Wood building, Forests & Fish Law lead the charge in 2014 WFPA Annual Meeting


The rise of wood as a construction material for tall buildings and the 15th anniversary of the landmark Forests & Fish Law were the most prominent themes at the 106th annual meeting of the Washington Forest Protection Association this week.About 140 people were on hand in Olympia on Nov. 6 for the annual gathering of the state’s timber industry.

Several of the speakers and panelists said the use of cross-laminated timber (CLT) to construct large buildings in the U.S. has the potential to transform the industry. Dr. Thomas Maness, the Dean of the School of Forestry at Oregon State University, said CLT helps educators connect with forestry students and push the timber industry out of old ways of thinking.

Gene Duvernoy, President of the conservation group Forterra, said he enjoyed listening to a panel of young forestry professionals talk about the industry’s future earlier in the meeting. The young professionals’ enthusiasm and drive, along with the promise of cross-laminated timber for the industry, will be a potent combination. “Think about what’s going to come from that next generation” in the industry, Duvernoy said. “It’s really exciting.”

Washington State — with a large supply of wood, an active timber industry and a history of innovation — has the potential to be the nation’s leader in cross-laminated timber and its use in large buildings, Duvernoy said.

The annual meeting was also an opportunity to mark the 15th anniversary of the state’s 1999 Forests & Fish Law, one of the toughest sets of environmental regulations in the country. Since the law was passed, large forest landowners have improved tens of thousands of miles of forest roads, reopened about 3,800 miles of fish habitat and cleared about 5,600 stream blockages.

Former U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, who was honored with the WFPA’s Stu Bledsoe Award for outstanding leadership, said he recalled working with tribal, timber and community leaders to support the Forests & Fish Law, as well as its predecessor, the Timber, Fish and Wildlife Agreement. It’s appropriate that each year WFPA airs commercials promoting the benefits of the Forests & Fish Law, he said. “Keep running those ads because it shows we really came up with something of real significance for this state.”

State Forester Aaron Everett participated in a panel discussing how to keep Forests & Fish powerful and relevant in coming years. The key, he said, is to maintain the passion and interest in the law, as well as in the adaptive management process that brings all the stakeholders together and guides how the law changes according to the latest science.

“We probably ought to celebrate (Forests & Fish) on its anniversary every year,” not just on major milestone years, Everett said.

The law has “all the machinery (to remain robust) but we have to continue to make this all about the people involved or we’re going to lose the energy,” Everett said.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who gave the meeting’s keynote address, said the Forests & Fish Law and the rise of wood buildings are just some of the timber industry’s accomplishments. Wood is a natural resource and the only building material that is grown by the power of the sun. “You are a solar-powered industry,” Inslee told the crowd.

Go here for more details about all the meeting’s panels, participants and awards, and here for WFPA’s 2014 Annual Report.