Cothren: Senate guts counties' timber bill
March 3, 2022
Long awaited legislation to compensate Wahkiakum, Pacific and Skamania counties for encumbered timberland excluded from harvest has been derailed, Wahkiakum County Commissioner Dan Cothren said Tuesday.
The legislation, seven years in the making, would have compensated the counties for their trust timberland that has been set aside as habitat for endangered species, depriving the counties from potential revenue.
Cothren and commissioners from the other counties have worked with the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to develop a $28 million pilot program to exchange land among the various state-managed timber trusts and invest the money in new timberland that would provide new revenue for the three counties.
As described on the DNR website, "DNR will utilize a trust land exchange and reinvestment strategy to address disproportionate economic impacts from state forest lands in three Southwest Washington counties."
However, Cothren said Tuesday, other counties with state managed trust timberland want part of the pie.
First, in the state Senate, the amount was reduced to $20 million, and it is proposed that Jefferson and Clallam counties would split $10 million of the base amount, and Wahkiakum, Pacific and Skamania would split the remaining $10 million.
This would greatly reduce the three counties' ability to increase their productive timberland, Cothren said.
During his 20-plus years on the county commission, Cothren has lobbied legislators and the DNR to increase the county's timberland as a means of expanding the county revenue base.
"I'm not happy," Cothren said. "We have three counties that have no tax base. Now our [potentially new] timber land is being taken.
"Now this goes to the House. Should we just start over?"