County Council opposes state timber sale over climate impacts

Friday, July 21, 2023

Wishbone forest. Photo from Center for Sustainable Economy 

A majority of the King County Council, including District 1 councilmember Rod Dembowski, on Thursday sent a letter to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Board of Natural Resources (BNR) requesting they defer auction of the Wishbone Timber Sale scheduled for July 25.

Located off Stossel Creek near Duvall, the proposed timber sale includes older dense forests that – due to their size – are powerful carbon captors that help bolster the county’s resilience to future climate impacts associated with heat waves, drought, fire, and flooding.

Initiated by a proposal from Council Chair Dave Upthegrove, the letter also requests that DNR work with King County to protect the mature legacy forests within this sale area and throughout King County for their climate and biodiversity benefits.

DNR has managed the state forest trust lands within King County to balance economic, environmental, and recreational interests for nearly 100 years. 

But the agency’s logging of older, carbon dense forests has sounded the alarm bells for many engaged with the state’s climate action agenda.

“In order to have a healthy sustainable economy, we need to keep our region a great place to live,” Upthegrove said. 
“That is why we want greater consideration of the carbon impacts of clearcutting the remaining mature legacy forests in King County. The harmful economic impacts of climate change require us to fundamentally revisit the old way of doing things.”

King County’s letter comes on the heels of lawsuit filed by the Center for Sustainable Economy (CSE), Legacy Forest Defense Coalition and Save the Olympic Peninsula against the Wishbone sale, citing DNR for its continuing failures to disclose the climate impacts of its mature legacy forest logging program under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA). 

Last fall, plaintiffs won an identical case against two timber sales in Jefferson County.

“This is what real climate leadership looks like,” said Dr. John Talberth, CSE’s President and Senior Economist “We applaud the King County Council for its efforts to hold DNR accountable for the climate impacts of logging mature and old growth forests and its duties under SEPA.”

King County has clear climate goals, and its forests provide benefits to human health, salmon habitat, and water quality and quantity, in addition to the economic benefits of sustainable timber. 

There are substantial carbon and climate benefits to maintaining, protecting, restoring, and expanding the more than 811,000 acres of forest land in King County. A small portion of these forests – about 14,800 acres – are considered mature legacy forests, which due to their carbon capture potential and their risk of loss due to wildfire, insects, and disease rank them among the highest priority for protection in the county.

King County is interested in creating and implementing a vision for the future of state-owned forest lands, which produces world-class lumber and other forest products, while at the same time enhancing carbon storage, and providing a multitude of ecosystem services of value to the people of King County.

In addition to its opposition to the Wishbone sale, the King County Council expressed interest in collaborating with DNR on forest-management strategies that wholistically account for the economic and climate impacts of these decisions.

The Wishbone sale auction is currently scheduled for Tuesday, July 25, 2023.


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