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The fisher, a large member of the weasel, mink and otter family, has returned to Washington in recent years after disappearing in the mid-1900s because of overtrapping and loss of habitat. The revival of the fisher is because of efforts by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other leaders to reintroduce the mammal to the Olympic Peninsula and the Cascade Mountains.
Forest landowners are also playing a critical role in the fisher's recovery. More than two dozen forest landowners have signed agreements to monitor any fishers that venture on their property and to not disturb the animals. The agreement, called a Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA), gives the landowners regulatory certainty in the event that the fisher is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
That's why the moment last week in Mount Rainier National Park was so special to forest landowners and so many other people. Ten fishers were released, the first in the park in decades, as part of the ongoing effort to reintroduce the animals to the South Cascades.
Mark Doumit, the Executive Director of the Washington Forest Protection Association, and Bill Taylor, President of Taylor Shellfish, wrote in an Everett Herald op-ed last year about the importance of teaching children about working outdoors and in natural resources industries.
It’s heartening to see school districts, state lawmakers and nonprofits like Washington STEM show strong support for improving education in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). As others have noted, Washington has the highest concentration of STEM jobs in the country, and yet the majority of our students aren’t graduating with competency in STEM skills.
What’s been overlooked in the debate is Washington’s leading role as a provider of jobs not in a high-tech office or laboratory but outdoors — in the forest, on the waters of Puget Sound or on the farms of Eastern Washington. Natural resource industries — like farming, forestry, fishing and shellfish growing — have been an integral part of our state’s economy since before it was founded 126 years ago.
Airplane fuel made from wood? We've been following the story closely over several years, including this post last year, and so we are especially happy to report that it happened: an Alaska Airlines flight last week became the first commercial flight to ever run on wood.
An Alaska Airlines flight from Seattle to Washington, D.C., on Monday morning was powered with a jet-fuel blend containing 20 percent renewable biofuel made from Pacific Northwest forest residuals — the limbs and branches that remain after the harvesting of managed forests.
Billed as the first commercial flight running partly on wood, the alternative jet fuel was produced through the research efforts of the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA). Led by Washington State University, the group aims to build a sustainable supply chain for aviation biofuel using the leavings from logging operations.
The wood came from Washington, Oregon and Montana, including forests managed by Weyerhaeuser, the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe and the Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribes.
Collaboration and the concerns of rural communities were top of mind this week at the 108th annual meeting of the Washington Forest Protection Association in Olympia on Nov. 16. The election of Donald Trump as president shined a spotlight on the needs of residents who live in smaller communities outside large cities, several participants said, and Washington state government's continued split - with Republicans controlling the State Senate and Democrats controlling the State House and the Governor's Office - means collaboration is more important than ever.
In Washington State, "people are really going to have to work together in a bipartisan way," said Cindi Holmstrom, a government affairs consultant and former Director of the Washington State Department of Revenue.
Patti Case, public affairs and regulatory manager for Green Diamond Resource Co., added that the invigorated national conversation about the economic disparity among U.S. citizens creates opportunities to show how the forestry industry has a positive economic impact on rural communities.
Washington Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark is leaving office in January after announcing earlier this year that he wouldn't run for re-election.
His eight years in office managing 5.6 million acres of public lands gives him a unique and valuable perspective on the state of Washington's public forests. He will speak at next week's WFPA Annual Meeting, and he sat down last month for a wide-ranging interview with Evergreen Magazine, with forest health a major theme.
Vaagen Brothers Lumber is the largest private employer in Northeast Washington and a national leader in forest collaboration. The company is also an innovator in the use of media to promote the company's operations, active forest management and the power of collaboration. Company Vice President Russ Vaagen has an active blog, and Vaagen Brothers has also posted a large number of videos over the past couple years.
A drone-shot aerial video of the company's Colville, Wash., mill operations was featured in Popular Mechanics and has received more than 416,000 views on YouTube. The company's newest video, "A Forest Story," is an absorbing animated look at how our forests have become overgrown and suspectible to disease, and how active forest managment and forest collaboration can help make forests healthier.
Russ Vaagen recently wrote in his blog about "Era of Megafires," a multimedia presentation that is currently touring the Northwest. The presentation is by Dr. Paul Hessburg, researcher at the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station in Wenatchee and professor at University of Washington, and Wenatchee film company North 40 Productions. Russ Vaagen is also interviewed in the film.
Congress is currently considering legislation that would legally confirm woody biomass as carbon neutral, a move that would be a huge boost for the Washington forestry industry, for forest health and for rural communities.
Dean Rudolf, vice chairman and Western Region director of the Pulp & Paperworkers’ Resource Council, wrote this month in the Spokane Spokesman-Review about the benefits of biomass and why Congress should approve the bill.
Congress is considering whether to require EPA to restore biomass’s carbon neutral rating so long as the ability of U.S. forests to absorb carbon dioxide is stable or expanding. Its action would contribute greatly to controlling climate change and protecting the jobs of those who depend on Washington’s forestry-dependent industries.
It's the third weekend of October, which means it's time to honor the forestry industry with National Forest Products Week. The annual celebration, created by Congress in 1960, is a tribute to the country's forest products industry and the 900,000 American workers who make the industry such a critical piece of the U.S. economy.
President Obama, in his declaration of this year's event, noted:
Today, forests provide products we use each day, including paper, wood, and building and packaging materials. During National Forest Products Week, we express our appreciation for the incredible bounty forests provide and we renew our commitment to ensuring the next generation can enjoy their irreplaceable resources.
We should always remember how critical Washington's forest trust lands are to the funding of our schools, libraries and fire districts, as well as our rural economies and the health of our forests. Jim McEntire writes in the Seattle Times this month from experience. He's a former member of the state Board of Natural Resources and is also a former Port of Port Angeles commissioner and former Clallam County commissioner.
Washington citizens own 2.1 million acres of state-forest trust lands, and these lands are managed by the state Department of Natural Resources for the benefit of various trust beneficiaries, the largest of which is the state’s K-12 school system. Money from timber sales and agricultural land leases provide a substantial and dependable revenue stream to the Legislature and local school districts, greatly helping to fully fund basic education and school construction — more than $124 million in 2015 — plus more money in timber sales from lands held in trust for counties.
Forest thinning is a valuable tool for managing forests that we write about a lot on this blog, including last week. But a tool that doesn't get as much attention but is also important is prescribed burning.
The Yakima Herald-Republic recently took a firsthand look at a prescribed burning program called the Forest Resiliency Burning Pilot, which was approved by the Washington Legislature earlier this year.
The importance of thinning forests and maintaining active management of the forests is a fact that's been established even on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., this summer mentioned a video from the Spokane Tribe with time-lapse video showing the efficiency of the tribe's forest fuel reduction program in the face of a wildfire.
Another Eastern Washington tribe also recognizes the need for active forest management. As wildfire becomes more prevalent, the Confederated Colville Tribes are planning to reopen a sawmill that can process ponderosa pine.
The histories of the timber industry and Washington are intertwined, so much so that one can't separate them. The timber industry was active here even before Washington became a state in 1889 and is still the state's second largest manufacturing sector, supporting 106,000 jobs and $5.2 billion in wages.
This deep history is what makes celebrations like the 75th anniversary earlier this year in Montesano, Wash., of the country's first tree farm so resonant. The timber industry is part of what makes Washington the state it is, and it is still a critical part of people's lives.
This was on full display with a recent story by KNKX Radio (formerly KPLU) about the former logging town of Grisdale, 30 miles outside Montesano, in Grays Harbor County and just inside the border of the Olympic National Forest.
When the town shut down for good in 1986, it was the last logging camp in the continental U.S. (this Knight-Ridder story from December 1985 sets the scene). Simpson Timber Co. opened the town in 1946. Rather than a temporary camp, Simpson had its sights set on a community with more staying power, according to Knight-Ridder.
Seattle Magazine has a long story on cross-laminated timber in its latest issue, laying out the next steps to make CLT more common in the construction of tall buildings in Washington.
Here in Washington, there’s enough raw (CLT) material to immerse us all in that environment. But only a handful of projects in the state have used the material so far—for example, in (Seattle architect Susan) Jones’ CLT house (in Seattle), in the walls of the Bellevue First Congregational Church sanctuary designed by (Jones' firm) Atelierjones and on a building project at Washington State University in Pullman. In Oregon, (Seattle architect) Joe Mayo (who spoke at the 2013 WFPA annual meeting) recently worked on the design for what is to be the first use of U.S.-made CLT on a two-story building project, using panels manufactured by Oregon’s D.R. Johnson.
There are a few other regional CLT building projects in the design process now. In June, Washington state granted design-build contracts to several architects, including Susan Jones of Atelierjones and Joe Mayo of Mahlum, for 900-square-foot classrooms at several elementary schools in western Washington, to be constructed by the end of 2017.
We write regularly about the importance of educating young people about forestry (like this post in May) because it ultimately means nothing less than the future of the industry. New generations must understand the the value of working forests, for the environment, for the economy and for rural communities.
Port Blakely, the Seattle timber company, understood this fact decades ago and started an environmental education program that has allowed Washington fourth graders to tour the woods and learn about the natural environment. The program just celebrated its 25th anniversary.
A coalition of forestry companies and organizations (including the Washington Forest Protection Association) have launched a new website dedicated to solutions on how to reduce our country's number of catrastrophic wildfires and make our forests healthier.
HealthyForestFacts.org includes four principles for a healthy forest:
1. Fuel reduction promotes healthy, fire-resilient forests.
2. Attacking fires with early suppression pays off.
3. An ounce of fire prevention can save property, habitat and lives.
4. Post-fire environmental recovery is a hands-on process we need to do more of.
Wildfires are complicated, and it's not just a matter of the fires breaking out and firefighters rushing in to put out the flames. Wildfire as a public policy issue is about much more than just the fire - were there fire prevention measures completed beforehand like thinning, to make the forests healthier and less suspectible to fire? Why or why not? How were the firefighting resources deployed around the state? These questions could be answered by a host of parties - the U.S. Forest Service, Congress, the Washington Department of Natural Resources and tribal and other local leaders.
It's no surprise that every wildfire season, as fires burn around the West, these policy questions push to the forefront.
Several U.S. senators from the Northwest say they are optimistic that legislation to end the practice of "fire borrowing" could finally be approved in Congress. The bill would end the U.S. Forest Service's practice of raiding other parts of its budget, including money set aside for wildfire prevention, to meet the rising cost of fighting wildfires each summer.
The reason for the new hope? It has something to do with baseball bats.
There is enormous promise in cross-laminated timber (CLT) for the Northwest timber industry. It seems like every week there is news of talll wood buildings being planned around the country, proposed legislation is in Congress to increase the use of CLT and more states are finding ways to build with cross-laminated timber.
One of the challenges, however, is that there are only two places in the U.S. that currently make CLT -- SmartLam in Whitefish, Mont., and DR Johnson in Riddle, Ore. While the number of CLT projects in Washington continues to rise, there will be limitations until CLT is being manufactured in Washington with Washington wood.
This is the case with what is a very encouraging set of school projects in Washington, including new school buildings in Sequim, on the Olympic Peninsula, according to the Peninsula Daily News.
Active forest management isn't just about providing much-needed jobs to rural communities - it's about keeping forests healthy. This is particularly relevant as Washington's forests continue to be overcrowded and fire- and insect-prone because of a lack of management that has lasted too many years.
Two recent opinion pieces, in the Seattle news site Crosscut and in the Eugene Register-Guard, illustrate the importance of the timber industry's continuing role in maintaining healthy forests.
Todd Myers of the Washington Policy Center (and former employee at the Washington Department of Natural Resources) writes in Crosscut that active management must be prioritized, especially as Washington voters this fall decide who to choose as their next Commissioner of Public Lands.
Congratulations are in order for two University of Washington professors who published a report about the causes of the 2014 Oso landslide. Joseph Wartman, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, and David Montgomery, professor of Earth and space sciences, were part of a 7-person team from the Geotechnical Extreme Events Reconnaissance Association (GEER) that just won the Geological Society of America's highest prize for engineering geology for their Oso study.
The GEER team, co-led by Wartman, arrived on the scene just days after the landslide and published their report a few months later. As we wrote at the time, the GEER study "found that one of the largest causes of the slide was extreme rainfall. Thirty inches of rain fell in the three weeks leading up to the slide; the state's average for the entire month of March is just six inches of rain. The landslide's area's history of previous slides played another key role."