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

Franz's "Solutions Table' begins murrelet talks


A group charged with finding solutions to dealing with marbled murrelet habitat conservation issues held its inaugural meeting last week at the Skamokawa Resort.

The state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is charged with developing a long term conservation strategy for marbled murrelets on state lands, which includes conserving some state managed forest land as habitat for the endangered species.

The DNR acknowledges the conservation of forest land will impact timber industry jobs and state trust beneficiaries who receive revenue from trust lands.

Brought together by state Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, the ensemble, called the Solution Table, includes representatives of environmental groups, timber industry, and state timber trust beneficiaries such as Wahkiakum County.

“To move forward, we have to reject the notion that we are stuck in a zero-sum game, which forces us to choose between our environment and creating economic opportunity,” said Franz in a news release announcing the meeting last week. “Instead, we need to develop bold, new strategies to lift up our communities and achieve shared success.

“This team has the know-how, community support, and commitment to advance meaningful, long-term solutions. Our rural jobs, schools and local government services deserve no less.”

Wahkiakum Commissioner Dan Cothren, who has for years sought compensation for the county for the loss of revenue off of 3,000 acres of county trust timberland locked up for murrelet habitat, this week said he was pleased with the meeting.

"I'm pretty upbeat about it," Cothren said.

The group dined together Wednesday evening and shared personal histories and concerns.

It was tense at times, Cothren said, "when I have to deal with the Washington Environmental Council; it's been their way or the highway, never any common ground.

"We've go to find some common ground."

On one side is the US Fish and Wildlife Service mandate to conserve habitat for the endangered species, a goal supported by environmental groups. On the other side are trust beneficiaries who say that by focusing habitat conservation on trust lands, the state is ignoring its fiduciary responsibility to the beneficiaries.

On Thursday, the group began discussions and made plans to meet via telephone in June and in person in July. They've agreed to meet into 2019 as necessary.

In the meantime, Cothren said, he hopes the group will aid in developing legislation that will lead an exchange of encumbered timberland with other state managed timberland that would be harvestable.


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