Statewide in 1990, the U.S. Forest Service harvested 817 million board feet, according to the state Department of Natural Resources.
In 2015, that harvest level had dropped to 101 million board feet.
In our region, the Olympic National Forest harvested 103 million board feet in 1990.
By 2015, that number had dropped to a harvest level of 15 million board feet.
The reason: the Northwest Forest Plan promoted by then-President Bill Clinton and the lack of any “matrix” lands in the Olympic National Forest.
The Olympic National Forest has a total acreage of 632,000 acres.
After the deductions for the Late Successional Reserves and other withdrawals, that ends up being 51,000 acres from the adaptive management areas that are available for harvest.
Our public lands can’t be properly maintained without funding, and the primary source for this funding has historically been from the revenues from timber sales — sales that for 25 years have been virtually nonexistent.
This lack of revenue has resulted in a $4.5 billion backlog in maintenance and infrastructure needs nationwide.
It has also resulted in unhealthy, overly mature and over-age forests that have long since passed the optimum age for carbon removal from the atmosphere, and are at risk for disease and catastrophic fire events.
The answer to this is not more withdrawals of this forest such as the Wild Olympics proposal.
The answer is to not renew the Northwest Forest Plan next year and return to managing our national forests for the multipurpose uses for which they were originally intended.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Kitchel, a member of the Port of Port Angeles Timber Advisory Committee, is a former member of the Quillayute Valley School Board and a former Clallam County commissioner.