Mark Doumit, Executive Director of the Washington Forest Protection Association, made the following statement today in response to Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark’s advocacy for increased timber fees. Private companies have been forced to reset the way they do business because of the national housing crisis, while housing starts remain at their lowest level since 1959. The state agencies need to reset the way they do business to reflect the realities of the current economy.
“Commissioner Goldmark last week came out in favor of pouring millions of dollars in increased fees to support business as usual in the state’s forest practices program, rather than reforming a program that keeps expanding despite a declining demand for its services.
The state’s forest permitting program needs genuine reform, not more money thrown at it in the form of increased fees. A single state agency, rather than multiple agencies, should oversee the permits, and with existing federal and state habitat protection plans, many forest practices can be reviewed with a notification system rather than formal permits.
In a legislative session that demands innovative solutions and government reform, Goldmark is ignoring the problems in the Department of Natural Resources bureaucracy that he oversees and is instead pushing to raise fees on a timber industry that already devotes more than a hundred million dollars a year to environmental stewardship.
The state’s forest practices system’s budget has ballooned by 64 percent, from $14 million to $23 million since 1993, while state and private timber harvest volumes have declined 44 percent during the same period, from 3.8 to 2.1 billion board feet.
For perspective on the forest practices program, Oregon is the number one lumber-producing state in the country, and the cost of administering its forest practices program in Oregon is just $15 million.
Washington’s forest practice program budget is 53 percent larger than Oregon’s, despite harvesting less timber and despite the 50-year regulatory certainty of the federally approved Forests & Fish Habitat Conservation Plan.
The timber industry wants to be part of the solution in filling the budget gap. Any fee increases must be reasonable and joined by a streamlining of a permitting process to reduce overall cost in the system as part of the budget solution.”
Other facts to consider:
- The timber industry last year alone contributed $130 million in fees, taxes and environmental protection to the state. The industry provides over 100,000 direct and indirect jobs, mostly in rural counties with the highest unemployment levels in the state, for example in Feb. 2011 Grays Harbor County had 14.3%, Lewis County had 14.6% and Clark County had 13.2% unemployed due to the national housing crisis.
- The real cost of environmental protection is on the ground, not in fees for the forest practices system. The timber industry not only pays its own way but last year alone invested $127 million in clean water and fish habitat, ensuring our state’s streams, wildlife and other natural resources are protected.
- The industry made a 50-year commitment through the Forests & Fish Habitat Conservation Plan to protect salmon and clean water. More than 764,000 acres of private trees are in streamside buffers, an area larger than Yosemite National Park.
- The timber industry is in 91 percent compliance on state forest practices. Commissioner Goldmark is twisting the numbers to try to portray the industry as out of step with forest practices.
The Washington Forest Protection Association represents private forest landowners growing and
harvesting trees on more than 4 million acres in Washington State. Members of the 100-year-old association
are large and small companies, individuals and families who practice sustainable forestry in Washington’s
private forests. For more information, go to www.wfpa.org.