A terrific threepartseries, in yesterday’s Vancouver Columbian, about restoring the coastal rainforests of southwest Washington, near Willapa Bay. Only a few remnant stands of old growth remain in a region that has been logged repeatedly for over 100 years. But those few stands boast ancient hemlocks and cedars estimated to be as old as 1,000 years; and they play host to a variety of native wildlife, including endangered marbled murrelets.

Cooperative efforts, funded by the Nature Conservancy and a US Department of Interior grant, will experiment with different methods of restoring cutover, roaded, and degraded forest landscapes. They’ll try tearing out roadbeds, selectively thinning trees, and leaving dense young stands alone. The objective is to re-create a rainforest landscape that approximates the original old growth that once blanketed the region.

The restoration work is historically apropos. This November, the communities near Willapa Bay and the mouth of the Columbia River will celebrate the bicentennial of Lewis and Clark’s arrival at the Pacific Ocean.

Though the region is still spectacularly beautiful, not much of the forest looks like it must have when the Corps of Discovery arrived. Two centuries of extractive industries have fundamentally altered the watersheds and wildlife there. The new restoration project tests whether those changes are permanent, or whether we can return them to their native state.