Forest industry group presents trade-off plan for Wild Olympics; plan would free national forestlands for tree harvests

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — A forest industry group Tuesday presented a plan for opening up 143,150 acres of Olympic National Forest to aggressive logging.

The North Olympic Timber Action Committee said it would support proposed Wild Olympics legislation that would preserve 126,000 acres in the national forest and make that land off-limits to logging if the harvest plan for the other areas of the national forest were approved.

North Olympic Timber Action Committee Executive Director Carol Johnson and Green Crow timberland company Chief Forester Harry Bell presented the plan at a Port Angeles Business Association breakfast meeting.

A map of affected areas, which include portions of Clallam and Jefferson counties, was presented at the meeting and will be available on the NOTAC website, www.notac.org, by Dec. 7.

About two dozen parcels, mostly in Clallam, Jefferson and Grays Harbor counties and to a lesser extent in Mason County, would be subject to harvesting of up to about 60 percent to 70 percent — but no traditional clearcuts — in return for NOTAC’s support of the Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 2012.

“What we are saying is that we can accept [the legislation], but to accept that, we want these acres to become available to provide timber,” Bell said.

“Virtually all the areas picked for wilderness would never be harvested anyway under the current [Northwest Forest] plan.”

The acres in NOTAC’s plan mostly ring the southern and eastern edges of the 633,000-acre national forest in areas that include south of Sequim near the Dungeness River, east of the Duckabush River, south of the Hamma Hamma River and south of the Quinault and Queets rivers.

Parcels also are clumped together southeast and northeast of Beaver in Clallam County’s West End.

Connie Gallant of Quilcene, an organizer of the Wild Olympics Campaign— whose earlier proposal became the basis of the legislation — expressed doubt her group would accept a trade-off of support.

She said Tuesday she had not read the harvest proposal and had not been sent a copy of it.

“To do an acre-by-acre thing, no, our coalition would not be supportive of that if that’s what they are proposing,” Gallant said, adding that the group is urging an increase in funding for habitat thinning in the national forest.

Gallant had been invited to the PABA breakfast meeting at which the plan was presented but said she was unable to because she works during the day and already has made presentations to PABA.

Of the more than 30 participants at the breakfast, none included supporters of the Wild Olympics legislation who spoke up.

Wild Olympics Campaign members spent years making presentations and garnering support for their land-preservation proposal from timber companies, elected representatives and tribal members, and NOTAC needs to do the same legwork, Gallant said.

“We bent over backward to accommodate all comments and recommendation made by everyone, including and especially the timber industry,” she said.

The Wild Olympics Campaign also proposed designating 19 rivers that flow through Olympic National Forest and Olympic National Park as wild and scenic, which would further limit logging.

Johnson said more than 90 percent of the “working forests” are second-growth, and about 80 percent of those working forests have been cut previously.

About 10 percent is old-growth.

“The whole idea is a continuous supply, which is a sustainable effort to keep timber flowing at a sustainable level,” she said.

“They are the areas where we should be able to have regular harvest on a sustainable basis in perpetuity forever,” she said.

“Once it’s in wilderness, it’s gone forever,” Johnson said.

“That’s why we are fighting today to get this considered.

“The best part of stopping the whole process altogether is we can work up a new one to include working forests.”

But she called the effort “an uphill battle,” saying the Wild Olympics legislation is backed by well-funded national environmental groups.

“It’s kind of a David-vs.-Goliath battle,” Johnson said.

The harvest changes would require changes to the 1994 Northwest Forest Plan, Bell said.

The plan was established to meet the need for forest products and to provide habitat for the northern spotted owl.

“The only forest in the Pacific Northwest with no working forest is the Olympic Peninsula,” he said.

“Our proposal is to essentially fix that.”

Working forests are managed for a balance of social, economic and ecological benefits, Bell said.

In a $24,000 publicly funded study presented Monday to the three Port of Port Angeles commissioners, consultants from Malus Partners of Sequim and Olympic Consulting of Port Angeles said the Wild Olympics legislation could cost 25 jobs in Clallam, Jefferson, Grays Harbor and Mason counties.

The legislation also would have impacts on 29,000 acres of Olympic National Forest that are now available for logging, according to the study.

A study commissioned by the Wild Olympics Campaign determined the legislation would not cost jobs and would have a negligible effect on logging.

Wild Olympics is planning to issue a formal response to the report presented at Monday’s port meeting, Gallant said Tuesday.

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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 27. 2012 6:07PM
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