Seattle PI: "DNR seeks green star for logging"
The state Department of Natural Resources has decided to seek the greenest of the green seals of approval for some of its logging operations.
Across 141,000 acres at Tiger Mountain and other state-owned timberlands in the southern Puget Sound region, the agency will seek certification from the Forest Stewardship Council that its timber is being cut in a "sustainable" way.
That means that logging -- on as many acres as half of Mount Rainier National Park -- will be done at a pace that can go on indefinitely without exhausting the forests.
The move should help timber producers that bid on state logging contracts market the wood as environmentally friendly, state Lands Commissioner Doug Sutherland told the state Board of Natural Resources Tuesday.
"It maintains a better position in the marketplace for our producers," Sutherland said. "The marketplace is getting more and more competitive, and the more we can allow our producers to compete in the marketplace, the better off we are."
It could be the beginning of a larger trend. Environmentalists have long pushed for this, although they would like to see it done statewide.
"I'm excited about this," said Becky Kelley of the Washington Environmental Council. "We worked for years to try to convince DNR this is a good thing, and I'm pleased to see them warming to the idea."
"It happens to be the (region) where the most people see what DNR is doing," she added. "It's important they don't get the seal of approval here, and then do less responsible practices where they're out of the public eye."
The DNR launched the process two years ago when it asked stewardship council auditors to examine its operations, spokeswoman Patty Henson said. After that, the state created an overall timber harvest plan, but environmentalists challenged it in a lawsuit. The state lost and is rewriting the plan for its 2.1 million acres of timberland.
The 141,000 acres at issue in southern Puget Sound represents about 7 percent of DNR forestland.
What will the state have to do differently? That's unclear for now. But when council auditors visited two years ago, they said it would mean:
· Waiting longer before logging any given area, or leaving more trees behind.
· Permanently preserving old-growth forests.
· Hiring more biologists.
The state constitution requires that revenue from state-owned timberland be used to support school and university construction projects, among other government purposes. The DNR has to balance the need to earn money with other objectives, including preserving forests over the long term.
The agency has won certification for its forests under the Sustainable Forestry Initiative developed by the American Forest and Paper Association, a national timber industry lobby. But environmentalists pushed for the Forest Stewardship Council seal of approval because they consider it more rigorous.
Bruce Bare, dean of the College of Forest Resources at the University of Washington, serves on the state Board of Natural Resources. He said Sutherland has told him the move won't cost the state much.
But, Bare said, when the UW considers earning the same seal of approval for some of its timberland, "one thing that keeps coming up ... is leaving more green trees. There's a value you're leaving behind."
Overall, he said, "It will demonstrate that the DNR is serious about sustainable forestry."
Kelley, the environmentalist, said, "They're not getting the gold star today. They're saying they want it. It will be real interesting to see the next step."
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P-I reporter Robert McClure can be reached at 206-448-8092 or firstname.lastname@example.org