If there was a theme at the Washington Forest Protection Association’s annual meeting in Olympia this week, it was that innovative solutions will be a critical part of the timber industry’s future. Public money is scarce and the old timber battles are over. That the old rules no longer apply was evident with the presence on stage of Martha Kongsgaard, whose husband Peter Goldman (director of the Washington Forest Law Center) has been a thorn in the side of the timber industry for years. Kongsgaard is the chair of the Puget Sound Partnership, a state organization tasked with cleaning up Puget Sound, and she offered valuable insight on how the industry and environmental groups can work together.
State Ecology Director Ted Sturdevant, speaking on the same panel as Kongsgaard, said that solutions like offering economic incentives for environmental protection and forest preservation are more likely because now “the old battles aren’t going to get us there.” Economic success for all parties is no longer possible with “command-and-control regulation,” said Gene Duvernoy, President of Forterra (formerly the Cascade Land Conservancy).
With declining state and federal budgets, even the concept of economic incentives is changing, according to Duvernoy. Instead of government offering the incentives with public money, the incentives need to be created in the private market, but often “those of us who try to create an incentive marketplace don’t understand the (timber) business,” he said.
State Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark, speaking on a later panel, spoke candidly about the failure in this year’s legislative session to pass large-scale reform of the agency he oversees, the Department of Natural Resources. Streamlining of DNR is high on the priority list for the timber industry.
The bill failed because of heavy lobbying from supporters of State Parks and Fish & Wildlife, which would have merged under the legislation and have huge constituencies, Goldmark said. “It has to be really compelling reform to get over (the supporters’) investment,” he said. “…It’s a heavy, heavy lift.”
State House Republican Leader Richard DeBolt said DNR streamlining is necessary because of inefficiencies in the timber permitting system. “There are too many people in the stream…I don’t think we can move our government slowly anymore…we need radical change.”
In relation to the total state budget, DNR reform is relatively small, and yet it feels like some of our political leaders have just thrown their hands in the air, said David Nunes, WFPA President and CEO of Olympic Resource Management. “If we can’t do small bits of the budget, what about the big parts?” he said. “It scares me as a citizen that we’re in that mode.”