By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News
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U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, whose 6th Congressional District includes Clallam and Jefferson counties, last week announced the formation of the 16-member collaborative, which includes such diverse interests as the Wild Olympics Campaign, Simpson Lumber Co., the Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society, the American Forest Resource Council and the Olympic Forest Coalition.
The collaborators hope to meet by Dec. 31, said Stephen Carter, Kilmer’s spokesman, in an email.
“This next meeting will be where many of the decisions about next steps will be made,” Carter said.
“Questions about structure, decision-making, any additional staff or funding and other logistics will be discussed then.
“Meetings up to this point have been designed to develop the goals that were announced and to talk in general terms about how to achieve those goals,” Carter said.
“The next steps are to go from goals to specific projects.”
Discussion points will include finding ways to explore opportunities for the Forest Service “to operate more efficiently and do more with less, or to identify ways to provide increased funding,” Carter said.
Ideas being floated include hiring outside contractors to supplement work being done by the Forest Service and using stewardship contracts that would allow the agency to retain receipts from timber sales, Carter said.
Two pilot projects that focus on timber industry thinning in the national forest are being considered by the Olympic Forest Coalition that would take place under aegis of the collaborative, coalition President Connie Gallant said last week.
Gallant, who introduced the idea at the second of two earlier get-acquainted meetings of the collaborative, will discuss it further at the upcoming get-together, she said.
“My thought is to bring it up and see if this is something the collaborative would like to pursue,” Gallant said Friday.
“If not, we can go on to other ideas and suggestions.”
Gallant said the coalition set aside $25,000 in the group’s 2014 preliminary budget to conduct a study of suitable areas for habitat thinning under the guidelines of the federal Northwest Forest Plan, a goal of the collaborative.
The authors of the study have not been selected, said Gallant, who also is chairwoman of the Wild Olympics Campaign.
The study being considered by the coalition would recommend areas for restorative thinning for two pilot projects, “so the Forest Service can have guidelines on where these timber sales would be accepted by both sides,” Gallant said.
The projects would be conducted under the guidelines of the federal Northwest Forest Plan, a goal of the collaborative.
“We are hoping this will improve the habitat and protect water quality and also generate additional harvest,” Gallant said.
Matt Comisky, Washington manager of the American Forest Resource Council, said his group is “definitely” open to discussing new ideas and concepts.
“We are very open to looking at any opportunity for finding ways to assist the Forest Service in attaining their goal and moving the ball forward in their production,” he said.
The resource council, he added, wants to consider “anything we can do to move beyond the status quo.”
Carter said representatives from all members of the collaborative will attend the upcoming meeting.
The environment-related groups are American Whitewater, The Mountaineers, Olympic Park Associates, Olympic Forest Coalition, Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society, Washington Wild and the Wild Olympics Campaign.
The forest industry groups are the American Forest Resource Council, Cosmo Specialty Fibers, Green Creek Wood Products, Interfor, Merrill & Ring, Murphy Co., Sierra Pacific Industries and Simpson Lumber Co.
The Pew Charitable Trusts also is a member of the collaborative.
The nonprofit organization dispenses grants, promotes conservation and funds research in a variety of areas, including the environment and public policy.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.