PORT ANGELES — An influential board that oversees state management of forest trust lands has agreed to develop a plan to work through a backlog of timber that wasn’t harvested as scheduled.
The state Board of Natural Resources on Tuesday discussed three options to tackle arrearage — timber that the Department of Natural Resources was supposed to sell but didn’t in the past 10 years.
Clallam County Commissioner Jim McEntire, who represents 21 timber counties on the DNR board, said a subcommittee report he helped develop with staff was “favorably received” by the full board.
No formal vote was taken Tuesday.
“It was a pretty good discussion,” McEntire said.
“We’re launched on the conversation of arrearage, but we’ve got a lot more decision-making left to do.”
He said the three options presented at the meeting in Olympia are by no means set in stone.
“They not carved in granite,” he said. “They’re chiseled in soap.”
McEntire said he intends to support an alternative proposal at the next Board of Natural Resources meeting Sept. 1.
DNR officials say there was a net arrearage of 462 million board feet of timber statewide from 2005 to 2014, including 247 million board feet on the North Olympic Peninsula.
“Increased protection for the marbled murrelet, land transactions for future revenue opportunities and the worst economic recession since the 1930s all contributed to lower annual harvest levels from state trust forests,” said Peter Goldmark, commissioner of public lands, in a Wednesday news release.
State trust lands of all varieties produced more than $265 million in revenue for trust beneficiaries in 2014, DNR officials said.
Revenue from timber sales in the Olympic region is returned to Clallam County and junior taxing districts like schools, hospitals, libraries and fire departments.
Forks City Attorney/Planner Rod Fleck said the Olympic-region arrearage represents about $67 million and at least 400 jobs if sold over five years.
Fleck told a Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce audience Monday that all three options being considered by the Board of Natural Resources would “take money and jobs away from Clallam County.”
He and others have said arrearage contributed to the closure of the Interfor sawmill in Beaver and planer mill in Forks, the Allen Logging Co. mill south of Forks and the Green Creek mill in west Port Angeles.
The first option in the Board of Natural Resources subcommittee report would sell the arrearage over the next five years on a proportional basis to trusts that were short-changed in the past decade.
Proportional allocation happens after overharvesting that occurred in five other counties reduces the total arrearage for the state.
This option would have the net effect of lowering Clallam County’s arrearage by 40 percent because DNR overharvested elsewhere, Fleck said Tuesday.
He added that DNR has an obligation to each individual trust.
Option 2 is similar to Option 1, except the 462 million board feet of proportionately distributed arrearage would be sold over 10 years with a designated volume, perhaps 25 percent, assigned to forest thinnings, according to DNR.
The third option simply folds the arrearage into a distant planning horizon.
McEntire described this proposal as a “do-nothing option.”
Fleck said it represents a breach of DNR’s fiduciary duty to trust beneficiaries.
The American Forest Resource Council suggested a fourth option to the Board of Natural Resources that would sell the entire 462 million board feet of arrearage in one year and divide the subsequent 10-year sustainable harvest calculation over nine years.
“In year one, the arrearage goes away,” McEntire said of the proposal.
“Then you do 10 years’ worth of cut in nine years.”
The American Forest Resource Council represents the forest products industry.
“Any environmental impacts of this slightly increased year 2 through 10 volume would, of course, be analyzed in the SEPA [State Environmental Policy Act] analysis for the SHC [sustainable harvest calculation],” council state Manager Matt Comisky wrote in a letter to the Board of Natural Resources.
McEntire said he was “intrigued” by the forest council’s suggestion, saying he would push for it as a variant of options 1 and 2 in the next meeting of the six-member Board of Natural Resources.
“I would like to have the DNR staff examine that as a way for disposing the arrearage sooner than later,” McEntire said.
“There’s a lot of different dynamics that intersect on this thing. There’s a lot more work left to do.”
In addition to solving arrearage, the Board of Natural Resources is tasked with calculating the volume of timber that should be harvested from 2015 to 2016.
Intertwined in those decisions are possible amendments to a habitat conservation plan for the protection of the marbled murrelet, a small seabird that nests in Pacific Northwest forests.
These efforts will be subject to public review under SEPA.
On the local level, Clallam County commissioners are expected to establish a trust lands advisory committee to study the arrearage and the possibility of reconveying DNR trust lands back to the county.
The committee was recommended by the Charter Review Commission, an elected body that proposed charter amendments for voters to consider in 2015 and 2016 elections.
Speaking on behalf of a charter review subcommittee, Fleck on Monday suggested that the new committee include representatives from each commissioner district and the following interests: Society of American Foresters, Democratic Party, Republican Party, Port of Port Angeles, a school district association, Olympic Forest Coalition, League of Women Voters, granges, junior taxing districts and the city of Forks.
Commissioners are expected to discuss the formation of the trust lands committee Aug. 31.
After the group is formed, McEntire has said he will recuse himself from its dealings to preserve his ability to vote on the Board of Natural Resources without an appearance of a potential conflict of interest.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at email@example.com.