Private study sees some job loss with Wild Olympics legislation

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Congressional approval of Wild Olympics legislation would cost 4.5 jobs in Clallam County and 4.7 jobs in Jefferson County, according to the results of a 65-page, four-county study presented Monday to Port of Port Angeles commissioners.

The review of the Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 2012, which would ban logging on 126,000 acres of Olympic National Forest, was prepared by Daniel Underwood of Olympus Consulting in Port Angeles and Jason Cross of Malus Partners in Sequim.

The $24,000 study was funded by the port, Clallam County and the city of Forks.

Nineteen rivers that flow through Olympic National Forest, Olympic National Park and state trust lands also would be declared wild and scenic, making those areas also off-limits to logging in corridors 1,320 feet from each side of the waterway’s high-water mark.

The legislation would more than double the wilderness in Olympic National Forest, boosting it from 87,250 acres to 126,014 acres.

The study also examined the impacts on Mason County, where 1.6 jobs would be lost, and Grays Harbor County, where 1.1 job would be lost, it said.

A total of 25 jobs — 1.8 more in Clallam and 5.5 more in Jefferson — would be lost in the four counties if recreational river designations are applied to state trust lands in Clallam, Jefferson and Mason counties, the report said.

The totals include jobs directly and indirectly affected by the legislation.

“Some say that 25 jobs is no big deal,” Port Commission President John Calhoun said.

“But if we were to announce that a forest products company is to open a new line of production and hire 25 new workers at high wages, we would be celebrating.

“So why shouldn’t we be very discouraged about the prospects of losing 25 jobs in this high-paying sector?”

The report said the legislation would have an impact on 11,621 acres of Olympic National Forest that are available for harvest, far more than the 1,742 affected acres cited in a report commissioned by the Wild Olympic Campaign and authored by Derek Churchill of Stewardship Forestry Consulting in Seattle.

The harvestable areas include 3,854 acres in Clallam County and 5,611 acres in Jefferson County, report said.

The report’s authors also proposed what they titled “A Third Way” that would yield 49.4 million board feet annually by transferring 168,200 acres of adaptive management and late successional reserve areas to “matrix” status under which they would be aggressively logged but not clearcut.

An area totalling 3,000 acres would be thinned each year.

“A key element of the Third Way is to develop and maintain large trees everywhere,” the report said, adding it would help grow the large trees necessary for northern spotted owl habitat.

Late successional reserves contain mature stands that can include old growth, while adaptive management forests are areas where experimental forestry techniques are tried out.

“In the scenario explored, only one of every two board-feet grown is harvested,” the report said.

The harvest plan would create 62 direct jobs in Clallam County and 89 direct jobs in Jefferson County, according to the study.

Wild Olympics legislation supporter Robert Sextro of Sequim said the coalition of citizens that first proposed more acres for the wilderness designation was broad and included people in the timber industry.

Sextro said he was willing to consider different harvesting options and stressed the legislation needs to move forward “with the idea that continued dialogue can go on behind the scenes with folks like you and the timber coalition.”

But the harvest plan should not be part of the legislation, Sextro added.

Combined commercial logging and mills are the four-county region’s third largest employer by income and account for more than 5,000 jobs, Underwood said, adding job losses have “a ripple effect” on other areas of the economy such as health care.

“Taking care of a loved one depends on these good jobs,” Underwood said, adding that timber revenue also funds school districts.

For example, the shutdown of Nippon Paper Industries USA in Port Angeles and the Interfor mill west of the city would result in the loss of 431 jobs and nearly double Clallam County’s unemployment rate to 17 percent, Underwood said.

Port commissioners have voted to reject any Wild Olympics proposal that would have a negative impact on the economy.

Calhoun said there is a “tipping point” that could be reached if Congress passes the legislation.

“That’s what’s scary to me, that a small, marginal impact in the supply of raw logs to one of these mills could mean tipping that to a closure and this kind of cascade effect,” he said.

Port Commissioner Jim Hallett argued for a comprehensive approach.

“Why not look at the entire picture,” he said, lauding the proposal to increase harvest levels, noting it would enhance northern spotted owl habitat.

“To me, this is what Congress should be looking at, not just a subset for wild and scenic rivers and wilderness,” Hallett said.

“We have room to do both.”

The Wild Olympic legislation was introduced by retiring 6th Congressional District Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair, and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Bothell.

Dicks’ district includes Clallam and Jefferson counties.

The report can be viewed at www.portofpa.com.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at paul.gottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: November 26. 2012 6:22PM
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