Board reviews impacts of conservation and timber harvest alternatives

Board of Natural Resources examines financial projections for several approaches to forest management and habitat conservation

OLYMPIA – At their regular monthly meeting Wednesday, members of the state Board of Natural Resources dug into a staff-prepared draft financial analysis of several alternatives for managing revenue-producing western Washington state trust lands into the next decade.

The projections in the analysis are intended to show board members the financial impacts of various proposed alternatives for a sustainable timber harvest volume for state trust lands in the 2015 to 2024 planning decade.

“We have before us literally dozens of well-defined scenarios from which to select and each one will have an impact on the future of entire communities, forests and species,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, who chairs the board. “With the financial analysis we discussed today, we are getting a clearer picture of the economic impacts of the decisions we will make.”

As part of its process to select a sustainable harvest level for state trust lands, the board also is reviewing a number of alternatives for the long-term conservation of marbled murrelet habitat, a key element required in DNR’s habitat conservation plan agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. As it does so, the board is examining the impacts those alternatives might have on DNR’s trust land management obligations, such as generating revenue for trust beneficiaries.

An interactive map on the DNR website at viewers to explore the various alternatives in a draft environmental impact statement for murrelet habitat conservation written by DNR and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services.

“The Board and DNR have a fiduciary duty to manage state trust lands for income for public schools, counties and other beneficiaries, but we also have a clear legal obligation to support the habitat conservation goals set by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” Franz said. “How to meet both of these responsibilities is the challenge before us.”

While the murrelet strategies and sustainable harvest calculation undergo extensive public environmental review, Franz reiterated that she intends to seek additional ideas on how to reduce unintended impacts and shortcomings of the various alternatives.

“Setting aside land for habitat may help the murrelet but it will definitely make an immediate — most likely, negative — impact on many local economies,” Franz said. “Let’s get creative and start asking if there are realistic solutions to help both the murrelet and our rural communities.”

The board plans to tour Southwest Washington to visit forests that might be included in its murrelet conservation plan and meet citizens and leaders of the area’s communities as part of its next meeting on August 17 and 18.