In the News

Washington DNR to Lock Up 10,000 Acres of Timberland

The Washington Department of Natural Resources will put 10,000 acres of timberland in Western Washington off limits to logging and work with a company owned by oil giant BP to sell carbon credits.

The trees will be preserved, left uncut to offset emissions by businesses that buy the credits. The program will “repurpose public lands for climate solutions,” said Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz.

The timber industry and some counties and legislators oppose the plan. They contend it will hurt rural economies, schools and public services, and it won’t cut carbon emissions as companies buy credits to keep emitting greenhouse gasses.

State Rep. Ed Orcutt, a forester by trade, said harvested wood products hold carbon and that growing trees sucks up more carbon from the air than mature trees. “It sounds good to lock up timber and say we’re benefitting the climate,” said Orcott, a Southwest Washington Republican. “It feels good. It’s actually bad.”

In a letter to the Department of Natural Resources, the Lewis County commissioners claim Franz violated the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA).

DNR has picked 2,500 acres to set aside in Grays Harbor, King, Thurston and Whatcom counties. The department was seeking public comment on where to conserve the other 7,500 acres.

As timberland, the 10,000 acres would yield 400 million board feet of lumber products, according to the American Forest Resource Council. Timber sales support rural schools, counties, fire districts and other services.

DNR does not know how much selling carbon credits will raise for public services compared to selling timber.

The council, drawing on numbers from a DNR report, estimates that carbon credits will generate about 10 percent of the revenue that could be raised by cutting the trees. The loss to rural schools and public services will total about $150 million, while loggers, truckers and mills will lose about $500 million in economic activity, the council projects.

“We don’t see how carbon offsets can come close” to timber revenue, council spokesman Nick Smith said. “We’re extremely concerned about the consequences of carbon offsets, on public lands in particular.”

Franz announced the partnership with Finite Carbon earlier this year. BP Launchpad, the venture capital arm of BP, formerly British Petroleum, acquired a majority stake in Finite Carbon in 2020.

DNR officials have cleared the project of further environmental review and plan to start leasing land for carbon credits next year.

The Board of Natural Resources, a policy setting panel for DNR, was not involved in planning the project. The vice chairman, Clallam County Commissioner Bill Peach, said no leases should be signed until DNR understands the financial impact to rural services and economies. “It should be discussed at the board level. That conversation has not occurred,” he said.

A company buys credits to reduce its carbon footprint. Walt Disney Co. reports conserving 1 million acres of forests to offset its carbon emissions, including from its five cruise ships.

DNR calculated that leaving the 10,000 acres of timber standing will be like subtracting the greenhouse gasses from gas-powered cars driving 2 billion miles.

Hampton Lumber vice president of resources Doug Cooper told the Board of Natural Resources that the company’s three sawmills in Western Washington rely on DNR timber sales. The jobs lost will be real, said Cooper, questioning whether the same can be said for the purported carbon reductions. “Those cars are still on the road,” he said.

(See related Guest Column, page 38.)

California Forests Weakened By Drought Succumb to Beetles

In forests throughout California, trees are turning a dark shade of rust, succumbing to the impacts of drought.

The problem first peaked in 2016 when the U.S. Forest Service released images from a statewide aerial survey, estimating 62 million trees died that year. Forests benefitted from heavy rain and snowfall in 2017.

However, the Forest Service estimates that 9.5 million trees died last year, mostly fir and pine. Scientists are concerned one more year of drought could lead to another mass die-off.

“It’s on a trajectory to be even worse than when the last one peaked in 2016,” said Curtis Ewing, an entomologist and a senior environmental scientist with CAL FIRE.

Beetles are attacking the weakest trees, he added.

A healthy tree produces sap or pitch that helps keep insects out. Trees weakened by years of drought are left defenseless against invasive beetles.

“They have a very low water pressure inside them,” said Ewing. “Their roots are compromised. Everything is compromised. So they just cannot fight them off.”

Asked what could be done, Ewing said, “You need to thin the trees.”

The federal and state governments are promising to fund more forest-thinning projects.

Rule changes Will Impact 10 Million Acres in Oregon

The Oregon Board of Forestry approved more than 100 changes to the Forest Practices Act. The changes will impact timber harvest activities on more than 10 million acres of private and non-federal forests.

The rule changes are a result of the mediated and groundbreaking Private Forest Accord (PFA) that brought together representatives from conservation groups and the timber industry.

“The rules we adopted are just one of a great many changes coming from the Private Forest Accord that will advance how Oregon protects its natural resources and responds to the climate change crisis, while also providing some stability for the communities and economies that rely on the forest products industry,” said board chair Jim Kelly. “This agreement captures the spirit of cooperation and negotiation we have in this state, where we move past our differences to find solutions.”

The goal of the PFA and the Forest Practices Act rule changes is to provide long-term certainty to industry while providing enhanced protection to critical aquatic species.

“The timber industry is vital to many rural Oregon communities,” said Kelly. “This agreement balances these critical social and economic components with the need to better protect critical forest habitat, which is also incredibly beneficial for Oregonians.”

The state Department of Forestry worked closely with the PFA authors to write the new rules that cover several key areas including:

  • New and wider stream buffers to protect stream habitat that supports salmon, steelhead, bull trout, and amphibians.
  • New design standards and requirements to inventory, maintain and manage forest roads, with an emphasis on replacing culverts on fish-bearing streams.
  • Steep slopes will have more trees retained to improve slope stability and reduce sediment that can impact fish habitat.
  • Enhanced monitoring to better evaluate rule compliance.
  • A new adaptive management program to advise the Board of Forestry on future rule adjustments.

In addition to rule changes, recent legislation also funded the creation of a small forest landowner assistance office, establishment of tax credits to small landowners, started the development of a habitat conservation plan for aquatic species and made investments in training and outreach.

Judge Rules That Oregon Timber Sale Violated ESA

An Oregon District Court judge ruled that approved timber sales totaling nearly 18,000 acres housing old growth timber violated the federal Endangered Species Act as harvesting timber on those sales would impact habitat for the northern spotted owl.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service claimed the timber harvests would not harm the endangered owl species.

In her ruling, District Court Justice Ann Aiken said the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service failed to properly investigate the effects of the East Evans Creek and Milepost 97 fires on the proposed timber sales and the impact of those fires on northern spotted owl habitat. Judge Aiken faulted the agencies for failing to analyze the effect of habitat loss resulting from the logging projects on the competitive interactions between the northern spotted owl as well as the barred owl.

Nick Cady, a spokesperson for Cascadia Wildlands, which opposed the logging plans, said in a news release that the Milepost 97 Fire alone burned more than 4,700 acres of northern spotted owl habitat and “reduced canopy closure below 40 percent in a narrow but vitally important east-west habitat bridge.”

“This constant prohibition of managing timber through the courts is a mistake,” said Douglas County Commissioner Tim Freeman, president of the Association of O&C Counties. “We should let land managers and foresters manage the forest and not let the courts and environmental groups dictate best forest practices.”

CAL FIRE OKs Logging Project

CAL FIRE has approved plans for selective logging of redwood and Douglas fir trees on 224 acres above the lower Russian River between Guerneville and Monte Rio. Its approval raises the prospect of legal action by opponents who hope they still might prevent the Silver Estates harvest from going forward.

The state agency granted approval after months of public scrutiny, plan revisions and delays that critics say reflect the proposal’s fundamentally flawed nature.

Eric Huff, staff chief of Cal Fire’s Forest Practice Program, said the final version conforms with state Forest Practice Rules. The decision authorizes landowner Roger Burch and his family to carry out its provisions any time over the next five years.

What happens next appears to depend in large part on whether Burch and his representatives decide to begin operations this winter, within the restrictions permitted for the traditional wet weather season.

An attorney for the grassroots Guerneville Forest Coalition and its nonprofit sponsor, Forest Unlimited, is trying to determine when the operational start might be before deciding whether to seek a temporary restraining order.

Critics argue the plan to cut timber on Neeley Hill and areas around it threatens several endangered and threatened species and risks undermining steep, unstable hillsides, which could trigger landslides, damage roads and compromise water quality, among other problems.

Alaska Native Groups Sue Over Carbon Credits Revenue

A lawsuit by Alaska Native corporations threatens to upend a landmark revenue sharing pact that’s guided the distribution of more than $2 billion among them for more than four decades.

The litigation stems from a 1982 settlement agreement that has long defused financial disputes between the 12 regional Native corporations. It outlined how the companies should share income from exploiting resources like forests, but the agreement did not specify what should happen with money earned by preserving them.

The lawsuit centers on a major new revenue stream that has generated more than $100 million for three of the regional corporations since 2016. Juneau-based Sealaska Corp., Copper River Valley-based Ahtna Inc. and Gulf of Alaska-area Chugach Alaska Corp. have all put tracts of timber holdings into California’s carbon credits markets, which allow forest owners to get paid for keeping lands unharvested for 100 years.

The plaintiffs argue that the 1982 agreement and a 1971 federal law – the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) – that underpins it require 70 percent of those carbon credit revenues to be shared among the rest of the regional corporations.

The 1982 agreement calls for revenue sharing disputes to be handled by a private, three-member arbitration panel. However, after a unanimous panel decision in July that found the carbon credit revenues not subject to sharing, the three plaintiffs – Nome-based Bering Straits Native Corp., Kotzebue-based NANA Regional Corp. and Bethel-based Calista Corp. – appealed their case to the state court system.

They’re asking Anchorage Superior Court Judge Jack McKenna to either award them a portion of the carbon credits money under the 1982 agreement or – if he rules that the pact doesn’t apply – to invalidate it altogether.

“ANCSA is clear regarding the requirements for revenue sharing,” said Matt Findley, an attorney representing Calista. “Seventy percent of all revenues received by each ANCSA regional corporation from their timber resources and mineral resources are subject to revenue sharing.” Calista and the two other plaintiffs, he added, “are pursuing this action to ensure the text and intent of ANCSA are honored.”

The lawsuit could invalidate the 1982 agreement and launch a new era of disputes and litigation.

California Senators, Reps Urge Forest Service Action

U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla (both D-Calif.) joined Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.) in a bipartisan letter to the U.S. Forest Service about the lack of forest management and fire preparedness efforts made in Grizzly Flats, the California town that was destroyed by the Caldor Fire in 2021.

Their letter urges the Forest Service to reevaluate its fire prevention strategies and improve its community protection efforts to prevent further destruction caused by future wildfires.

As revealed in a recent investigation by CapRadio, the Forest Service failed to take the necessary steps to protect Grizzly Flats from a wildfire the size of the Caldor Fire despite models showing its imminence and pleas from the community to do so. According to the investigation, the failure to fully implement the Trestle Forest Health Project in a timely manner ultimately led to the town’s destruction as a result of the fast-moving fire, which followed a path predicted by models.

“It is unacceptable that the town’s proactive efforts and calls for aggressive fire mitigation assistance were met with inaction and delays from the Forest Service,” the lawmakers wrote.

Tim CoxCox Appointed TW Editor

Tim Cox, a veteran journalist with experience covering the forest products industry, has been appointed Editor of TimberWest magazine. He began his new duties Nov. 1.

“Tim comes to TimberWest Magazine with a breadth of knowledge matched by few where the forest industry is concerned,” said Anthony Robinson, Publisher of TimberWest. “We are excited to have Tim on board and look forward to introducing him to many customers and industry connections at the Oregon Logging Conference in February.”

Cox has worked for Industrial Reporting, publishers of Pallet Enterprise and TimberLine magazines, serving as the editor of both magazines for 12 years. Pallet Enterprise is a monthly trade journal for the pallet manufacturing and recycling industry; TimberLine covers logging, sawmills, and lumber remanufacturing. Cox has continued to contribute to both publications. He also has written for Southern Logging Times, and he did a stint providing marketing communications for Caterpillar’s logging equipment division.

In addition to his experience with trade media covering the forest products industry, Cox has worked as a reporter and editor for weekly and daily newspapers in three states. He also was employed as a newsman for United Press International, during which time his by-line appeared in The Washington Post and other newspapers.

“I’m delighted to have the opportunity to help produce TimberWest and deliver news and information to our readers and increase exposure for our advertisers,” said Cox.

Robinson also thanked outgoing Editor Diane Mettler. “Diane made an amazing contribution to TimberWest and Logging & Sawmilling Journal for nearly 20 years as a contributor and editor,” he said. “We wish her well in her next adventures.”

Mettler recently was named executive director of the Pacific Logging Congress and the Olympic Logging Congress.

“No doubt we will continue to work with Diane,” said Robinson.

TimberWest November/December 2013
November/December 2022

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Gedenberg Log Trucking Serves Loggers and Mills, in Oregon, Washington
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Tips for Winterizing Your Machines
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Guest Column
Washington Department of Natural Resources should be held accountable for scheme that rewards polluters while failing state trust land beneficiaries and the people of Washington.


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