A Call for a Moratorium on Clear Cutting of State Forest Lands

Stop ClearcuttingThe following draft petition and frequently asked questions is posted here on the KEC Website to solicit input before such a petition is sent.

Please send your comments to us at info@kitsapenvironmentalcoalition.org .

Petition to Commissioner of Public Lands, Hilary Franz (Draft 11-8-20)

We, the undersigned, call on you, Commissioner Franz, to cease all clear cutting of state forest lands for 10 years and use only selective harvesting of uneven growth trees.  The moratorium does not need to result in an overall reduction of jobs from forestry in the state. We ask that you engage the multiple state and county agencies, companies, citizens, tribes, and foundations to creatively make this possible. 

 

This moratorium can reduce 52.5 million metric tons of greenhouse gases from the present Washington State carbon footprint and restore the health of the forests including the soil, water, air and the species that depend on the forests for their habitat and food.

Frequently Asked Questions (Draft 11-8-20)

The following Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) provides background for this petition.

How does this request fit with the mission of the Washington State Department of Natural Resources?

In its own words, the mission of Washington State’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is to “manage, sustain, protect the health and productivity of Washington’s lands and water to meet the needs of present and future generations.” It also has responsibilities for some funding of education and county services through its trust lands.

Currently, the priority appears to be the state budget rather than protecting our ailing forests, lands, and waters. The routine business of the Board of Natural Resources (BNR, which oversees the DNR) consists of selling state lands, and timber rights on state lands, to the highest bidder in order to help fund state schools and county services.

Current forestry practices do not support the long-term health of our forests that are essential to the well-being of all of life for future generations.

 If clear cutting is not allowed, what forestry would be allowed?

Rather than engaging in clear cutting of even growth trees, we call on DNR to support selective logging (harvesting) of uneven growth trees. That is, a forest needs to have trees of many different ages to support the health and well-being of the soil, water, plants, and animals in the forest. Such harvesting needs to be done in a way that preserves the many functions of trees in a forest.

Why is stopping clear cutting of our forests so important?

Here are three reasons: (a) the ability of forests especially mature trees to sequester carbon, (b) the prevention of forest fires, and (c) the protection of biodiversity of plant and animal species .

Carbon Sequestration

As the WEC has stated: The forests of the Pacific Northwest are among the most carbon-dense ecosystems on the planet. Short rotations and intensive harvesting significantly reduce our forests’ ability to sequester carbon. Carbon sequestration can be dramatically increased by changes in forest management.

A diverse forest with the many forms of life within it, contributes to the natural cycle of water (including capturing moisture from the clouds and bringing it down to the streams), the protection of the streams (through, e.g., shading the streams from excessive heat from the sun and maintaining the structure of the soil during heavy rains), the support of species from bacteria and fungi in the soil to large mammals that live in the forests, and more.

In industrial-scale forestry, trees are often harvested when they are in the 40-50 age range when their natural life is in the range of 100-120 years. The older trees sequester more carbon than younger trees. Those trees are being harvested as they approach the years when they are sequestering the most carbon.

Forest Fire Prevention

In September 2020, entire towns and forests in Washington, Oregon, and California were devastated by wildfire and the very air we breathe was being polluted. Accelerating climate change, long predicted, is surely to blame.   [1]Clear cutting is hastening the irreversible loss of habitat for wildlife and livable environment for human beings. Clear cutting relies on use of toxic pesticides which also act as desiccants—drying agents which enhance flammability.

Protection of Biodiversity

Biodiversity of plants and animals is an essential means by which nature handles the range of conditions that affect life. Although we often want to think otherwise, humans have insufficient knowledge to handle the complexity of nature. The diversity of trees and other species which make for a regenerative forest that maintains flexibility and supports the biodiversity needed to sustain life is  being undermined by clear cutting.

How are decisions being made about forestry practices?

Currently the interests of industry, big business, and the prioritization of using our forests to generate revenue, have dominated decision-making. Despite the pleas of citizens’ groups citing scientific evidence of the direct relationship between deforestation and climate change, the current practices of DNR are hastening climate collapse.

How urgent is the need for a moratorium on clear cutting?

The UN has warned that ten years remain to affect climate change. The recent fire crisis in California, Oregon, and Washington, are evidence of the urgency and suggest that ten years may be optimistic.

Can we make such a major change?

The state, nation, and world’s response to COVID 19 shows that we can make changes that once seemed impossible when faced with a crisis. Climate change is a bigger crisis than COVID 19; it is just relatively slower moving. However, it’s pace is picking up and is of a greater magnitude. We must leave remaining forest lands to do their precious work of maintaining watersheds and carbon sequestration.

How was the greenhouse sequestration amount estimated?

The current WA State carbon footprint is 78.7 million metric tons of CO2. In WA State, DNR manages 2.1 million acres of forest. One acre of forest can sequester 2.5 metric tons of CO2 per year. Then the footprint of CO2 to be sequestered is 5,250,000 equal to 5.25 millions of metric tons of CO2 per year. Thus, in a 10 year, the proposed moratorium would sequester 52.5 million metric tons of CO2.[2]

[1]  https://www.npr.org/2020/09/13/911935457/as-wildfires-grow-more-intense-iconic-western-forests-may-not-come-back?fbclid=IwAR1_DjcuOt7uxd4Q-1oBrXH9at5UcOVVDkJ8pu1gHEDY68wKler8PIhducY
[2]  These calculations are based on the following resources:  the decarbonization roadmap shown in https://ecology.wa.gov/Air-Climate/Climate-change/Greenhouse-gases and data from the DNR  website, https://www.dnr.wa.gov/page/forest-resources-0 .