n a landmark decision today, the Washington Forest Practices Board adopted new rules to better protect endangered salmon, riparian habitat, and water quality from logging activities adjacent to Washington’s streams and rivers.
The rule essentially requires larger buffer zones and more trees to be left alongside forested streams and rivers in the state during timber harvests and other activities.
“After years of debate, we have finally followed the science, achieved increased protections for the environment, and consideration for the economic impacts to the timber industry,” Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark said. “Based on a scientific analysis of how best to keep working forestland healthy, it was clear that the rules had to be amended, that we had to adapt our management.”
After a protracted debate between various interests, including the timber industry, environmentalists, tribes and the state, Goldmark helped usher in the rule change today by proposing a streamlined permit renewal process for landowners who voluntarily comply with the new rules. The proposal affects landowners whose forest practices applications were going to expire in the next 60 days but had not yet begun logging. Those landowners will be allowed a streamlined route to application renewal – if they can show compliance with the new rules – instead of having to re-survey their entire proposed logging area again.
Logging activities on over 10 million acres of private and state forest lands are regulated by the state’s Forest and Fish Law. The state’s Forest Practices Board, chaired by Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark, adopts rules to implement the Forest and Fish law and DNR administers the regulations.
The Forest and Fish law and its rules recognize that clean water and healthy fish runs depend on healthy and highly functioning riparian areas – the forested habitat alongside streams and rivers. The rules aim to achieve a “desired future condition” on working forestland for riparian forests at 140 years of age that are functionally the same as native forest stands of the same age. Materials reviewed by the board today in considering the new rule are on the DNR website at:http://www.dnr.wa.gov/BusinessPermits/Topics/ForestPracticesRules/Pages/fp_rules_activity.aspx
Passed in 2001, the Forest and Fish Law also created a strong Adaptive Management Program. The law’s adaptive management program uses science to evaluate areas of uncertainty in the rules and to develop recommendations for adapting the state’s forest practices rules to meet the environmental objectives of the Forest and Fish Law.
The “desired future condition” rules were prioritized for review by the adaptive management program because the board was uncertain whether the metrics in the future condition rule were adequate to protect salmon and clean water. In 2004, the Cooperative Monitoring Evaluation and Research committee, the scientific arm of the Adaptive Management Program, evaluated the “desired future condition” rule and determined that that it was inadequate.