The timber industry has long been an integral part of our local economy and community in Snohomish County. The timber trust lands managed by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) were committed many years ago to support local infrastructure projects. Counties, schools, fire departments, and hospitals have all benefited from these harvests as they provide important funding for capital projects each year. But this funding is increasingly at risk as political pressure continues to stall timber sales in our region.
Over the years, DNR and timber companies have implemented sustainability strategies to reduce the impact of timber harvests while continuing to provide revenues to timber beneficiaries (schools, fire, etc.). These strategies encourage responsible harvesting and replanting so that our working forests continue to produce timber and protect certain wildlife habitat. With that being said, there are times when additional regulations can become burdensome and have negative impacts to the timber industry.
One such example is the habitat protection efforts for the marbled murrelet. An updated conservation plan is currently under consideration at the Board of Natural Resources, which governs the DNR. Some of the options in this plan would greatly reduce the availability of DNR forestland that can be sold to mills like Hampton Lumber in Darrington. Many in the timber industry feel that the Environmental Impact Statement for this effort does not appropriately take into consideration the economic impacts of the options under consideration.
This is why the Washington State Association of Counties (WSAC) is teaming up with local districts to fund its own study on the economic impact of increased restrictions on timberlands. Local economies, including here in North Snohomish County, still rely on timber sales and harvests for local jobs. In addition, many local school and fire districts rely on the revenues from these sales to fund important education and public safety services.
I currently serve on the Executive Board for WSAC and I am enthusiastically supporting this study. While it is important that we carefully consider environmental impacts of decisions made by state agencies, it is also important to consider the local impact to economies and service providers. We are working to ask the Board of Natural Resources to put a pause on the consideration of the conservation plan until a study can be done on the local economic impact of such decisions.
Decisions such as these regulations being considered by the DNR have significant impacts to the people living in our region. It is crucial that these decision-making processes include information and careful consideration regarding all of the potential unanticipated consequences of potential action. I will continue to work with stakeholders on this and other issues that affect our local economies and service providers in our region.
Nate Nehring is a member of the Snohomish County Council and represents District 1 which includes Arlington, Darrington, Granite Falls, Marysville, Stanwood, and unincorporated north county. He can be reached by email at Nate.Nehring@snoco.org or by phone at 425-388-3494.