Jefferson County considers timber changes

Board learning about carbon sequestration

PORT TOWNSEND — State Department of Natural Resources staff delivered a quarterly earnings report for timber sales even as Jefferson County officials consider moving local forests to other uses.

Timber sales on DNR lands in the county have generated an estimated $1.3 million for the county so far this year, according to a presentation from the department to the board of county commissioners, but the state is revising its management of forested lands, making future projection more difficult.

Timber sales on certain state lands help fund government services across the state, including junior taxing districts and areas with a small tax base.

Forest management in the state is changing due to litigation and revisions by the state Board of Natural Resources, and the modeling for how to calculate sustainable harvests is still being developed, said Drew Rosanbalm, DNR assistant Olympic Region manager of state lands.

“(The department) is still arguing over what’s going into the model,” Rosanbalm said at Monday’s meeting. “So far they’re on track, but I’ve got nothing I can point at and say this is where we’re going to land.”

According to the department’s website, DNR calculates sustainable harvest levels for 10 years at a time and is currently determining a sustainable harvest level for 2025-2034 for forests growing on state trust lands located west of the Cascade Crest. The sustainable harvest level is a policy decision that requires approval by the Board of Natural Resources, DNR said, and is also governed by state law.

Additionally, Jefferson County Superior Court ruled in October that DNR violated the state Environmental Protection Act in failing to consider the impacts of climate change in its review of two timber sales in the county. The plaintiffs in that case — Center for Sustainable Economy and Save the Olympic Peninsula — said in October the decision would drastically alter how DNR manages its lands.

At Monday’s meeting, DNR officials said they were rewriting portions of the SEPA review but that staff were still waiting for a full written ruling from the judge.

Whether or not the department would appeal the decision was still being determined by DNR’s administration, Rosanbalm said, and would depend on the content of the judge’s written ruling.

The Jefferson County Commissioners will be meeting with DNR officials, including Rosanbalm, again on Wednesday at 4 p.m. for a forestry workshop to discuss options for managing county lands.

In June, commissioners asked that Jefferson County be included in the state’s consideration of lands for its carbon sequestration program, which, instead of selling local forests for timber, will lease forested acres in exchange for carbon-producing activity elsewhere.

In the past and again at Monday’s meeting, commissioners said they were interested in learning more about the carbon sequestration program.

“We’re still gathering information and just trying to learn right now,” said District 2 Commissioner Greg Brotherton. “We have until Christmas to give feedback to DNR.”

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Reporter Peter Segall can be reached at peter.segall@peninsuladailynews.com.

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