Protect and Restore Forests

The League of Women Votes of Washington supports natural resource management (pg. 13) that promotes an environment beneficial to life through the protection and wise management of natural resources in the public interest. Our positions can be seen in in Program in Action (pg. 27) . The League promotes resource conservation, stewardship, and long-range planning, with the responsibility for managing natural resources shared by all levels of government. The goal is to preserve the physical, chemical, and biological integrity of the ecosystem with maximum protection of public health and the environment.

To apply these principles, the League adopted a Resolution to:

Protect all mature forests on public lands in Washington, as well as policy supporting;

  Acquisition of replacement land for the trusts, to maintain or expand the state trust land base with new land managed as working forests;
  Climate-smart forest management on replacement lands for more carbon sequestration and timber production; and
  Compensation to trust land beneficiaries to ensure essential local services are maintained.

Issue Team Chair: Kate Lunceford, Forests Issue Chair
  DOWNLOAD the Forests Issue Paper
Interested in getting involved with this topic? Contact Kate Lunceford

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Overview of the 2024 Legislative Session

Forest Legislation

There is more funding to preserve mature forests and purchase replacement lands for economically impacted rural counties. Last year the State Legislature voted to permanently protect 2,000 acres of mature forests with funds from the Climate Commitment Act (CCA). However, the demand from counties to protect their threatened mature forests far exceeded this original investment. In February, the Legislature received over 6,500 emails requesting investment in mature forest conservation. The legislature listened to this call and allocated $15 million. This investment will put hundreds of acres of structurally complex mature forests into permanent conservation across the state. This kind of investment is a win/win solution for public lands and communities alike. Washington’s older state forests are among the most carbon-dense in the world, making them invaluable tools for fighting climate change. They are not only in their prime for carbon storage and sequestration, but they also provide essential ecosystem services that make us more resilient to the growing impacts of climate change. This funding is essential for conserving our best carbon sequestering forests that are at risk of being lost, while also purchasing replacement lands to add to the overall public lands base.

The bad news is the Dept. of Natural Resources put in a condition that no forests with Forest Practices Applications filed before March are eligible. So, many important mature forests are still on the schedule to be logged. The LWVWA will continue education and advocacy to seek cancellation of the sales.

The Trust Land Transfer Program received $10.8 million conserving 9 projects with over 2,200 acres of state trust land. This appropriation builds on the success we had last year revitalizing the Trust Land Transfer program within the Dept. of Natural Resources. Trust land transfer projects are special state trust lands that are under-performing economically and contain ecologically valuable features. Communities and Tribes all over the state are excited by the prospect of an opportunity to have a real say in the future of public lands. Trust land transfer is a win-win-win, for conservation, trust beneficiaries, rural communities, and even working forests.

The Legislature also approved $5.78M requested by the Recreation and Conservation Office for the Community Forest Program. The LWVWA signed on to a letter asking for funding for the two projects on Whidbey Island and in Hoquiam.

Below are reports the Issue Chair wrote throughout the 2024 Legislative session. There will be no further reports or action alerts this year.

2024 Forests Legislation

Priority Bills

Bills in green are supported. Bills in red are opposed by the League. Bills in black the League is watching.

No priority bills at this time.

Other Bills
Bills in green are supported. Bills in red are opposed by the League. Bills in black the League is watching.

HB 1818 Concerning the exclusion of compensating tax when land is sold to a governmental entity intending to manage the land similarly to designated forestland or timberland. This bill creates an exception to additional and compensating tax when there is a sale or transfer of designated forestland or timberland to a governmental entity. Typically, when forestland is changed to another use, it is then taxed at market value. This allows DNR to purchase forest land likely to convert to housing without paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensating tax because the forest is zoned residential. This bill passed.

HB 2483/SB 6121 Concerning biochar production from agricultural and forestry biomass. Small scale biochar production is preferable to corporate, industrial scale biochar which some conservationists fear will lead to the inappropriate exploitation of forests. Biochar is a carbon-rich material produced by heating biomass. It is mainly used to improve soil nutrient availability, aeration in soil, and soil water filtration. This bill asks the Department of Natural Resources to encourage a specific process to produce biochar using mobile units that reduce emissions. The bill specifies using less than 150 green tons a month of clean biomass. Clean biomass cannot contain contaminants at concentrations not normally associated with virgin biomass. This bill passed.

HJR 4210 Adding a new section to the Washington state Constitution regarding the conservation and protection of the state's natural resources. While Washington state has a robust set of environmental protection laws, as written, these laws are unable to ensure equitable and adequate environmental protection in all situations. Among their limitations, gaps and loopholes allow for harmful levels of pollution. The laws are unable to keep up with emerging contaminants and new technologies, only providing protection after the fact once irreparable harm has been inflicted. Existing laws also fail to include adequate ability for regulators to fully address unique circumstances, including equitable treatment of all communities, and as a result not fully stopping damage to our communities. This bill did not pass.

SSB 5667 Concerning eligibility, enrollment, and compensation of small forestland owners volunteering for participation in the forestry riparian easement program. The bill increases the amount Small Forest Landowner Office would offer a small forest landowner from 50% to 90% of the value of the qualifying timber in the Forestry Riparian Easement Program. It increases payments for qualifying timber on unstable slopes from $50,000 to $150,000. Protecting our riparian areas and steep slopes is essential for salmon recovery. Trees cool stream waters for salmon and other aquatic species. Standing trees on steep slopes prevent landslides and stream sedimentation. This bill highly incentivizes small forest landowners to protect their trees instead of harvesting them. This bill passed.

How To Be Involved

  • If you are interested in a particular bill, use the links above to go to the webpage for that bill. These pages include staff summaries and reports including who testified PRO versus CON on the bill. There is also information about how to access videos of hearings that have been held.
  • If your available time permits you to do nothing else, please scan the LWVWA Legislative Action Newsletter each week (it's distributed each Sunday during the legislative session) and respond to the Action Alerts.
  • If you have more time and are interested in a particular topic, we always appreciate and can use your assessments of bills, law implementation, and future concerns. For Forests topics send assessments of a few paragraphs to a few pages and include the sources of the facts you rely on. Send them to Kate Lunceford, Forests Issue Chair.
  • If you want to engage more in a current topic, such as Dept. of Natural Resources sustainable harvest calculation or other forest issues, one of our coalition partners probably has a focused action project underway that you can join. Contact me to discuss opportunities.

Kate Lunceford, Forests Issue Chair.

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