Clallam County commissioners approve letter to Department of Natural Resources

Concerns over devalued timber harvest in land set aside for marbled murrelets

PORT ANGELES — The Clallam County commissioners have agreed to send a letter to the state Department of Natural Resources, telling the department that its financial analysis on the Revised Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the long-term conservation strategy of the marbled murrelet is inadequate.

“This is a very difficult letter to write for Clallam County,” the letter, which was approved Tuesday, reads.

The letter says that while the county values protecting the marbled murrelet, a species that has continued to have a population decline, the county also values protecting a source of revenue that affects the entire county.

The long-term conservation strategy for the marbled murrelet proposes several options that would preserve habitat on state timberlands, dedicating land to the bird.

Commissioners have expressed concern about the amount of timberland set aside near Clallam Bay, saying it will create a financial burden for junior taxing districts such as the Cape Flattery School District.

Commissioners removed language from the letter that was initially included that emphasized that only a small portion — less than 2 percent — of the marbled murrelet population lives in Washington.

They also said they are concerned about the fast pace at which the EIS is moving forward. The county had requested the 30-day comment period be extended to 90 days.

“The largest source of family wage jobs west of Lake Crescent all relate directly to timber and unfortunately the social/economic analysis does not aggregate this information for this part of our county,” the letter says. “The impact of lower harvest levels based on the preferred plan for the west end of Clallam County will likely be dire for the working families, schools, junior taxing districts and the entire fabric of these communities.”

The letter says the Department of Natural Resources’ preferred alternative results in a $300 million reduction in value for the timber harvest from state trust lands and that Clallam County would expect a loss of $26 million.

“Since revenues flow to fire districts and schools based on the location of the harvest, it is inevitable that some of these districts will have an impossible hole to fill,” the letter says. “Our belief is that you need to meet the trust mandate to all of our residents and therefore give the county specific information for each trust, but unfortunately you have not provided this information.”

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at jmajor@peninsuladailynews.com.

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