Forest Service advisory committee adds two Grays Harbor residents

For the first time in years, the U.S. Forest Service has named two Grays Harbor residents to its 15-member Olympic Peninsula Resource Advisory Committee.

Local outdoors activist Dan Boeholt said the appointments, made in late August, of Mitzi Schindele and County Commissioner Wes Cormier end a run of some seven years when Grays Harbor County had no representation on the committee, which is responsible for selecting projects to be funded by the Secure Rural Schools Act. These funds are available to counties that contain National Forest lands.

“I’m very excited,” said Schindele. A Montesano resident who grew up in a timber industry family, she and her husband Steve both work in the timber industry and share a love of the outdoors, particularly the upper Wynooche.

Schindele said she initially balked at the idea when Susan Piper from the Forest Service brought the committee vacancy to her attention, having never served on a committee of any type. When the application period was extended, Piper persuaded her to apply, saying it had been too long since Grays Harbor County has had a place at the table.

Schindele and Cormier will review 23 project proposals, three of which are in Grays Harbor County, at the Rainforest Arts Center in Forks Sept. 20. Of the $360,933 available for the region, Grays Harbor County will get just under $60,000.

Projects include:

Donkey Creek Fish Barrier Culvert Design: The Grays Harbor Conservation District has requested $48,029.25 to design a replacement to the last fish passage barrier on the tributary of the West Fork Humptulips River. The money would be used to conduct a site survey, design the replacement for the existing undersized culvert and research the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act coverage that would be needed to do the project.

Grays Harbor County Deferred Road Maintenance: This proposal asks for $30,000 to improve and maintain roads on Forest Service lands. Open roads are emphasized in the proposal, with the first priority going to roads managed for passenger car travel and commercial haul routes. The Forest Service has rated the roads in the county and the proposal said the improvements would make for safer travel and also mitigate water quality issues.

Invasive Plant Prevention and Control in Grays Harbor County: This proposal asks for $32,070 for the Forest Service to put together a four-member crew to work for up to eight weeks identifying existing invasive plants in the county and eradicate them. Invasive plants are any nonnative plants that can overtake native plants and affect water quality and fish stocks.

“We were just told a couple of weeks ago we were on the board and now we have all of these proposals to go through,” said Schindele. “I wish we had more time!” She took the opportunity of meeting Cormier for the first time after their selection and said it’s good to have Grays Harbor County represented on the committee.

“I’m very excited and hope I can be effective,” she said. She joked about her new title, Affected Public-at-Large. “At first I was like, what? But now I really love the term, it’s very endearing to me. I hope to provide a voice for the rest of the affected public at large.”