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Press Release: "Settlement averts challenge to Forest Practices HCP"

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June 12, 2012 -- State reaches agreement with environmental organizations and timber industry concerning the Forest Practices Habitat Conservation Plan.

OLYMPIA – State agencies have reached a settlement agreement with the Forests and Fish Conservation Caucus and the Washington Forest Protection Association concerning the Forest Practices Habitat Conservation Plan (FPHCP), a fifty-year plan to protect aquatic species and clean water on over 9 million acres of state and private forestland and 60,000 miles of streams in Washington.

Signed in 2006, the statute of limitations to challenge the Habitat Conservation Plan was due to expire in late May. Raising concerns about how the Forest Practices management plan was being funded and implemented, a coalition of environmental groups prepared a legal challenge.  At the same time, wishing to avoid litigation while seeking improvements, the groups approached the state and the timber industry to negotiate a settlement that would make the HCP work better.

“I am grateful to the conservation community and the timber industry for joining with state agencies to work out an agreement that improves our opportunity for future success,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark. “Everyone, including our partners, the tribes, are best served when our Habitat Conservation Plan moves forward with the dual goal of protecting the environment and providing certainty to the timber industry.”

The settlement agreement establishes a renewed commitment by all parties to collaboration, a streamlined decision making process, a more rigorous schedule for scientific research that will inform needed rule changes over time, and a stronger plan for ensuring that the program is adequately funded.

“The fifty-year Forest Practices Habitat Conservation Plan represents forest landowner’s commitment to ensuring that fish habitat and water quality will be protected during their forestry operations.  Ensuring adequate funding and implementation of the program are keys to success, but so are the collaborative efforts of state agencies, conservation groups, and the timber industry. This agreement today exemplifies the collaboration and provides the certainty that forest landowners need and keeps us on a positive path forward. Litigation should be the last resort,” said Mark Doumit, Executive Director of the Washington Forest Protection Association.

“Science-based forest management is key to recovering salmon, healthy forests, and clean water.  We are pleased to have reached a settlement with the state and timber industry that will help ensure scientific questions are answered and important public resources like salmon and clean water are protected into the future,” said Joan Crooks, Executive Director of the Washington Environmental Council. “Now, it is up to all of us to make this improved plan work.”

The State, the timber industry, and the environmental community will work with tribal governments, as well as forest stakeholders, on implementing the improved agreement.

Forest Practices Habitat Conservation Plan
The Forest Practices Habitat Conservation Plan (FPHCP) covers more than 9 million acres of private, state and other non-federally owned, forested lands in Washington State for a period of 50 years. The FPHCP establishes that rules adopted by the Washington State Forest Practices Board, and implemented by DNR, are a means for Washington State to meet the requirements of the federal Endangered Species Act and the federal Clean Water Act. The HCP relies on an “Adaptive Management” program to update forestry rules as needed to reflect the best available science. The FPHCP also helps provide long-term conservation of aquatic species, including those listed as threatened and endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act, while supporting an economically viable timber industry and creating regulatory stability for landowners.

Forests and Fish Conservation Caucus

The Forests and Fish Conservation Caucus is made up of the Washington Environmental Council, Conservation Northwest, Washington State Chapter of Sierra Club, Olympic Forest Coalition, Wild Fish Conservancy, and Pacific Rivers Council.

Media Contacts:

Department of Natural Resources 

Bryan Flint, Director of Communications and Outreach, 360-902-1023, bryan.flint@dnr.wa.gov

Washington Forest Protection Association

Cindy Mitchell, Sr. Director of Public Affairs 360-791-9372, cmitchell@wfpa.org, www.forestsandfish.com

Forest and Fish Conservation Caucus      

Becky Kelley, Campaign Director, Washington Environmental Council, 206-631-2602, becky@wecprotects.org, www.wecprotects.org