By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News
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“The study is deeply flawed,” said a four-page statement written by Wild Olympics Coalition Chairwoman Connie Gallant of Quilcene, Sequim resident Bob Lynette of the North Olympic Group of the Sierra Club and Sequim resident Tim McNulty of Olympic Park Associates.
“Removing a very small portion of the Olympic National Forest that is available for thinning does not lead to losing any jobs, since the current rate of harvest averages only 1,350 acres annually — a very small fraction of the available timber base.”
Wild Olympics targeted the $24,000 study by Olympus Consulting of Port Angeles and Malus Partners of Sequim.
It had determined that 4.5 jobs in Clallam County and 4.7 jobs in Jefferson County would be lost if 126,000 acres in Olympic National Forest are declared wilderness under the Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 2012, now before Congress.
Nineteen rivers in Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest also would be declared wild and scenic, making areas near those rivers also off-limits to logging, according to the study.
The study concluded 25 jobs total would be lost in Clallam, Jefferson, Grays Harbor and Mason counties if the legislation is approved.
“I haven’t discussed this with the [port] commission,” port Executive Director Jeff Robb said Tuesday in an email.
“I don’t see this as a debate but rather difference of opinion and the assumptions used.
“However, we do believe our report supports our conclusions.”
Wild Olympics said the study’s authors confined their analysis of job losses to the logging industry, which represents less than 10 percent of the local economy, and said the study’s assumptions and data on the timber base in the forest “are incorrect.”
“The real issue with additional restoration thinning on the Olympic National Forest is a lack of federal funding for such projects,” Wild Olympics’ response said.
“The areas proposed as a wild classification in the Wild Olympics legislation are deliberately overlaid on reaches that currently have timber restrictions as designated wilderness, inventoried roadless areas or Late Successional reserves greater than 80 years old.”
The study also assumes that currently protected, inventoried roadless areas within the proposed wilderness could be opened for harvest, the response said.
Those areas are not available for harvest, but the study assumes they are relevant to the legislation’s impact, the response said.
Wild Olympics also said the study “extrapolates imaginary direct timber impacts of the Wild Olympics legislation to calamitous mill closure scenarios that are unjustified by the methods presented in the study.”
The response cites “the incredible leap” made in the study that “any reduction in available fiber” would lead to the loss of more than 1,000 direct and indirect jobs.
“The mill closure scenarios seem to be presented for the sole purpose of generating a large job impact number and have no bearing or relationship to the Wild Olympics proposal,” Wild Olympics Campaign members said, adding that no data are presented to prove that closures would result from the legislation.
The authors of the Wild Olympics response said Olympic National Forest focuses on restoration thinning, not old-growth harvesting.
“We agree with the port’s conclusion that with increased funding and staff support, this forest could significantly increase habitat and watershed restoration projects that would, in turn, result in significant increases in harvest volume coming off the forest within the context of the Northwest Forest Plan,” they said.
“All of these projects would be in areas outside of those proposed by Wild Olympics.”
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.