Overview: The DNR Mandate and the Common School Construction Fund
Under the Washington state Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) contested constitutional mandate to earn money for K-12 school construction (and smaller amounts to the UW, WSU, timber counties, etc.), this state agency sells timber on public forest lands to for profit private industrial forestry companies. These “timber dollars” first pay for DNR expenses and the ever-shrinking remainder revenue goes towards school construction. The DNR’s financial contribution to schools is negligible while the negative impact on forest wildlife and fisheries is enormous. This is partially because the DNR’s perceived “fiduciary responsibility” to maximize harvest revenue exposes the agency to making less than environmentally ideal and safe forest policy practices and policies.
See map of DNR state trust land holdings here – Note the enormous Clearwater Corridor parcel south of Forks: Major new logging operations around the legendary Clearwater River are likely here despite the fact that the logging and subsequent sedimentation/degradation of anadromous fish habitat in the watershed in the 1960/1970s threatened the Clearwater’s still recovering spring steelhead run as well as the entire ecosystem.
2014 DNR State Trust Land Distributions–from $45 million in total timber harvest revenues:
- $32 million for K-12 common school construction
- $14 million for Washington State University
- $3 million for the University of Washington
- $ 13 Resource Management Cost Account (bureaucracy)
HISTORY OF THE DNR SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION PROGRAM
In 1889, our state founders saw the cathedral-like stands of timber that graced our mountainsides and cradled our salmon-rich streams as an inexhaustible, tax-free revenue source for education.
Article IX of the Constitution codified this vision.
The 1966 Common School Construction Fund Amendment cemented it by mandating that, in addition to adhering to state and federal conservation laws, the Department of Natural Resources had to help bankroll school construction costs with timber harvest revenues from its 2.2 million acre trust lands.
Disappearing DNR Dollars Leaves Schools Unbuilt and Kids Packed into Portables
Until the 1980s, DNR timber revenues funded more than 60% of school construction costs. But volatile lumber markets, our population explosion, and harvest-impinging environmental regulations have cut the DNR’s share of costs to just 25% since 2002, according to OSPI.
The DNR mandate fails any reasonable cost/benefit test. This revenue-driven policy imperils our state’s majestic forests, wildlife, and sacred salmon rivers, yet in return it provides scant cash for school construction.
In 2014 for instance, DNR timber sales contributed a typical, miniscule $120 million to Washington’s $7.6 billion K-12 budget.
$120 million barely buys one new 4A high school. For the entire state! A drop in the bucket.
ENDING THE DNR SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION PROGRAM
Two Interlocking Objectives:
- To eliminate any political/legislative/constitutional obligations for the DNR to log for school construction purposes, in order
- To enable the DNR to solely and intensely focus on wise forestry practices with preservation and conservation as the guiding principles with restoration of fish and wildlife populations as the central objective
- That is- to get the DNR out of the industrial forestry business on our public forests
- To support the DNR in creatively managing and wisely logging our public forests