Logging rules fine, state says - Request for more restrictions
The state Forest Practices Board unanimously rejected Wednesday environmental
groups' requests to beef up logging rules.
Twenty years of increased control on logging and road-building, including the landmark Forest and Fish Act passed by the Legislature in 1999, are getting at most of the problems, the board said, siding with the timber industry.
Conservationists disagreed and said that the state Department of Ecology is about to rescind a rule applying to environmental review of individual logging activities.
It marked the latest in a long series of clashes between forest activists and the timber industry before the 12-member state board that regulates logging on private and state lands.
"The bottom line is that after more than 20 years of broad effort, the promise to address cumulative effects remains unfulfilled," said Judy Turpin, an environmentalist and former board member.
The board did agree to step up its efforts to boost monitoring and watershed analysis work on the state's 11 million acres of privately owned forestland. That move could improve efforts to protect wildlife habitat, scenic views and recreation.
The board rejected the notion that each timber harvest should undergo environmental review for its potential cumulative effects, or that landowners should have to share their long-range harvest plans with state regulators.
"They've diverted this into endless process," said Peter Goldman, an attorney for the Washington Forest Law Center, which drafted the petition to the board on behalf of 11 conservation groups.
Goldman charged the board with doing the timber industry's bidding, hiding behind a provision in the Forest and Fish Act that limits the board's ability to write new rules.
Timber industry officials testified that the existing rules, which include requirements to abandon old logging roads, maintain vegetation and trees along streams and restrict the size of clearcuts, are burdensome enough on an industry in touch economic shape.
Bill Wilkerson, executive director of the Washington Forest Protection Association, a timber industry group, said the rejected petition was a frontal assault on the Forests and Fish Act.
The act was developed over two years of negotiations, which conservation groups dropped out of over concerns the measures weren't going far enough to protect fish, water quality or wildlife.
Timber officials and board members said there was no crisis that called for an emergency rule.
"Today we're at the lowest harvest rate in state history," said Ann Goos, director of environmental affairs for the Washington Forest Protection Association. "It's not a crisis, and we're not harvesting at a rate that can be sustained."
On the Web
Forest Practices Board: http://www.fpb.gov.bc.ca/
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