Jim Petersen, the co-founder of the Evergreen Foundation, is a longtime and respected advocate for Northwest rural communities, forest landowners and timber professionals. His opinions have appeared on this blog several times before (here, here and here), and his Evergreen Magazine is still an invaluable resource for timber leaders after nearly three decades.
Collaboration has also been a popular concept in forestry circles for many years, and it's something this blog has written about many times over because it's one of the only ways that economically viable timber harvests are happening on a local level, without the threat of lawsuits. Timber leaders, environmental groups and local and federal officials have the potential to work together.
Petersen agrees - so much so that a few months ago he started a project to explore forestry collaboration in the Northwest. About once a week he's been posting an interview and so far the subjects are timber leaders, local county officials and representatives from the U.S. Forest Service.
As Petersen says in his opening essay, he's conducting the interviews because he feels that collaboration is one of the only ways forward.
This is the first in a series of essays I am writing that I suspect will surprise many who know me. I am embracing Forest Collaboration, a process that many battle-scarred veterans of the fabled timber wars view as “Sleeping with the enemy,” the enemy here being the slew of environmental litigants that killed the federal timber sale program and thus the economies of the West’s rural timber communities.
...Together (through the interviews and essays), we’ll learn what works, what doesn’t work, and why. We’ll also dig into the factors that seem to limit success, or at least threaten collaboration’s long-term sustainability. There are some that demand our attention.
In Petersen's most recent interview, he talks to Duane Vaagen of Vaagen Brothers Lumber in Colville, a small town in Northeast Washington. Vaagen Brothers helped create the Northeast Washington Forestry Coalition, which U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack called “a model for timber communities nationwide."
Fish passages - those culverts you see underneath roads - are critical in allowing Washington fish to migrate both up and downstream. But what a lot of people don't realize is that tens of thousands of these passages around the state don't work correctly. Perhaps the culvert was built too small, too shallow, too high off the surface of the waterway or built to move the water through too quickly.
Since 1999, with the passage of the historic Forests & Fish Law, forest landowners have been the state leader in clearing these fish passage barriers. State officials estimate that 6,000 barriers have been removed, and about 6,000 miles of habitat have been opened up, with forest landowners responsible for up to 75 percent of the work.
Road Maintenance and Abandonment Plans (RMAPs) for forest landowners have led to the clearance of most of the forest fish passage barriers, as well as a smaller program, the Family Forest Fish Passage Program.
In a recent meeting of the state Senate Natural Resources & Parks Committee, David Price of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife lauded the Forests & Fish Law for its positive impact on the health of the state's fish, allowing so many steelhead and salmon to migrate freely.
"It's a very successul program, something (forest landowners) should be very proud of," Price said.
According to the state, it's now time to push the clearance of fish passage barriers to the next level. While forest landowners have led the way so far, there are still as many as 40,000 fish passage barriers across Washington. The Legislature last year created the Fish Passage Barrier Removal Board, though lawmakers still haven't approved any money for the board to actually clear any passage barriers. (The board held its first meeting this week.)
Forests and Fish collaborators support DNR and the Governor's funding request for Adaptive Management
The Adaptive Management Program supports the science and accountability foundation of the Forests & Fish Law.
WFPA supports extension of tax credit for biomass to produce renewable energy
Use of forest-derived biomass produces energy, and can help reduce the threat of wildfires by paying for the cost of thinning to improve forest health.
Counties and schools receive the Forest Harvest Excise Tax (FET) and property tax
Public and private timber harvesters pay the FET in addition to the property tax on timberland.
Private landowners help fund wildfire costs
Private landowners share the burden of preparing for and fighting wildfire.
Wood is our Most Natural Resource
Wood from sustainably managed forests provides the best low-energy building material.
Forest Products Industry Jobs Impact
Nearly 40,000 direct jobs are provided by the forest products industry.
Forest Products Industry Economic Impact
Washington is the 2nd largest lumber producer in the nation, paying wages, taxes and providing environmental benefits for Washington State.
Forest Landowner RMAP Accomplishments
From 2001 through June 2013, landowners have removed an impressive 5,641 barriers to fish passage, restoring 3,893 miles of historic fish habitat.