Benefits of working forests celebrated at 2018 WFPA Annual Meeting

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Working forests help address many of the state’s problems, from climate change and poor forest health to rampaging wildfires and struggling rural economies, attendees heard at the 2018 Annual Meeting of the Washington Forest Protection Association this week in Olympia.

Tesla gets a lot of positive attention for the environmental impact of its electric cars, but in fact working forests and wood products in Washington are a net sequester of carbon, while Tesla facilities are a net emitter of carbon, said Indroneil Ganguly, assistant professor at University of Washington’s School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, during a midday panel on the carbon benefits of working forests. “If government gives incentives to Tesla, they should also give it to wood,” he said.

Ganguly added, “We are never a net (carbon) negative. We are always a net positive.”

In the morning, several experts participated in a panel to discuss how to keep Washington’s forests resilient and healthy, and a panel in the afternoon explored the legacy of the Forests & Fish Law, which has its 20th anniversary next year.

Kevin Godbout, Director of Environmental Affairs for Weyerhaeuser, said his company’s commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship through policy like the Forests & Fish Law are woven into his company’s mission. “This isn’t about our children but about our grandchildren,” he said.

In June of this year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the state of Washington must replace hundreds of road culverts that block salmon passage. Forest owners have been leading in the state for two decades fixing culverts. Since 1999, forest owners have removed 7,300 fish passage barriers across 9.3 million acres, reopening 5,100 miles of fish habitat.

JD Marshall, Area Manager of NE Washington for Hancock Natural Resource Group, said forest landowners’ record on improving fish habitat speaks for itself. “We’re not arguing in the Supreme Court whether it should be done or not. We did it.”

Bill Monahan, Resource Unit Leader at Rayonier, said his company has devoted $30 million to remove 750 structures that were impeding fish, opening up 200 miles of fish habitat. The company sees salmon returning soon after the work is done. “The success is there. We’re proud of it,” Monahan said. “We can see the benefits.”

Jeff Davis, Assistant Director of the Habitat Program for the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, said residents around the state have shared values of environmental stewardship and protecting the outdoors. Taking care of fish and wildlife is really about taking care of people, he said.

Several legislators looked toward next year’s legislative session in the final panel of the day. Rep. J.T. Wilcox, R-Yelm, cautioned against impacting rural communities with any tax or policy. Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia, said the state has come a long way in addressing carbon with the market-based system and improved technology.

This year’s WFPA annual meeting was also a celebration of the 110th anniversary of WFPA, which was founded in 1908 when leaders in the timber business mailed letters to timberland owners inviting them to form a voluntary association to suppress forest fires. The group has grown over the last century and now represents private forest landowners growing and harvesting trees on about 4 million acres in Washington. Members are large and small companies, individuals and families who practice sustainable forestry in Washington’s private forests.

Read more about the year in Washington forestry in the 2018 WFPA Annual Report.

Watch WFPA’s 2018 Annual Meeting on TVW:

President Court Stanley welcome/remarks, Executive Director Mark Doumit remarks, Special Guest – Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz.

“Washington’s Working Forests – Managing Forest Resiliency” with Cody Desautel (Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation), JD Marshall (Hancock Natural Resource Group), Julie Sackett (WA Dept of Natural Resources), Cynthia Wilkerson (WA Dept of Fish & Wildlife), & moderated by Doug Hooks (WFPA).

“A Carbon Conversation” with Indroneil Ganguly, Jason Spadaro, & Edie Sonne Hall.

“Forests & Fish, 20 Years Later, We’ve Done It, What’s Next for Salmon Recovery?” with Heather Bartlett (WA Dept of Ecology), Jeff Davis (WA Dept of Fish & Wildlife), Kevin Godbout (Weyerhaeuser Co), Bill Monahan (Rayonier), Ted Sturdevant (WA Dept of Natural Resources), & moderated by Cindy Mitchell (WFPA).

“Legislative Perspective on Forestry Today & Tomorrow” with State Senators Christine Rolfes (D-23rd Dist) & John Braun (R-20th Dist), State Representatives Steve Tharinger (D-24th Dist) & J.T. Wilcox (R-2nd Dist), and moderated by Jason Callahan (WFPA); wrap up and passing of gavel ceremony.