • 463 acres planned for treatment in 2021
  • 697 acres planned for prescribed burn in 2021

This table shows all treatments with treatment type, acreage, and funding source: Stemilt-Squilchuck Treatment Units

This map shows the location of the units listed in the table: Stemilt-Squilchuck Treatement Unit Map

See Additional Information section below for detailed maps and information on planned/ongoing forest health treatments and different treatment types in the Stemilt Planning Area. A Forest Managment Plan was completed for Chelan County lands within the Stemilt-Squilchuck Basin and can be viewed here: 2020 Chelan County Stemilt-Squilchuck Forest Management Plan


Prescribed Burning in Stemilt-Squilchuck Basin

Prescribed burning is an effective tool for reducting hazardous fuel loading and restoring our east-side forests to a fire resilient condition. The goal of prescribed burning is to maintain open-canopy forests that will be able to withstand naturally ignited wildfires that are inevitable in this area. Maintaining fire-resilent forests protects both natural resources and values-at-risk in the Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) by creating more defensible conditions. Chelan County, in partnership with DNR Chelan Fire Unit and Chelan County Fire District 1, plan to implement ~170 acres of prescribed burning in Sections 27 and 29 in 2020-2021. Signs will be posted along the Upper Basin Loop Road notifying public of the location of the prescribed burns. Radio announcements on local stations will also be made the day of the burn. See the maps for the units by following the links below.

Section 27 Prescribed Burn Map

Section 29 Prescribed Burn Map


Click Photo Below for Video Clip of Stemilt Basin Broadcast Burn, October 2020

Stemilt Basin Broadcast Burn for Forest Health


45 acres in Chelan County Section 29 near Upper Wheeler reservior were treated with prescribed fire in October 2020. North 40 Productions captured some of the action on film, allowing Chelan County to share this experience with the public. Prescribed burning provides a great opportunity for late-season work for seasonal firefighters and training opportunity for Fire Distric volunteers. 


Additional Information on Forest Health Efforts in Stemilt-Squilchuck Basin

Types of Forest Health Treatment

Forest health treatment prescriptions are based on the difference between current conditions and the Historical Range of Variability (HRV; in other words what the forest looked like prior to human management through harvest and fire suppression). Treatments range from removal of significant amounts of mature trees to reach a stand spacing that is more resilient to wildfire and insect outbreak, to selective pruning and low-flame height prescribed burning. Commercial harvest, or removal of marketable timber, is often a cost-effective way of increasing tree spacing and treating over-stocked forests. In the commercial harvest units included in this landscape-scale restoration effort, the priority is to improve long-term forest health. In the units facilitated by Chelan County Natural Resource Department, any revenue generated from the harvest goes back into the unit for post-harvest mulching of finer fuels to promote growth of larger trees and increase resilience to fire. The DNR Landowner Assistance Program is also contributing matching funding for these post harvest forest health treatments. Many units do not require overstory harvest to attain HRV. In these units, a mixture of machine and hand treatments are used to reduce ladder fuels and understory growth. Along road corridors, shaded fuel breaks are being implemented to reduce ignition sources along roadways and provide strategic wildlife defense routes. The photos below show examples of the different treatment types utilized in the Stemilt landscape restoration effort, and the maps and tables linked on this page include the treatment types per unit. 

PCT Hand Lop and Scatter Unit, County Section 29                                                  PCT Hand Pile Unit, County Section 29


PCT Shaded Fuel Break Unit, County Section 27                                                          Commercial Harvest Unit, WDFW Section 28


PCT Mechanical Thinning with Masticator, County Section 1                                   Commercial Harvest with Post-Harvest Mastication Treatment, Private Section 13



Prescribed Burn Following PCT Treatment in County Section 29


Piles resulting from hand pile or machine pile treatments will be burned in late fall 1-2 years after initial treatment. All treatment types can be followed up with prescribed burning as a cost-effective maintenance tool to keep forests healthy and resilient. PCT lop and scatter units on County lands in Sections 29, 27, and 1 (near Beehive Reservoir) will be followed with prescribed fire in 2020-2021. 


2020-2021 Treatment Unit Details
Section 13: Sawyer Property

This unit is a commercial thinning unit with a forest health post-harvest treatment of slash removal and mulching paid for by matching funds by the DNR Landowner Assistance Program, DNR Forest Resiliency Division grant funding, and landowner contributions. 75 acres were treated in 2020, with another 45 acres planned for 2021. 


Section 20: WDFW

A shaded fuel break treatment along Upper Wheeler Road, in conjunction with prescribed burning by WDFW burn crews, is planned for 2021. The pre-commercial thinning treatment will provide a defensible space along the roadway and thin understory fuels across approximately 100 acres in Section 20. The project is funded through a FEMA Post-Fire Recovery grant. 


Draft Environmental Assessment

Section 19: Tamarack Saddle LLC

A commercial harvest for forest health is planned for Section 19, Tamarck Saddle LLC. This treatment will reduce overstory stocking and improve forest health and fire resiliency near Upper Wheeler Reservoir in Sections 19 and 30 on private land. This treatment will be undertaken by the landowner and American Forest Management and is not grant funded. 

Section 1: Chelan County

A pre-commercial thinning unit is planned for Chelan County Section 1 near H&H Reservoir off of Beehive Road in spring 2021. The thinning will improve forest health and prepare the unit for a prescribed burn undertaken by USFS in tandem with prescribed burning on USFS lands adjacent to the unit. The thinning is funded by a DNR Forest Resiliency Division grant. 


Section 23: Chelan County

A commercial harvest is planned for Chelan County Section 23 near Clear Lake in 2021 or 2022. This treatment will reduce overstory stocking and improve forest health and fire resiliency. The harvest will be followed up with mulching and slash removal for a long-lasting beneficial treatment. Any revenue generated from the harvest will go back into this treatment and the rest will be funded with federal forest health funding. A map will be posted when available. 




Posted: 10/02/2019 01:27 PM
Last Updated: 08/09/2021 01:51 PM

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