Forestry bills succeed in Legislature

2017-05-12 Ashley Bach

We've written a couple times about a bill in the Legislature this year that will make it easier for forest owners to help salmon, and that's because it's a critical piece of legislation.

And now the bill is state law. Gov. Inslee signed the bill on Monday. The legislation streamlines the regulatory process for Road Maintenance and Abandonment Plans (RMAP) for landowners. To date, forest landowners have spent more than $300 million in private investment opening more than 700 river miles for potential salmon habitat by removing or replacing culverts and other stream-crossing structures.

Just two days after Inslee's bill signing, the Washington state departments of Ecology, Fish and Wildlife, and Natural Resources honored 43 large forest landowners for their commitment over the last 15 years to improving forest roads and clearing fish passage barriers to help salmon and improve water quality.

“After investing more than $300 million dollars collectively, these landowners upgraded more than 25,000 miles of forest roads, replaced over 6,000 in-stream barriers to fish and opened an excess of 3,500 miles of previously blocked stream habitat,” said Hilary Franz, Commissioner of Public Lands, who also oversees the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “Their efforts are worthy of special recognition because they completed their work on time, and despite the many challenges of a major economic recession.”

“This is a milestone well worth recognizing because these forest landowners stepped up their efforts and did their part to help protect and restore water quality in our forests,” Tom Laurie, senior advisor for tribal and environmental affairs, Department of Ecology. Thanks to them, more cool, clean water is flowing out of our forests into the watersheds and waterways of Washington state.”

“Our department very much appreciates the efforts of these private landowners,” said Jim Unsworth, director, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. “Even during the recent recession, they remained committed to opening miles of habitat and contributing to the vitality of fish populations and the health of our watersheds. Their actions support sustainable fisheries, outdoor recreation opportunities and the state’s economy.”

A few other high-profile bills important to the forestry industry:

  • The governor signed a bill sponsored by Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, that extends the reporting date for timber purchases. This allows for potential changes in tax policy and market conditions by changing the reporting deadline from July 1, 2018 to July 1, 2021.
  • Also now state law is a bill sponsored by Rep, Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, that requires the state Department of Natural Resources to enter into preemptive wildfire suppression agreements with local contractors as well as landowners. The department must take into consideration the availability, location and condition of equipment as well as the training and safety certifications of personnel.