Good news in Olympia


Plenty of positive timber news coming out of the Washington Legislature, which is finishing its regular session and going into special session next week.

We wanted to mention two bills that passed and will help the cause of working forests.

  • HB 2420 will go a long way toward promoting and protecting the green jobs of the timber industry. It requires the state to study the industry to determine growth factors, barriers to growth and projections for the future.
  • HB 2541 requires the state Department of Natural Resources to develop landowner conservation proposals by the end of next year that support forest landowners. The proposals should help preserve working forests from the threat of development.

House and Senate committees also held a joint work session last week on the urgency of protecting the state’s forest health. According to the Capital Press, the Northwest Environmental Forum, part of the School of Forest Resources at the University of Washington, had an interesting idea:

The forum…has proposed developing “anchor forests,” which would involve a collaboration of federal, state and private ownership.

Boyle said these would be areas that are most critical to watersheds and soil stability. Management of the anchor forests would “look across ownership boundaries,” he said, looking for long-term, sustainable contracts to stimulate investment in infrastructure.

The university, Boyle said, has assembled a land parcel database that weighs the long-term value of forests in light of the value of real estate development.

Boyle estimated that 900,000 acres of forestland may be converted over the next 30 years to development and non-forest uses. Considering the aging of the average forestland owner and the shaky ecosystem markets, “We need to pay people to produce more biodiversity.”

The state needs to look beyond carbon-trading markets, he said, and it doesn’t need the federal government to take the lead. Starting with a pilot anchor forest, the state could boost income for landowners, stimulate investments and restore infrastructure.

Boyle said other states — Oregon, Minnesota, Vermont, Maryland and Tennessee — could be models for such a program. Washington could create a public utility, based on the watershed, with taxing powers.

“The state’s original goals are not bad,” he said, “but have regulations accomplished them? The Legislature needs to revisit things and ask, ‘Did that really work?’”

What do you think of the idea of “anchor forests”?

Lastly, the U.S. Green Building Council is considering changes to the LEED standard that could include Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) wood products for the first time. Though both sides — SFI and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)are unhappy with the proposed changes right now.