Costs/Benefits of The DNR Mandate
ROLLING THE DNR DICE – THE RISKS AND COSTS FAR OUTWEIGH SHORT TERM MONETARY BENEFITS
The Risks & Costs of DNR School Trust Land Logging: Bad for Education, Bad for the Environment
“LOGS FOR LEARNING” RISKS THE QUALITY OF OUR CHILDRENS’ EDUCATION
DNR Dollars for Schools Represent a Drop in Washington’s $7.6 billion K-12 budget
Our children and teachers alike deserve to learn in healthy, well-functioning schools. It is an often overlooked constitutional right recently reaffirmed by the state Supreme Court in the McCleary decision.
But our school construction funding protocol is so dysfunctional, that:
The DNR’s small and inconsistent monetary contribution clouds financial planning for state planners and those in hundreds of cash strapped school districts across the state.
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! What’s worse, $32 million does not cover the cost of half of new modern school!
Simply managing the administrative and bureaucratic costs of this program could cost millions of dollars and countless hours that the education community could spend on more productive work.
With DNR funds at a trickle, local property tax responsibility for bricks and mortar has bulged from 33 to 85 percent of costs since 1987, according to the Superintendent’s Office of Public Instruction. Still local capital bond votes fail frequently.
When needed schools go unbuilt, children are packed into schools, classrooms, and portables like sardines.
Every day, over 100,000 students are relegated to “portable” classrooms in school parking lots across the state. In 2012, the Seattle School District reported that 5,000 students — 10 percent of the student population — sat in portables, and others studied in gyms and hallways.
The National Education Association ranks Washington 43rd in class size averages.
Our schools need much more substantial, dedicated funds for school construction and remodels to educate Washington’s 1.1 million K-12 schoolchildren for success in the 21st century economy.
The Supreme Court’s historic McCleary directive demands that we build our children’s schools with “regular and dependable tax sources,” not the highly inconsistent and variable DNR dollar amounts contributed from an old-world natural extraction model.
“LOGS FOR LEARNING” RISKS THE QUALITY OF THE ENVIRONMENT OUR KIDS WILL INHERIT
As the Forests Go, So Go the Salmon —and other Species
Bold Action Needed to Stop Closures and Extinctions of More Salmon and Steelhead
The status of Washington and West Coast salmon and steelhead is not a crisis – it is a catastrophe. Our ocean ecosystems are changing dramatically — the S. Times reported that herring populations in Central and South Puget Sound have dropped by over 90% since 1975— and the declines in marine fish are staggering, according to researchers (NBCI) and any fishermen you talk to. Approximately one third of West Coast salmon/steelhead stocks are extinct, and a third of the remaining populations are under ESA jurisdiction (Endangered Species Act).
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, and dozens are listed under the Endangered Species Act, including the Stillaguamish steelhead and king salmon.
DNR (Dept. of Natural Resources) Logging Threatens Fish & Wildlife Statewide- In the Sound in Particular
Although many factors decimate fish stocks, habitat loss due to logging is key. Fortunately, habitat improvement is perhaps the most efficient and effective way to restore out declining salmon/steelhead runs. (EG: it takes a lot longer to remove pollution from the Sound, dams from the Columbia and Snake, or get Marine Mammal Protection Act waivers to address seal/sea lion predation). Habitat restoration can give us time to strengthen our stronghold runs and rejuvenate our threatened rivers systems and runs.
See map of DNR state trust land holding here.
The Disappearance of Our King Salmon Runs
This summer, there will be no king fishery in central Puget Sound for first time in years. Chinook numbers were down 25% from last year so they closed it down. This is a major loss of a century old tradition and may be a harbinger of things to come as global warming sets in- concerns about pre-spawning mortality because of drought, low water levels and higher water temperatures contributed to the tight restrictions.
Kings up and down the caost are disappearing – closures are occuring even on major Alaskan king salmon stronghold rivers like the Yukon and the Kenai and the California king salmon fishery is largely disappeared – see Smithsonian.
A Greener, Mandate-Free DNR Could Help Mitigate These Problems Instantly
If the DNR went to a 90 year harvest rotation instead of the current 35, and if they increased creek/stream/river buffers substantially, and minimized road building and overall harvest levels were dropped substantially, think of how quickly our well shaded waterways would cool, clean, and nurture smolts and adults alike!!!!
But as the forests go, so go the salmon, and as the salmon go, so go the orca
Is hard on fishermen but even worse for orcas–Experts like Ken Balcomb, the dean of Puget Sound orca research, think that the Sound’s plummeting orca population indicates that some orcas are actually starving to death because of the shrinking numbers of king salmon, which constitute 80% of the orcas’ diet.
Bird life: Marbled Murrelet populations plummeted by 30% in the last decade
Critical habitat is being lost to DNR logging on trust lands far too often. See the WFLC website for a summary of some of these cases as well as the Audubon Society’s.
The Multiplier Effect: A Huge Bonus if the DNR Mandate Ends
The DNR’s logging rules apply not only on the 12.1 % of state forest land the DNR owns, but these rules are also the law of the land on Washington’s 35.6 % privately held forestlands. In other words, if the mandate ended the Forest Practice Board members from OSPI, WSU, and UW would be dropped, harvest pressure from the education lobby to “get the cut out for kids and schools” would be eliminated and the DNR could lift its forest practice rules and regulations to far higher, more fish-friendly standards.
Suddenly , because the 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 wildlife friendly manner than they are currently. This “multiplier effect” is perhaps the single best reason to drop the DNR mandate.
Given this, the DNR mandate/Common School Construction Law has a huge multiplier effect statewide: because the DNR believes it must maximize harvest revenues to ”get the cut out for kids and schools,” it’s more “cut-friendly” and less environmentally progressive logging practices and policies are followed on almost half the state’s working forests, with very negative results for endangered fish, fowl, and wildlife. Consider that the DNR has yet to adopt a sweeping, permanent policy of steep slope cut bans even since the Oso slide.
The Multiplier Effect would and could work in positive, fish-friendly and forest friendly ways without the mandate because it would free the DNR from profit-driven decision-making in the public’s forests, allow adoption of more environmentally safe practices (which would apply on ALL private forests) and empower its talented professionals to wisely log and creatively manage our forests and fisheries in accordance with Washington’s predominant 21st century outdoors’ ideals: conservation, restoration, and preservation.
Logging dollars vs. Fishing Dollars
The Washington recreational fishing business brings approximately $1 Billion to our state economy each year, according to Rep. Liz Pike, R-Camas and this business is directly affected by the quality of fish habitat and the resultant numbers of fish returning for sportsmen to pursue.
See the Governor’s Salmon Recovery Office’s encyclopedic and highly informative State of Salmon in Watersheds for more information.
Benefits of the DNR School Construction Mandate:
- Brings some revenue to schools –
- Provides jobs for loggers and mill workers and associated industries and businesses
- Provides a portion of tax base and other benefits to timber towns and counties
- Provides jobs for DNR surveyors, crews, scientists, administrators, etc.
- DNR has done substantial forest and stream rehabilitation work over the years
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 Forestry 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 effects 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 corn80-150 year harvest rotations, depending on species, elevation, growing conditions, location, etc. (instead of current 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 Forestry 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 devastating 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 temperatures below fish killing lethal temperatures 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, multi-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 bulwark 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