Skip to content

Protecting the environment by providing legal services for forest cases of statewide significance

Protecting the environment by providing legal services for forest cases of statewide significance.

You are here: Home » News » Washington State-Owned Forests » Sustainable Harvest Calculation » KOMO: "Judge Rejects State Plan For Increased Logging On Trust Lands"

KOMO: "Judge Rejects State Plan For Increased Logging On Trust Lands"

Document Actions
Sept. 28, 2005 -- A King County Superior Court judge has set aside the state Board of Natural Resources' new 10-year plan for increased logging in Western Washington state forests, saying the panel did not adequately consider the environmental impact.

By KOMO Staff and News Services

SEATTLE - A King County Superior Court judge has set aside the state Board of Natural Resources' new 10-year plan for increased logging in Western Washington state forests, saying the panel did not adequately consider the environmental impact.

The plan, approved in September 2004 by the panel that sets policy for the state Department of Natural Resources, called for harvests of 597 million board feet a year - an increase of about 30 percent - from the 1.4 million acres of state trust lands west of the Cascade Range.

Judge Sharon Armstrong e-mailed her ruling to the parties Tuesday, saying she had concluded that the final environmental impact statement was insufficient as to effects on the threatened northern spotted owl and salmon. She also said the impact statement also did not sufficiently explore the effects of less environmentally costly alternatives, and fell short in assessing cumulative effects of the new logging levels.

Armstrong asked the parties to submit proposed conclusions and orders. In the meantime, she suspended the 10-year plan and ordered DNR to return to the "pre-resolution status quo," a reference to board resolution approving the logging increases.

DNR spokeswoman Patty Hanson said the department had not yet seen the judge's final orders, and would withhold comment until officials had a chance to review them, probably within a couple of days.

"Presumably they'll have to go back and craft a more responsible plan," said Becky Kelley of the Washington Environmental Council, which had challenged the plan with Audubon Washington, Conservation Northwest and the Olympic Forest Coalition.

In a news release, the groups said that trust-land timber harvests in Western Washington had rarely exceeded 500 million board feet annually.

"During planning, DNR projected that logging levels of only about 400 million board feet per year could be sustained if existing levels of resource protection were continued," the release noted.

"Commissioner (Doug) Sutherland overreached in his effort to sharply increase logging in our state forests," said Joan Crooks, executive director of the environmental council. "Now, he will have to fully disclose how increased logging could damage sensitive areas and look at more sustainable alternatives," she added.

Sutherland is chairman of the six-member DNR board.

 

The lawsuit said the state had not fully considered how cutting more timber near streams, across slopes prone to landslides and in ecologically sensitive areas would affect wildlife habitat.

Backers of the board's "sustainable harvest" plan defended it as taking a measured approach to thinning overstocked state forests in ways that will improve the ecosystem and reduce the risk of wildfires.

About 470 million board feet of timber were scheduled for harvest in 2004, most of it in Western Washington, where there are 1.4 million acres of state trust lands. There are 700,000 acres of trust lands east of the mountains.

Sales of that timber were expected to raise about $115 million in revenue for schools, county services, hospitals and libraries.

It takes about 15,000 board feet of lumber to build a 2,000-square-foot home, according to the National Association of Home Builders.