Laudable logging, but defer to science
Editorials & Opinion:
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
A contradiction is at the heart of a laudable effort to promote voluntary management of Washington timberlands for the best interests of fish, forests and critters.
Gov. Christine Gregoire and Commissioner of Public Lands Doug Sutherland have asked the federal government to accept state logging rules as the best protection for 9.1 million acres of forest land. If key federal agencies agree, timberland owners are assured for the next 50 years of "no surprises" from the federal government on environmental regulations and the Endangered Species Act.
The apparent conundrum behind that big promise is a parallel understanding this new Habitat Conservation Plan will change over time in response to the best available science. Indeed, the agreement is void if there is not enough money to fund good science in the decades ahead.
The front end of an agreement that will run a half-century is precisely the time to ask what the phrase "adaptive management" means in light of what might be learned later.
Oh, and who pays to put the changes in place?
"This is not a static action," Sutherland said as the state announced its intention to seek a federal endorsement. "Things do change, and we do have ways and procedures to recognize, change and improve the Habitat Conservation Plan."
Predictability is welcome for a forest-products industry buffeted by change best described as seismic upheaval.
An agreement with the federal government acknowledges a particular way of doing business, and offers a legal dispensation for endangered and threatened species displaced or killed by those actions.
The state Forest Practices Rules being forwarded to the federal government are the product of years of negotiations by government, industry, tribes and, more recently, environmental interests. Green groups argue these standards already represent a low threshold of acceptable performance and stewardship, and they worry about the future.
We share in the enthusiasm that a pact with the federal government represents, in Gregoire's words, "a high-level illustration of sustainability at work."
But first explain the conundrum. Provide assurances that science will be respected as more is learned over time.