Board hears arguments on timber harvest
Wednesday, December 10, 2003
Olympia, WA - Wildly divergent visions of how to manage 1.4 million acres of state-owned forests emerged Tuesday night at Washington State University Vancouver.
The state Board of Natural Resources gathered public comment on six alternatives for managing state-owned forests in Western Washington over the next decade.
Every 10 years, the board is supposed to recalculate the level of "sustainable" harvest, a figure deemed to be appropriate for balancing recreation, water quality and wildlife while still selling enough timber to benefit school construction and other public trusts.
The six harvest alternatives range from 396 million to 819 million board feet per year. Depending on the alternative selected, the state could raise between $75.4 million and $159 million annually for counties and school construction.
Opinions varied during the fourth of six public hearings held by the Department of Natural Resources. About 30 people attended.
Dave Ivanoff wants raw material to help sustain the sawmills his company owns in Morton, Randle and Darrington.
Ivanoff, with Portland-based Hampton Resources Inc., supported the two alternatives resulting in the biggest harvest -- as much as 819 million board feet per year, a large increase from recent harvest levels of about 500 million board feet.
"These lands should be restored to active management," Ivanoff said.
Afterwards, Ivanoff said state-owned timber is a very important source of wood for three sawmills that collectively employ about 550 people. "More timber's going to mean more jobs," he said.
Gretchen Starke wants state timber managers to fully account for all forest values. Starke, a member of Vancouver Audubon, said schools may well reap financial rewards from intensive logging today, but schoolchildren in 25 to 50 years will experience the loss of wildlife habitat and watersheds.
"Generating money should not be the only consideration," she said.
Starke, along with others who testified, complained that the draft environmental impact statement does not address how logging roads might worsen soil erosion, fragment wildlife habitat and increase the risk of human-caused forest fires.
Al McKee wants an "enhanced and predictable" flow of revenue to his timber-dependent county.
McKee, a Skamania County commissioner, said proceeds from state timber sales in Skamania once provided as much as 10 percent of the county's budget -- up to $1.75 million per year. He said the state's contribution has dwindled to $65,000. McKee prefers the DNR's "active stewardship" alternative, the one resulting in an annual timber harvest of 819 million board feet over the next decade.
"It strikes a balance between revenue, employment and habitat creation," he said.
Emily Platt wants a better way of funding rural communities and school construction.
Platt, acting director of the Vancouver-based environmental group Gifford Pinchot Task Force, called for the Board of Natural Resources -- which includes state schools Superintendent Terry Bergeson and Lands Commissioner Doug Sutherland -- to look for "innovative and creative" ways to pay for schools. She encouraged the board to explore green certification as a way of earning a premium for wood deemed to be grown and harvested in an environmentally sensitive manner.
"I don't think doubling the timber harvest is going to do what we want to do for our schools and communities," she said.
Jim Mickel wants the board, and the public, to consider the existing environmental restrictions already placed on state timberlands.
Mickel, who runs two sawmills as president of High Cascade Inc. in Carson, said logging on state timberlands is already curtailed by setbacks for streamsides, unstable slopes, and nests for northern spotted owls and marbled murrelets. State timber managers must reserve a mixture of tree ages while being sensitive to an influx of new residents who are quick to defend their backyard forests from logging.
"All of these things already exist, and there's been no identification of costs in terms of revenue to the trusts," Mickel said.
The Board of Natural Resources will select a preferred alternative by February, then issue a final environmental impact statement for public review by the late spring.
* ON THE WEB: The state Department of Natural Resources makes the full Sustainable Forest Management Draft Environmental Impact Statement available for public review at www.dnr.wa.gov.
Comments may be submitted, by Dec. 19, electronically at the DNR Web site, www.dnr.wa.gov, by using the online comments forms, or sent as e-mail attachments to the SEPA Center, email@example.com.
* BY MAIL: Comments can also be mailed to: SEPA Center, state Department of Natural Resources, P.O. Box 47015, Olympia, WA 98504-7015.
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