The bark beetle epidemic that has spread across the West in the last 17 years is unmistakable. Forty-six million acres of forests in the U.S. have been affected. In British Columbia, 576,000 acre feet of trees have been killed, which is the same amount of timber that's harvested over a normal 10-year period in B.C.
Forest collaboratives - coalitions of timber and environmental interests, along with local, state and federal leaders - are all the rage right now. We've written about them here in the Northwest many times, and while the projects have been far from perfect, they have undoubtedly been successful in at least getting all the parties at the same table. Just getting timber and environmental interests to sit down together is an accomplishment in itself.
After more than a year of anticipation, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., this week unveiled his plan to increase the federal timber harvest. His plan comes out two months after the U.S. House approved a sweeping timber reform bill, sponsored by Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., called the Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act.
The timber industry in Washington is a real newsmaker. The Longview Daily News reported earlier this month about Weyerhaeuser embarking on a local hiring boom, with timber leaders optimistic about the future.
The plight of our country's timber towns has been well documented here and elsewhere. But it's a story that needs to keep being told because the livelihoods and futures of entire swaths of the American West are at stake.
This year has been a good year for deals to preserve working forests in Washington. From Mount St. Helens to the Seattle area, several deals have been struck with landowners to ensure that forests will continue to be managed and protected from development.
And now the good fortune continues.
The U.S. Green Building Council and its LEED building standard have been enjoying a de facto monopoly in the lucrative green building industry, but that is quickly changing. For years, the USGBC has been getting pressure around its use of the Forest Stewardship Council over the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, a decision that has ruled out much of the U.S. timber supply from any LEED projects.
Washington Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark has long been a supporter of active forest management, including the use of biomass. (He even wrote an op-ed in the Seattle Times about it.) Recent news coverage shows how the state is moving forward on forest thinning and biomass in Eastern and Central Washington.
We've all seen the taglines: "Please don't print this email" or "Save trees: Print only when necessary." But most people who stick these lines at the end of their messages have no idea about how forestry is accomplished, how paper is produced or about the real threats to the world's forests.
It's not very often that one can have a front row seat to the complex process of finding, harvesting and selling timber, but that's exactly what the Vancouver Sun did with a recent multipart series of articles, videos and photos.
Congress recently passed a one-year extension of timber payments to rural counties, with communities in Western states getting much of the funding. Oregon will get the largest share, and Washington counties like Skamania and Grays Harbor will also get payments for at least one more year.
Much of the attention from Northwest newspapers' editorial boards went to President Obama's vow to veto the timber reform legislation if it comes to his desk in its current form.
Today marked some of the best news out of Washington, D.C., in years: the U.S. House passed the Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act, a sweeping set of timber reforms that would increase the federal timber harvest and restore rural communities across the West.
As we wrote about earlier this summer, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is moving forward this fall on a four-year project to kill barred owls in an attempt to help the endangered spotted owl.
The Rim Fire and other wildfires across the West this summer are once again pushing federal forest mismanagement and the need for forest thinning into the spotlight. The Rim Fire, for one, has burned 246,000 acres and is now Calfornia's third largest wildfire ever.
It's been a tough summer for the Forest Stewardship Council. George Mason University released a study showing that an FSC monopoly would cost tens of thousands of people their jobs and several states are working to ban the LEED green building standard (which gives credit for only FSC-certified wood) from any public buildings.
There seems to be a lot of confidence in Washington, D.C., right now that some sort of increase in the federal timber harvest will be approved by Congress. A sweeping package of reforms called the Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act is moving through the House, and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., is working on his own legislation in the Senate.
While the spotted owl continues to grab headlines, another Pacific Northwest bird is having a growing impact on the timber industry and rural communities. The marbled murrelet, a seabird that nests in coastal forests, was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1993. Like the spotted owl, environmental groups use the murrelet as a convenient hammer to file innumerable lawsuits, seeking to stop responsible forest management.
We've been writing for years now about two proposals to increase the federal timber harvest: one by Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., to boost the harvest around the country and another by Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., to boost the harvest in Oregon.
It was great to hear some strong advocates for working forests talk about the value of forest jobs on local radio recently. Cindy Mitchell, Senior Director of Public Affairs for the Washington Forest Protection Association (WFPA), and Patti Case, a Public Affairs Manager for Green Diamond Resource Co., appeared on KMAS Newsradio in Mason County, Wash.