Forest products sector can help mitigate against climate change

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A tree’s ability to capture and store carbon long-term throughout the life of the tree and in wood products can be a significant contributor to our state’s climate change mitigation solutions. In Washington, we are blessed with one of the best places in the world to grow and harvest trees, and manufacture carbon-storing wood products, which all support more than 101,000 jobs across the state.

This week, lawmakers heard from members of the forest products sector, scientists and supporters that a recent University of Washington study shows that together, the private forest sector absorbs 12% of our state’s carbon emissions. The Daily World, Sequim Gazette and the Nisqually Valley News reported on a bipartisan effort to support the timber industry and recognize the forest sector’s role in addressing climate change.

The Washington State House of Representatives Rural Development, Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee held a public hearing this week on HB 2528, which would recognize that an integrated forest product sector lowers the state’s carbon footprint. Primary bill sponsor Rep. Bill Ramos (D-Issaquah) spoke in advance of the public comment period, explaining why he supported the legislation.

Said Ramos to the committee:

“What we’re trying to do here is really get a good, solid agreement on policy and definition…recognizing the contributions of the forest products industry. To maintain good long-term harvest and sequestration, we have to have a good forest products industry that’s working throughout. We have to make sure that we don’t lose part of it and then we have maybe trees but no way to get them to market.”

Several Washington Forest Protection Association members and allies also spoke in favor of the HB 2528.

Jason Spadaro, SDS Lumber Company president, testified before the committee and underscored that having the state recognize the forestry as part of the solution to climate change would provide other benefits as well. A robust timber sector helps bolster rural economic development and helps promote healthy, resilient forests, he stated.

Said Spadaro:
“When you think about it no other industry in the state of Washington can do what we do. Every day, we get up and go to work and our trees are pulling carbon out of the atmosphere and storing it in solid wood materials.”

Court Stanley, Port Blakely President, spoke before the committee on how the bill would promote the forestry carbon cycle by encouraging more landowners to plant and sustainably harvest trees. The bill includes provisions that could motivate private forestland owners to plant and maintain working forests to help the state meet its carbon reduction goals.

Said Stanley:

“Keeping existing forests as forests and planting new working forests is the most effective way to combat climate change, and this bill does that. It incentivizes forestation and planting over burned-over land. And, it has the ability to provide a market-based approach to carbon trading now.”

In her role as a researcher, Elaine O’Neil of the Washington Farm Forestry Associationarticulated to lawmakers the vital role the forestry sector plays in a circular economy that promotes sustainable forest practices.

Said O’Neil:

“It’s really clear that without markets you don’t keep forests. That is this true in Washington as it is across the globe. We’ve seen that across the globe that where there are markets, there is an incentive to reforest and maintain high carbon stocks. In fact, in this in this state we have not seen a decline in the forest carbon stocks in our managed lands in over sixty years.”