Clallam County trust lands panel delivers final report

PORT ANGELES — After 14 months of research, discussion and debate, the Clallam County Trust Lands Advisory Committee has delivered a final report to the three county commissioners.

The report reaffirms a Nov. 18 committee recommendation that commissioners not seek reconveyance of 92,500 acres of state-managed forest trust lands in Clallam County.

Instead, commissioners should consider hiring a staffer or a consultant with forestry experience to act as a liaison with the state Department of Natural Resources and to seek a detailed inventory of DNR trust lands, the committee recommended Tuesday.

“I do think there is a problem with the quality of the inventory information,” said Clallam County Commissioner Bill Peach, who also serves as vice chair of the state Board of Natural Resources, in a Tuesday work session.

“I would appreciate continuing these conversations — I’ll have another one, I’m in Olympia next week — to try to wrap my arms around the practicality of execution. What is the cost?”

The committee’s 525-page final report is available on the Trust Lands Advisory Committee website, www.clallam.net/bocc/trustlands.html.

It includes summaries of how the panel voted on various recommendations, meeting minutes and minority reports.

“There were quite a variety of points of view expressed, from the need to increase revenues to the beneficiaries as well as to protect the environment,” said Joe Murray, committee chairman, in the work session.

The 20-member committee was tasked by commissioners in 2015 to determine whether the county should reconvey management of its forest board transfer lands.

Timber harvests on DNR trust lands generate revenue for timber counties, public schools and universities, and a bevy of junior taxing districts such as hospitals, libraries and fire departments.

Absent a recommendation for reconveyance, the ad hoc panel was directed by resolution to find ways to engage DNR to help it fulfill its trust land objectives to the county, its junior taxing districts and citizenry.

The Trust Lands Advisory Committee held monthly meetings to gather information and develop its recommendations.

In a series of meetings last spring, DNR officials explained the intricacies of trust land management. They outlined the agency’s legal obligations under the Forest Practices Act, Endangered Species Act, Habitat Conservation Plan and other environmental requirements.

“I would argue that we got a four- or five-credit course in DNR,” said committee Secretary Rod Fleck, Forks’ city attorney and planner.

Fleck added that the committee’s yearlong effort validated a long-standing notion that DNR land-management involves a combination of ecological, economic and social factors.

“I would say that this process really emphasized to me the three circles and how they interact and how they’re so related and how those lands are vital to our county in all these different ways,” Fleck said.

Here are selected recommendations from the Trust Lands Advisory Committee (see final report for complete list):

• Should commissioners seek the reconveyance of state forest lands managed by DNR back to Clallam County to be managed by the county? 3 voted yes, 9 voted no.

• Should commissioners as a minimum seek from the DNR an accurate, updated, maintained and detailed resource inventory of its trust lands to include all resources with annual updates? 12 voted yes, 0 voted no, 1 abstained.

• Should commissioners hire a staffer/consultant with forestry experience to act as a liaison with DNR in order to monitor, engage, respond and question DNR management of trust lands? 6 voted yes, 5 voted no, 1 abstained.

• Should commissioners establish a representative advisory committee with some level of staff support that would advise the board on DNR’s management of its trust lands? 6 voted yes, 7 voted no.

• Should commissioners establish a means of coordinated, regular and meaningful outreach with the trust beneficiaries and the public regarding trust lands? 15 voted yes, 1 voted no, 1 abstained.

• Should commissioners seek from the DNR ways to increase revenues from recreational uses, road use, forest products, etc., on trust lands and a means to secure reoccurring revenues from future carbon sequestration markets? 10 voted yes, 6 voted no, 1 abstained.

The three commissioners, two of whom have extensive backgrounds in forestry, will consider the committee’s recommendations and determine the next steps.

“The discussions were very lengthy and people had very thought-provoking ideas, and I appreciate that,” said Commissioner Randy Johnson, former president of Green Crow Corp.

“It sounded like from your recommendations, everyone agrees that we need to have a good inventory, which I totally agree.”

Given the “need and desire to have better information and data from DNR,” Commissioner Mark Ozias asked Peach for suggestions on how the board could best encourage the agency to develop new data.

Peach, a retired Rayonier forester, said he would continue to work with DNR planners to assess the current forest inventory and “contrast it with what we would need.”

Murray also volunteered to meet with DNR staff, Peach said.

“After we’re able to assess that, I’d like to be able to come back and report on maybe some recommendations the commissioners could put to the Board [of Natural Resources],” Peach added.

“I’m happy to carry the recommendation. The practicality is going to be, really and truly, the cost associated with it. My personal bias is that it’s a cost that we ought to consider bearing.”

________

Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at rollikainen@peninsula dailynews.com.

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