Regional leaders seek path toward a community forest

“We are natural resource counties,” says Pacific County Commissioner


January 4, 2024

Columbia Land Trust met with commissioners from Wahkiakum County and Pacific County a couple weeks ago to talk about an opportunity that might benefit local communities in a variety of ways: a community forest.

A community forest is defined as forestlands that are owned and managed on behalf of local people, to benefit the economy, the community, and the land itself.

Ian Sinks, the Stewardship Director for CLT talked about some of the conversations their organization has had with the community, whether it was leadership or landowners, regarding issues being faced in this watershed, brought on by heavy logging, soil type, rain, and sedimentation issues, along with concerns about fishery resources and recreational access.

“It led us to a conversation about a community forest, where maybe there are things we can jointly work on together to provide access, to provide economic benefit, and change the land cover and land practices in the watershed,” Sinks said.

“My goal is to keep these lands in timber,” Wahkiakum County Commissioner Dan Cothren said.

I don’t want to see this place turned into real estate, where you have houses everywhere. That’s not what we’re about here.”

“We are natural resource counties,” Pacific County Commissioner Lisa Olsen added. “We don’t have big box industry. We are timber, we are fishing, we are farming, aquaculture. That’s who we are and as far as I know, that’s who we want to stay. I think the bulk of the people who are from here and live here, and hopefully the ones that come here want it to stay that way because of the appeal. That’s why I’m really conflicted when we have these conversations, I don’t know which way to go.”

Sinks and Cherie Kearney, the Forest Conservation Director for CLT suggested that they do a financial analysis so the counties can make an informed decision, and talked about ways that they might be able to make this happen.

“We’ve got to look at every option,” Cothren said.

Commissioners from both counties agreed to continue the conversation.


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