Washington Forest Law Center
WFLC is a non-profit, public interest law firm dedicated to protecting the Pacific Northwest’s private and state-owned forest lands.
Washington Forest Law Center Welcomes You
Thank you for visiting the Washington Forest Law Center website! We thank you for your interest in protecting the public’s fish, wildlife, social, and cultural resources that depend on Washington’s 10 million acres of state and private forests.
WFLC has recently made some changes to how we work and assist the public. We offer the following services:
Legal and Scientific Referral Services for Forest Practices
If a citizen has concerns about a specific “forest practice,” or a logging activity, within the State of Washington, please contact Kara Whittaker, WFLC Senior Scientist and Policy Analyst, at email@example.com, or 206-223-4088 x. 5. Dr. Whittaker will conduct a free initial assessment of the proposed forest practice and will provide you with verbal and electronic information about it. Please remember that industrial forest practices, even environmentally-harmful ones, are legal in Washington and that there may or may not be a way to stop or limit a specific forest practice.
After Dr. Whittaker screens and reviews your forest practice concern, she will consult with Staff Attorney Peter Goldman, who will then contact you and refer you to an experienced public interest- oriented environmental lawyer who has experience in forestry issues who would be happy to assist you at the least cost possible.
Legal and Scientific Support Services to our Partner Environmental Organizations
Staff Attorney Peter Goldman and Senior Scientist and Policy Analyst Kara Whittaker work closely and regularly in partnership with other non-profit organizations whose missions include improved forest practices on state and private land. Examples of our partnership work includes:
WFLC participates in and advises the Forest and Fish Conservation Caucus, which works with other forest stakeholders to enforce and continually improve the forest practice rules governing aquatic species. Other Caucus partners include the lead organization Washington Environmental Council, Conservation Northwest, Wild Fish Conservancy, Olympic Forest Coalition, and Wild Salmon Center. The Caucus’ work includes protecting valuable salmon habitat, protecting the public from dangerous landslides, and improving the forest practice rules governing the direct and cumulative impacts of forest practices.
WFLC participates in and advises the Marbled Murrelet Coalition, a coalition formed to ensure that the State of Washington provides the most forest conservation-oriented protection and recovery on Washington State forests for this severely imperiled old forest-dependent seabird. Other coalition members are the Washington Environmental Council, Conservation Northwest, Olympic Forest Coalition, Defenders of Wildlife, and Seattle Audubon Society.
WFLC works with partner organizations to monitor and improve the State Board of Natural Resources’ and the Washington Department of Natural Resources’ state forest management policies, decisions, and practices. This work includes ensuring that Washington complies with its 1.8 million acre federal habitat conservation plan for the state forests, the calculation of the “sustainable harvest” on the State forests, and other state forest management decisions.
WFLC works with its partner organizations to monitor and improve the state-wide forest practice rules and board manuals before the Washington Forest Practices Board.
WFLC has more than 20 years of experience with the state forest practice regulatory scheme governing state and private forests, the state forest management scheme governing state forests, the independent “certification” of forest practices, and forest carbon sequestration policies. We also work with partner organizations in supporting ecologically-credible independent forest certification schemes governing forestry practices, such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and we monitor the quickly-growing “green building” sector to make sure that “green building” lumber policies and products, such as cross- laminated timber, source their forest products from FSC-certified forests. WFLC’s experts are available to consult with and present to the public on all these topics.
Direct Legal Services
Beginning in September 2018, WFLC will not provide direct legal services to citizens for specific forest cases. Our role is to help you assess your case, provide you with options, and refer you to a cooperating lawyer willing and able to assist you. WFLC will limit its direct legal services to supporting its partner environmental organizations.
Who We Are
Director and managing attorney Peter Goldman graduated from Seattle University's School of Law in 1984. After clerking for Washington State Supreme Court Justice James M. Dolliver, Peter joined the criminal division of the King County Prosecutor's office, where he spent 11 years as a trial lawyer in all of the office's divisions. During his last five years, Peter was a Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in the Appellate Division, where he handled over 200 complex criminal appeals.
Senior Scientist & Policy Analyst Kara Whittaker joined the WFLC in January 2008. In 2007, she earned her PhD in Urban Ecology at the University of Washington, College of Forest Resources. In support of legal cases and environmental policy-making, Kara performs spatial and technical analyses on topics ranging from endangered species management to forest certification and geomorphology. The emphasis of her work is identifying sustainable forest practices intended to minimize negative impacts on fish, wildlife, and people. Kara also enjoys raising her two boys and supporting her family’s businesses, Alki Kayak Tours and Mountain to Sound Outfitters.
Ellen Lende, WFLC Administrator and Assistant to Peter Goldman, is originally from Minnesota and moved to Washington in 1994. Growing up she would visit Seattle to spend time with her grandmother, who lived in Des Moines, WA. She fell in love with the state from the start! Ellen has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from The University of River Falls, WI, and spent much time traveling and studying abroad. Before working at WFLC she served as a project coordinator at Northwest Justice Project.
What We Do
The Washington Forest Law Center is committed to applying the law and the best available science to protect Washington’s 10 million forested acres. We provide free legal services to environmental organizations that are concerned with the protection of Washington's forests.
WFLC began in 1997 as a non-profit law firm dedicated to using our legal and scientific skills to protect Washington’s 10 million acres of irreplaceable forests owned by the state or private landowners. Logging of these forests over the past decades has caused serious harm to fish, wildlife, and scenic resources.
WFLC strives to solve this decades-old problem. Through advocacy, planning and carefully selected legal cases, we pledge to do all we can to improve and protect the health of Washington’s state and private forests and the animals, fish, and plants that depend on them.
From pressure on crucial agencies such as the state Forest Practices Board to the courtroom, our commitment is to ensure that companies and individuals conducting forest practices comply with state and federal laws and the best-known scientific principles. We have never been against responsible, sustainable forestry; on the contrary, we support numerous efforts to promote levels and types of forestry that are good for forests, workers, and the forest products industry.
Today, our aim has expanded beyond litigating individual cases to a broader mission of advocating for forest laws, rules, and policies that protect Washington's forestlands and waters. We also coordinate strategic planning between conservation groups that share our goals.
We envision a future in which forest practices are conducted in a manner and at a scale that is completely consistent with healthy forest ecosystems, diverse wildlife, and clean water.
Since the first explorers made their way into the Pacific Northwest, Washington’s magnificent forests have been coveted – and cut – for timber.
Today, 53% of our remaining forests are owned and managed by federal agencies. These lands include our world-famous national parks, our national forests, our wilderness areas, tribal lands and Bureau of Land Management lands. In places where logging is permitted, it’s highly regulated by the federal government.
The remaining 47% – about 10 million acres - of Washington forests are owned by the state, private timber companies, or individuals. These state and private forests are typically lower in elevation than the federal lands, and are home to extremely important fish and wildlife habitat. Several species of threatened or endangered wildlife and fish have their primary habitat on these state and private lands. These forests also offer invaluable scenic beauty and numerous recreational opportunities for which the Northwest is so well known.
Unsustainably high logging on state and private lands has taken, and continues to take, a toll on fish and wildlife resources and scenic beauty. The logging that takes place on these 10 million acres of state and private land requires specialized legal and scientific expertise to ensure that it is sustainable and does not cause further harm to forest ecosystems. The Washington Forest Law Center specializes in legal strategies and advocacy to ensure that logging is both sustainable and protective of these irreplaceable forests.
What’s Different about State and Private Forests?
Protecting state and private forests is painstaking, difficult and expensive work. At the federal level, we are lucky that there are a number of local and national organizations dedicated to challenging federal timber sales and policies which threaten the public interest. Federal statutes and attorney fee provisions often reward challengers who are successful, making legal representation easier to obtain and afford.
But in contrast, recovering legal fees in cases involving state or private forest practice cases is extremely tough. Anyone who challenges logging or other activities on these lands faces very low fee caps as well as state agencies and private timber companies with vast legal departments more than willing to sue anyone who gets in their way. And even though what happens to these forests can affect the public interest as much as activities on federal lands, economic barriers often prevent all but the most egregious cases from obtaining legal or political representation. Some entity needs to continuously monitor the rules and laws governing forest management.
When necessary in certain cases, the Washington Forest Law Center provides direct legal services to ensure the protection of our natural resources. The majority of our work, however, is working with our partners to strategize and advocate for forest practice rules and polices that prevent the destruction of state and private forests.
Who’s Watching the Hen House?
Federal agencies that oversee logging on federal lands engage in an intensive public environmental review process. The federal laws governing logging contain provisions such as streamside buffers to protect fish and well as road-building standards.
These laws are tougher than the laws of any of the states. It’s a different story when it comes to timber harvesting on private lands, which are regulated by little-known Washington agencies the Forest Practices Board and the Department of Natural Resources. The Legislature intended the Board to be made up of a variety of interests so that all points of view are considered when making extremely important decisions. But in practice, the voices speaking out to protect our state forests, waters and wildlife are frequently drowned out by those with a timber industry bias.
WFLC's Activities in Sister States
Thanks to the decades of hard work by environmental and tribal advocates and because Washington has a relatively progressive timber industry, Washington has more environmentally-protective forest practice regulations than those in her sister states of Oregon and Idaho. This disparity makes it difficult for environmental advocates in Washington to continue to improve Washington's forest practices rules and laws.
But this disparity also creates an opportunity and need for WFLC to work with allies in sister states to help them improve their state's forest practice rules. For these reasons, WFLC has launched a program to work with advocates in Oregon and Idaho on selective cases involving their state's scientifically-inadequate forest practice rules. WFLC is currently working closely with sister state environmental organizations examining cases involving discharge of logging road sediment, impacts of industrial forestry on threatened or endangered species, and issues arising from the cumulative impact of logging on the environment.
WFLC envisions a three-state region that offers state-of-the-art forestry practices, practices that are both sustainable for industry and the species that depend on them for their essential habitat.