By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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“What's unique here is all the restrictions on timber harvest brought about by the [federal] Endangered Species Act,” Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark told about 30 people at a campaign appearance Wednesday night at the Upstage Bistro in Port Townsend.
“There are a lot of issues around the spotted owl and the marbled murrelet in combination with the effect that it has on timber harvest, particularly in the Olympic Experimental State Forest,” he said.
“This isn't common [in other regions].”
Otherwise, the Peninsula has the same public land issues as the rest of the state, including conversion of lands between private and public, and the management of aquatic lands, Goldmark said.
Goldmark, a Democrat, is opposed in the Nov. 6 general election by Eastern Washington rancher and former football player Clint Didier, a Republican who ran against Sen. Patty Murray in 2010 but who was defeated in the primary by Dino Rossi.
Ballots for the all-mail election will be mailed out Oct. 17 and must be returned by the date of the general election.
Goldmark, 66, a rancher from Okanogan County, is seeking his second four-year term as public lands commissioner. He is in charge of the state Department of Natural Resources.
Goldmark said his job “is the least-understood of all the executive positions in state government,” adding that the agency manages 15 million acres of land throughout the state, including 3 million acres of uplands and 2.6 million acres of state-owned aquatic lands.
This includes the management of how roads are built on the public lands and controlling the timber harvests in regard to forest and fish law.
The agency also supervises what Goldmark calls “the largest on-call fire department in the state.
“Right now, we have our hands full,” he said, adding that 240,000 acres of forests have been leveled by fire this summer.
Goldmark's idea for the disposal of biomass material is an alternative to those operations proposed in Port Townsend and Port Angeles.
“Biomass is forest waste material that is often left in large piles for them to decompose or burn off naturally, but this can cause air hazards,” he said.
“I am hopeful that with the help of our two large research universities, we can develop a process to deal with the materials without needing to move them.
“We could bring out a truck that could convert the material to wood oil, which could then be taken to a central facility for distribution or used as a catalyst to develop high-value fuels.
“This would provide a new revenue stream for the department and create jobs from something that is now a waste.”
Goldmark said he favored stricter laws for the disposal of derelict vessels — those that would make the vessel's owner responsible for this action.
Goldmark said he would like to avoid a repeat of the excavation of the Deep Sea, a vessel that was disabled off of Whidbey Island in June that cost the state about $2 million to clean up.
“The license fees that recreational boaters pay is added to the cleanup fund but isn't enough when a large vessel is involved,” he said.
“In the case of the Deep Sea, the owner wasn't being responsive to the vessel and mismanaged the situation. He didn't have the funds to raise it, so the public got stuck with the tab.
“There is something inherently wrong with that.”
The county Democratic Party made a $1,000 contribution to Goldmark's campaign.
The amount raised from attendees was not immediately available.
Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.