State adopts plan for murrelet habitat; county trusts included
December 12, 2019
The Washington State Board of Natural Resources adopted a long-term conservation strategy for the marbled murrelet and set the sustainable harvest level for state trust lands in western Washington at its meeting Dec. 3.
The state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) says the strategy and the state's new sustainable timber harvest plan will allow the department to manage public lands across western Washington to provide important habitat for the seabird while guaranteeing a regular, sustainable revenue stream for public school construction, rural counties, and other beneficiaries.
The murrelet plan will impact the harvest of timber from state managed county trust timberland, according to Commissioner Dan Cothren, who has led county lobbying on DNR management plans. The county has just over 12,000 acres of trust timberland, and timber revenue has been important for county offices. The new plan will withhold 6,000 of those acres from harvest, Cothren said.
The Board of Resources plan will allow harvest on some acreage that has been encumbered until now, Cothren said Tuesday, and that will allow the county to maintain a sustainable harvest for about 10 years. However, after that, the age class of remaining timber won't be right for harvest, and the county's timber revenues will suffer, Cothren said.
Cothren and commissioners from similarly affected counties have been working with the DNR to develop legislation that would replace the encumbered lands, but that may not succeed until 2021.
"We have a 10-year window," he said. "We need some legislative action."
The board also set the sustainable harvest level for timber on state trust lands at 4.65 billion board feet for the planning decade during its meeting. By managing timberlands on a sustained yield basis, DNR is able to guarantee a more stable flow of income to the schools, colleges, and counties that depend on their revenue.
This habitat is in addition to 90,000 acres of non-revenue-generating DNR forestland that is also suitable murrelet habitat. These are forests in protected natural areas, areas unsuitable for logging, or lands with very high conservation value. In total, 168,000 acres of current murrelet habitat will be protected (78,000 + 90,000).
The adopted habitat conservation plan amendment will also free more than 100,000 acres of forestland, allowing the lands to be sustainably managed to generate revenue for rural communities and create family-wage jobs. Timber harvests have not been allowed in these areas pending the selection of a final long-term conservation strategy.