The Washington Forest Protection Association, the trade association for the state’s private forest owners, had its annual meeting last week, and the conversation veered from green building and the EPA biomass rule to development rights and conservation easements. But the buzzword was regulations, or rather, the desire for fewer regulations and a more predictable permitting process for forest landowners.
“We need to look at the regulatory web and look at how we can collapse it,” Jim Warjone, the chairman of Port Blakely Companies, told the crowd of 150 people.
“Predictability is critical,” he added.
The onus is on state lawmakers and officials to streamline the process, though this will be a difficult legislative session coming up in January. As in most other states, Washington faces a large budget deficit. Filling the $5.7 billion gap will mean making tough choices, according to Jay Manning, Gov. Christine Gregoire’s chief of staff.
Social services, corrections, higher education and health care for the poor will probably take the brunt of the impact, Manning said at the annual meeting. “We’ll be removing vast portions of these programs and it’s just sad.”
Rep. Brian Blake, D-Aberdeen, and a former logger, said it will be a “gut wrenching budget to write” but he would still like to see the state make permitting easier. “We’ve got to untie that knot,” he said.
David Nunes, the new president of the Washington Forest Protection Association, took the gavel at the end of the meeting. He said one goal should be to emulate British Columbia’s Wood First Initiative, which promotes the use of wood in the construction of public buildings, with an emphasis on wood harvested in B.C.
Washington’s state government should have a similar policy, Nunes said. “Why not Washington Timber First?”