A timber management history lesson

Timber harvest volumes from public lands … have never recovered from the dual endangered species shocks …

Those who blame log exports for the closure of three sawmills on the North Olympic Peninsula (“[Randy] Johnson critic,” Peninsula Voices, Oct. 4) need a history lesson.

Timber harvest volumes from public lands — U.S. Forest Service and DNR [state Department of Natural Resources] trust lands — have never recovered from the dual endangered species shocks imparted first by the spotted owl (1990) and later the marbled murrelet (1997).

Although the Northwest Forest Plan sought to find a balance of species protection and harvest, timber harvests from Olympic National Forest fell by 80 percent from 1988 to 1995 and have remained “barely measurable” since.

Meanwhile the DNR Habitat Conservation Plan of the late 1990s sought a similar outcome, and has largely been successful outside Clallam and Jefferson counties.

Basic economic theory holds that markets operate best when restrictions are minimized and information about the market is readily available to the largest pool of market participants.

The manifestation of these principles is evident in the local markets for timber and logs.

Capital is attracted to private timberlands in Clallam and Jefferson counties due to regulatory stability, high biological growth rates, a productive workforce, access to a deep-water port and competitive domestic milling infrastructure.

These factors are critical due to the very long-term (40-plus years) nature of growing timber and the simple fact that, unlike a manufacturing facility, timberland cannot move to, for example, Mexico, when the going gets tough.

So instead of vilifying private timberland owners for responding to market signals, I urge our critics to recognize that we have the right to do so within the bounds of current law and will continue to advocate for access to all markets.

Thomas L. Swanson,

Port Angeles

Swanson is regional manager for Green Crow. Corp., a Port Angeles-based timberland management company.