The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Hot market means timber revenue boost for county


October 12, 2017

Thanks to a hot timber market, Wahkiakum County government should receive several hundred thousand dollars more than expected this year in revenue from county trust timber lands.

County officials expected around $1.1 million in timber revenue when preparing their 2017 budgets. On Tuesday, representatives of the state Department of Natural Resources said they expected revenues to come closer to $1.58 million because of strong markets.

The warm summer slowed logging and reduced supply, said District Manager Padraic Callahan. Also, the county's big timber sale had more volume than predicted.

The strong market bodes well for 2018, Callanhan said; a sale estimated at $1.1 million should generate close to $1.5 million for the county.

Commissioner Dan Cothren feels the markets will stay high for some time. Damage across the nation from hurricanes and fires has already tightened the supply of lumber as rebuilding efforts begin in the damaged regions.

"I see some real promising times for timber," Cothren said. "We need to capture some of that volume now."

Cothren mentioned timber volume, called arrearage, that was planned for harvest in the past few years but withheld from logging because of the development of a habitat management plan for marbled murrelets, an endangered species.

Region Manager Steve Ogden replied that the department plans to harvest the arrearage, but it's tied up in the murrelet habitat plan, which the Board of Natural Resources (BNR) may approve at its November meeting. Further, the harvest has to fit into the department's long term sustainable harvest plan, which won't be finished until the BNR acts on the murrelet plan.

Ogden added that the agency is looking at other ways to increase revenue. A program started in the Southwest region was to study sales trends and prices; they now offer sales during the times of year when prices have traditionally been higher instead of spreading them throughout the year.

Cothren commented that the state agency is slower than private industry in preparing sales, and the region staff have worked to have sales ready.

"You guys have done that, and we see it in the prices," Cothren said.

The county has approximately 12,000 acres of trust timberland managed by the DNR. Traditionally, timber revenue has been a major revenue source for county offices. Since the late 1990's, approximately 3,000 acres have been excluded from harvest and held as endangered species habitat.

Cothren has been working with commissioners from Pacific and Skamania counties, DNR staff, and state legislators to pass a law that would trade the encumbered land for workable timberlands belonging to state school trusts. The counties would receive a new revenue source, and school trusts can put the encumbered lands in their environmental reserves.

That legislation should be ready for the 2018 legislature, he said Tuesday.

"A lot of things could come down the pipe at the end of the year and in the coming legislative session," he said. "By December, we have to have it done to turn into the legislature.


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