At the annual meeting in May LWVSC Members will vote on a program of work to support protections of mature forests in Snohomish County. These forests are naturally regenerated, generally pre-1945, and older. They are carbon-dense, structurally complex forests, which, if left to grow, will become the next generation of old growth. Actions must be taken that support rural communities and emphasize forest health, biodiversity, and climate protection. There are about 6,000 acres of mature forests in the lowlands of Snohomish County vulnerable to logging. One is a 138-acre sale called Hog Wild near Spada Lake. It is scheduled to be logged in June of this year.
There are about 77,000 acres of these older forests in Washington. They represent a little over 3 percent of the forests managed by the Washington Department of Natural Resources. Despite their small acreage, they are among the most carbon-dense in the world, making them invaluable tools for fighting climate change. While timber is an important product and provides benefits to the community, these older forests are worth more standing than the value of the cut timber. Only about 20% of the carbon stored in a cut tree is retained in wood products. The rest is released into the atmosphere as a cut tree is processed. By leaving these older, carbon dense forests standing, we avoid emitting over 31 million metric tons of carbon - If we left all 77,000 acres standing we would accomplish one half of the state’s CO2 sequestration objective without lifting a finger!
On July 21, 2022, the Washington State Supreme Court issued a unanimous ruling in Conservation Northwest v. Commissioner of Public Lands case. While the Court confirmed the trust mandate under which the DNR operates, the Court found that the State has great latitude in how it is carried out. The DNR need not maximize revenue from logging and has multiple ways it can create benefits for beneficiaries and the broader public. Other forest management must be developed.
Many groups in Washington are in support of an immediate moratorium on any further commercial harvest of mature forests on public lands in Washington. We should advocate for cessation of harvest. These actions should include:
Permanent conservation of unique older forests on public lands.
Acquisition of replacement land for the trusts, to maintain or expand the state trust land base with new land managed as working forests.
Climate-smart forest management on replacement lands for more carbon sequestration and timber production.
Compensation to county beneficiaries to ensure essential local services are maintained.
LWVUS further says, “The League of Women Voters of the United States and more than 110 other organizations sent a letter ... to comment on how mature and old-growth trees and forests should be defined and managed to provide the greatest climate, biodiversity, and drinking water benefits for the United States.” “Conserving mature and old-growth forests on Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands offers one of the most straightforward, cost-effective ways to protect existing carbon stores while allowing these forests and trees to continue to pull vast amounts of carbon from the atmosphere —an essential climate strategy that scientists recognize must be implemented alongside cutting greenhouse gas emissions." LWVUS Joins Call to Protect Old Growth Forests
Thurston County Commissioners signed a unanimous resolution
to DNR to stop cutting legacy forests in their county.
As Washington State works hard to cut carbon emissions, we already hold one of the world’s most powerful climate tools right here in our state forests: 77,000 acres of older, diverse, carbon-dense forests, many close to 100 years old. If we log these carbon workhorses, we release that carbon and backslide on our climate goals. If these older forests are clear-cut as planned, it is estimated that over 31 million metric tons of CO2 will be emitted just in the course of harvest and manufacturing. That’s the equivalent of the emissions from 1.5 years of fuel use for the entire state. Even counting the carbon in harvested wood products and assumed forest regrowth, these excess emissions will remain in the atmosphere after 120 years. (Law, B.E.; Moomaw, W.R.; Hudiburg, T.W.; Schlesinger, W.H.; Sterman, J.D.; Woodwell, G.M. Creating Strategic Reserves to Protect Forest Carbon and Reduce Biodiversity Losses in the United States. Land 2022, 11, 721
There are alternatives to cutting our mature forests. LWVWA supports the use of Natural Climate Solutions which have funding through the WA Climate Commitment Act. These investments in Washington’s older forests fit multiple goals: carbon sequestration, forest health, working lands protected from conversion, and resilience to climate change impacts including wildfire, flooding, water shortage, and biodiversity loss.
LWVWA supports the Trust Land Transfer Revitalization. This program will allow the WA Dept. of Natural Resources to take underperforming forestlands out of its portfolio and preserve them. Then DNR will buy better performing forestlands increasing the money generated for beneficiaries.
Counties that have relied on logging revenues from trust lands for essential public services must no longer be ignored. We must develop new revenue sources and funding approaches to help fund the important services provided by rural counties and their junior taxing districts (e.g., hospitals and fire). The climate benefits from intact forests accrue to the public broadly, so it is appropriate that the public pay to keep the forests intact. It is also in the broad public interest to address the need for new forms of economic development in many rural communities. Fortunately, there is abundant skilled work in sustainable forest harvesting and restoration such as proforestation.
In recent decades, logging revenues have constituted a decreasing share of the overall budget for K-12 school construction. As Superintendent Chris Reykdal highlighted at a 2019 BNR meeting, revenues from state trust lands provide a minimal share of funding for programs such as the Common School Construction Fund; a mere one to six percent in recent years. “This is not the future of school construction. It just isn’t."
Please attend the Annual Meeting
and support this program of work to protect mature forests in Snohomish County.