PORT TOWNSEND — Jefferson County is expected to see an increase in timber revenue this year, according to a Monday presentation to county commissioners.
Commissioners met with representatives from the state Department of Natural Resources for their quarterly check-in on timber sales revenue.
According to Drew Rosanbalm of the Department of Natural Resources, the county is projected to make $1.6 million in timber sales this year, which is up from last year’s sales, though exact figures on last year’s sales were not immediately available Monday.
This is good news for Jefferson County because that money goes toward the county’s general fund and is distributed into junior taxing districts.
These districts fund a variety of public programs such as college scholarships, behavioral health, child safety and education.
County Commissioner Kathleen Kler said officials like to have these meetings every quarter so they are up to date on what land is scheduled to be cut, sold and to get revenue projections in order to stay on top of plans for the county budget.
However, according to Kler, the constantly changing timber industry can make it difficult for state and county officials to know exactly how much money they will see come in that year.
Rosanbalm said that the Department of Natural Resources struggled to sell a plot of trees that would generally be used for utility poles — an easy sale in the past.
However, with many cities opting to use fiberglass poles, that plot of received no bids, but was eventually sold after being lumped in with another unsold plot.
“These things can really affect the timber industry,” Kler said.
“Things like the utility poles being replaced with fiberglass, different tree sizes which the mills then have to accommodate and new science on how to harvest and how the harvest affects, not just the aesthetics of the area, but things like the runoff and the salmon; these all cause a lot of fluctuation.”
In an attempt to create more revenue, the Department of Natural Resources has implemented sort sales, which cut out the middleman and allows the Department to sell directly to mills.
“The sort prices are considerably higher in terms of the money it brings in,” Kler said.
It’s a new way for the department to market timber on the Olympic Peninsula but there is a cap on sort sales and these types of sales are personnel heavy, requiring more work from more department employees to pull off, according to Kler.
However, Kler said she understands the idea of timber harvesting does make a lot of people uncomfortable.
“They are concerned about it ruining the aesthetic beauty of our county,” she said.
However, Kler said the harvest is an important source of revenue for the county and that the Department of Natural Resources is required to comply to certain guidelines allowing for harvests to be safe, environmentally friendly and not tarnish the lush, green aesthetic the Olympic Peninsula is known for.
Currently across the state, the Department of Natural Resources manages 2.1 million acres of state trust lands. All of that land is certified under the Sustainable Forestry Initiative and 172,000 acres is also certified under the Forest Stewardship Council.
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5550, or at [email protected]