It was great to hear some strong advocates for working forests talk about the value of forest jobs on local radio recently. Cindy Mitchell, Senior Director of Public Affairs for the Washington Forest Protection Association (WFPA), and Patti Case, a Public Affairs Manager for Green Diamond Resource Co., appeared on KMAS Newsradio in Mason County, Wash.
As Mitchell and Case said, a lot of people don’t know the scope of the timber industry’s economic impact. WFPA has put together a handy interactive map at WorkingForests.org for Washington residents to click on their county and see key figures like total forestland acreage, total working forests acreage, forestry jobs (direct and indirect) and the wages and taxes generated by those jobs.
Mitchell explained: “I don’t think people realize how many forestry jobs are in the state – there were about 50,000 jobs when we last counted in 2008. When you add up the indirect impact of those jobs, the timber industry supports nearly 120,000 jobs statewide.” Mitchell pointed out that the forest industry is the 2nd largest manufacturing employer behind transportation, primarily Boeing.
“What’s more,” Mitchell continued, “the timber industry produces products for the nation and world. We truly are the wood basket for the nation – for example, in Mason County enough timber was harvested in 2011 to produce 15,000 homes.” In addition to jobs, working forests support the public values for open green space, clean water, healthy fish and wildlife habitat.
It’s not just the rural counties. King County, which is home to Seattle, has 514,000 acres of working forest and nearly 20,000 forest industry jobs (direct and indirect), producing $954 million in wages and $27 million in taxes and fees.
Pierce County, home to Tacoma, has 415,000 acres of working forest and nearly 14,000 total forest industry jobs, producing $604 million in wages and $16 million in taxes and fees.
Washington doesn’t just have a vibrant timber industry, but an industry that is improving the environment, Mitchell and Case told KMAS.
Case explained that Washington State has some of the toughest forest practices regulations in the world. “At Green Diamond,” she explained, ‘we have a Habitat Conservation Plan which includes prescriptions to protect 51 aquatic and terrestrial species as well as clean water. Other forest landowners in Washington must comply with the Forests and Fish Law, which provides similar protections.
According to Mitchell, the Forests & Fish Law covers all state and private forestland in Washington State, some 9.3 million acres of forest land and 60,000 miles of streams. “In addition to providing good jobs and renewable wood products, the timber industry also protects public resources, such as fish and wildlife habitat, clean air & water, and green open space, something we don’t have much of in the big city,” said Mitchell. Private forest land owners are improving their road networks to ensure that silt or washouts from roads won’t impact streams, which protects water quality and habitat for fish. The industry has invested $167 million to date improving their road systems.
For more information about the state’s innovative Forests & Fish Law, go to ForestsAndFish.com.