STOP CLEARCUTTING FOR SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION: END THE DNR MANDATE NOW
“The cruel but common lesson of western history” is that “postponements and evasions catch up with people.”
Patricia Limerick, The Legacy of Conquest
BRIEF OVERVIEW OF WASHINGTON STATE’S DNR (DEPT. OF NATURAL RESOURCES) MANDATE
In Washington, the state logs public forests to help pay for school construction. Monetary benefit for schools and children is low, but damage to forests, fish, and wildlife is high. This frontier-era policy needs to be abolished because it serves neither education or the environment – instead it actually pits these two social “goods” against each other.
Washington state’s DNR has a contested constitutional mandate to log state trust forests to contribute money to K-12 school construction by selling public timber to private industrial forestry companies. These “timber dollars” first pay for DNR expenses and the ever-shrinking remainder revenue goes towards school construction.
“It is a tragic irony that we educate our children in schools built with money earned by denuding and despoiling the very environment we want them to learn to cherish and protect.”
THE DNR MANDATE FAILS OUR SCHOOLS & OUR CHILDREN – IT HAS BECOME ALMOST IRRELEVANT IN FUNDING OUR MODERN MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR SCHOOL SYSTEM
The DNR’s financial contribution to schools is wildly erratic and negligible —In 2014 for instance, DNR timber sales totaled $45 million. Before any revenue went to the schools, $13 million was detracted for the “Resource Management Cost Account” (DNR’s bureaucracy/management fee) and only $32 million was set aside for all the K-12 building and renovation needs in the entire state 295 K-12 districts! What’s worse, $32 million does not cover the cost of half of new modern school! Also, in 2014, just $14 million was allocated for WSU, while in 2013 just $1.35 million went to the UW.
The mandate hurts education because:
- School district planners can no longer count on serious revenue from the DNR Common School Construction Fund.
- The DNR’s share of K-12 costs have crashed from more than 60% of school construction costs in the 1980s to just 25% since 2002, according to OSPI because of volatile lumber markets, our population explosion, and harvest-impinging environmental regulations.
- It clouds educational fiscal planning and operations with uncertain dollar amounts and delays.
- It requires school districts to wait for over a year before DNR contributions are available.
- Shrinking DNR contributions have helped accelerate the dangerous rise of toweringly high capital bond votes across the state. These frequently fail and students suffer by being packed into old schools like sardines in a can.
THE DNR MANDATE FAILS OUR ENVIRONMENT – MOST NOTABLY OUR SALMON AND STEELHEAD RUNS WHICH ARE ABSOLUTELY FOREST DEPENDENT
Statewide salmon/steelhead populations have been plummeting for decades (with a few exceptions) and only 10 percent of Puget Sound’s wild sea-run fish are left, according to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), and dozens are listed under the Endangered Species Act, including the Stillaguamish steelhead and king salmon. According NMFS and Long Live the Kings, 31 out of 52 salmon and steelhead populations in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and California are listed as either “threatened,” “endangered,” or “species of concern.”
Maximizing Harvest Revenues Leads to Bad Forest Management Practices
This is partially because the DNR’s perceived “fiduciary responsibility” (see Skamania decision & “AGO 11” 1996) to maximize harvest revenue exposes the agency to pressure to “get the cut out for kids” and adopt riskier logging practices and policies than they would likely prefer to follow.
A Few Quick Examples:
- Rotation Rates (age at which trees are harvested) have dropped dramatically from ideal of 90 year old trees to 35 year olds trees, destabilizing forest ecosystems in multiple ways;
- Buffer widths between harvest areas and creeks, streams, rivers, and other water forms are hotly contested;
- “Mono-culture”- too many DNR replants overstock quick growing, high price stands (eg Douglass Firs) at the expense of planting diverse, mutli-species forests that mirror natural conditions, limit flooding on the west side of the mountains and forest fires on the east side – diversity is the lifeline and key to all healthy ecosystems
- Steep-slope logging rules – until the Stillaguamish slide of 2014 the DNR logged slopes steeper than double dimaond expert runs at the toughest ski resorts. Since the slide the DNR backed off a few planned steep slope-cuts cuts in the North Fork Stillaguamish valley, yet, amazingly, no state-wide blanket bans on steep slope logging have been issued since the slide.
- The Multiplier Effect– the DNR’s “cut-friendly” rules and regulations, which are the law of the land on the 35.6% private forestland in Washington, mean that the DNR’s revenue comprised regulation setting capacity negatively affects policies, fish, and wildlife across half of the states forests and their waterways. Without the mandate the DNR could lead the nation in wise logging policies and environmentally safe foresty rules and regulations.
ENDING THE DNR SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION PROGRAM — Known as the Common School Construction Fund, Art. 9, Sec. 3
Two Interlocking Objectives:
- To eliminate the DNR’s political/legislative/constitutional obligations to log for school construction purposes, so as
- To enable the DNR to solely and intensely focus on wise forestry practices with preservation and conservation as the guiding principles
WE NEED YOU!! WE NEED YOU TO EXAMINE THE ARGUMENT, SIGN THE PETITION AND GET INVOLVED!!!!
TOGETHER WE CAN PRESERVE OUR PUBLIC LANDS, WILDLIFE AND FISHERIES FOR THE COMING GENERATIONS.
ALONE, WITHOUT COLLECTIVE EFFORT, THESE HEIRLOOMS, OUR STATE’S GREATEST LEGACY WILL PERISH FASTER THAN WE CAN IMAGINE AND FUTURE GENERATIONS WILL BE LEFT A SOUND WITHOUT SALMON AND A COULUMBIA WITHOUT KINGS.
A Mandate-less DNR Could Promote Time Proven Practices and Signal New Priorities by Renaming the Current “TFW Agreement” (“Timber, Fish, and Wildlife”) the New “FWT Agreement” (“Fish, Wildlife, & Timber”)
Note: That “TIMBER” is listed first inTFW says it all.
“FWT” Forestry Fundamentals: Principles for Foresty in the Climate Change Era:
- Establishing water as the primary forest resource
- Managing for conservation, preservation, and restoration of fish and wildlife trumps – timber revenue is last in line as an obj.
- Forest -fire mitigation is key — the DNR could pioneer new planting and harvesting regimes that maximize forest fire mitigation efffects and switch personnel from timber trust sales to fire prevention, mitigation, and fighting
- Managing for long-term environmental and conservation goals trumps short-term revenue seeking goals
“New FWT Foresty Fundamentals:” Key Elements and Practices
- mixed species forests – no more “mono-culture” crops of Douglass Firs to harvest like corn
- 80-150 year harvest rotations, depending on species, elevation, growing conditions, location, etc. (instead of curent 35-50 yr. DNR rotations) – Older trees use three times less water than younger trees and help retain it longer into the summer, according to EPA studies on the Nisqually River
- selective harvesting, with minimal clearcutting
- steep slope logging bans,
- double and triple sized stream vegetation buffers in drought prone-areas, etc.
Some groups are already addressing climate change’s impacts: for example, Forest and Water Climate Adaptation: A Plan for the Nisqually Watershed. Yet a DNR freed of fiduciary pressure to maximize tree harvests for schools would make such efforts far more widespread on the states 12.1% of state forestlands PLUS on Washington’s 35.6% privately held forestlands. (12.1% + 35.6% = 47.7%)
“Multiplier effect”: because private timber lands must follow DNR rules, almost half (%47.7) of our state forestlands would suddenly be managed in a FAR more progressive fish and widlife friendly manner than they are currently. This “multiplier effect” is perhaps the single best reason to drop the DNR mandate.
“New FWT Foresty Fundamentals:” Restoring Cool, Steady Stream Flows
- Salmon & steelhead need cold, clean water & adequate stream flows to survive
- But DNR mandate style excessive logging of premature trees near streams:
- increases water temperature
- decreases stream flows, especially non-peak, summer/fall flows
- VIA: decreased water retention and soil stability, unnatural hydrological water flow increase during run-off/rain, increased slope-side erosion and sedimentation of river bed, increased stream-bank erosion, channel widening and spreading, shallowing of overall stream depth, lost deep water pools, decreased cold-water refugia, decreased water surface effective shading
Old Trees Save Water and Keep Streams Fuller and Cooler Longer!
Young vigorously growing forests can consume over three times more water than old forests according to field research report from the EPA on the Nisqually River (Moore et al. 2004). (THIS IS THE FACT OF THE DAY!)
Larger, older trees (100+ year rotations) include stream temperature reduction because:
A. They provide more “effective shade” –
- which reduces water temperatures in main-stem salmon bearing streams and tributaries
- which reduces water temperatures in smaller creeks, cricks, draws, and seeps, all of which contribute to lower main-stem water temps
Forestwide and Statewide: The benefits of the “New FWT Foresty Fundamentals” in the era of climate change
- Carbon sequestration – larger trees and more of them increase carbon sequestration and mitigation of local carbon pollution as well as oceanic carbon-based acidification, which is likely a cause of plummeting salmon returns (“Large Old Trees Grow Fastest, Storing More Carbon”, U.S.G.S.; Released: 1/15/2014)
- Insect infestations: Multi-species forests are less prone to devestating insect infestations than mono-culture forests (JOAE), and therefore provide less consolidated fule sources for forest fires
- Cold water refugia for salmonids: Larger trees retain more precipitation/moisture & release it more slowly during dry periods, helping to sustain low flows in creeks and rivers, helping to shade them as well and keep stream tempatures below fish killing lethal tempatures over 70 F.
- This is crucial on the East side of the mountains in dry areas, but also in Western Washington where summer droughts drain streams so low that stream temperatures often obtain salmon killing temperatures in August and September.
- Crucial cold water refugia for salmonids is enhanced by presence of mature trees and their enormous root wads, whether standing/or providing shade at streamside or laid down in the stream, providing shade, cover, and cool water in our ever warmer watersheds
- Pools and current breaks formed around such trees form cold water refugia like “cold water stepping stones,” as in the Willamette R.
- Sediment delivery and in-stream sediment loading and scouring is mitigated by mature, mullti-species tree stands, with large root wad systems that hold soils and slopes in place much, much better
- Slide prone areas, mature trees play a crucial role in limiting the intensity and severity of slide activity.
- Such mixed stands of mature trees and healthy, diversified forests provide a bullwark against the extreme weather patterns in the age of climate change.
- Flooding problems are mitigated by the “New FWT Forestry Fundamentals,” especially on the west side of the Cascades and in the Olympics, where more intense rains are expected to make river flooding a common and severe problem