FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 7, 2011
Commissioner Goldmark calls on the legislature to support regulatory oversight of the timber industry to protect public health and safety
Forestry oversight program faces deep cuts; fee bill could make up the difference
OLYMPIA – Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark today called on the legislature to provide adequate resources for critical forest practices functions of the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR). State law assigns DNR a regulatory role to ensure that timber harvests are managed properly to protect public resources and safety.
“To ensure that timber harvests are done in a manner that protects the public we need boots on the ground,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark. “Rules without compliance are meaningless.”
The Forest Practices Division has already sustained a 20 percent cut, forcing the layoff of compliance staff in 2009. Faced with a staggering budget deficit in the 2011-13 Biennium, the Governor’s budget proposal made cuts in the Forest Practices Division and called for fees from the forestry industry to make up the difference. DNR proposed a modest fee structure that fills the gap in the Governor’s budget, which is now being discussed (SB 5862, HB 2008). In it, fees would range from between $100 and $5,000 for an industry that brings in $2 billion a year. The current fee of $50 per application has not changed since fees were first established in 1993.
The proposed House budget cuts an additional $2 million from the Forest Practices Division. The current fee structure being debated would not be sufficient to make up the additional cuts proposed by the House. In addition, last night, the House Ways and Means Committee amended its budget and directed DNR to deliver to the legislature by October a plan to make the regulatory program fully supported by fees.
For example, if the proposed fees had been in place in 2010, DNR – one of the largest industrial forestland managers in the state – would have paid $92,000 in fees on the $203 million in timber revenue it produced from state trust lands. That represents less than one one-hundredth of a percent (.0045%).
“Not enforcing the rules could have devastating impacts. Flooding, dangerous landslides, and negative impacts to our drinking water and the environment can all result from violations taking place in the forest.” said Commissioner Goldmark. “In these hard economic times, industry will have to pay its fair share of the cost. It is up to the legislature to decide what fair means.”
DNR administers forest practices rules
DNR administers the state’s forest practices rules on more than 12 million acres of private and state-owned forestlands. Forest practices rules set standards for timber harvesting, forest road building, and reforestation. The rules are designed to help protect streams and prevent landslides and flooding.
Media Contact: Bryan Flint, Director of Communication and Outreach, 360-902-1023, firstname.lastname@example.org
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