DNR: County timber revenue holding steady
Corrected version: Pilot plot legislation introduced too late for action in legislature
April 4, 2019
Wahkiakum County government can expect to receive $1.3 million this year from the harvest of state managed trust timber.
That amount is almost right on the 10-year average of trust timber revenue, $1.37 million, according to a report Tuesday to the county board of commissioners.
Revenue from the harvest of trust timber has traditionally played a major role in funding courthouse departments.
According to the report presented by regional and district managers Chris Wills and Steve Ogden, the highest yield since 2008 has been $1.8 million in 2011 and the lowest $797,673 in 2015. The average for the last five years is $1.19 million.
In 2020, Wills said, the county could expect to receive $1.3 million from a timber sale set for auction in November. A sale set for auction in December, 2020, should generate $1 million for 2021.
Much depends on markets, and Wills said the timber market is down from prices a year ago.
"We anticipate it will stay down," he said. "There's a lot of inventory out there."
Commissioner Dan Cothren, who works in the timber industry, agreed but added that a couple factors could lead to market improvement.
First, he said, the Federal Reserve Board has retreated from raising interest rates, so that will help the housing market.
Second, if the Trump Administration settles its trade dispute with China, that could boost the export timber market.
"It's got people holding back," he said. "They're flooding the domestic market."
Overall, Cothren said markets may be starting to improve.
"I talk these figures every day," he said. "It's opening up out there."
The county has benefitted from state compensation for trust timber that has been set aside as habitat for endangered species. The compensation, set for Wahkiakum, Pacific and Skamania counties, has been part of the legislature's biennial budgets at $1 million per year for each county.
Amounts aren't yet set in this year's budget, Cothren said. The Senate budget contains $6 million, but the House budget is $1.3 million for the three counties over two years.
And in a setback for the three counties, legislation that would have set up a program to exchange the encumbered timberland for productive lands was introduced too late to be considered for action in the current legislative session [Editor: The initial version of this story incorrectly stated the legislation wasn't introduced for this session]. Cothren has been part of the group working with DNR staff to develop the legislation, and he had been told it would be ready for this legislative session.
"This is something I hold the DNR accountable for," Cothren said. "I feel DNR staff in Olympia dropped the ball."
The goal for Wahkiakum officials is to accumulate enough timber land that could generate enough revenue to cushion the county from market, political and economic upheavals.