Working Forest and Wilderness

A Proposal to Restore Economically Important "Working Forests" and to Preserve Ecologically Important Wilderness Forests on the Olympic National Forest

By the North Olympic Timber Action Committee
Port Angeles, Washington
November 20, 2012

The North Olympic Timber Action Committee (NOTAC) firmly believes that legislative changes in the Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP) are necessary to address economic and ecological needs by clearly delineating both Working Forest (Matrix and Wilderness. This proposal modifies HR 5995 by restoring approximately 143,150 acres of Working Forests lost in the NWFP, reducing the proposal wilderness are to 122,780, and slightly changing the wild and scenic river designations.

Working Forest Restoration

The adoption of the 1994 NWFP was a paradigm change in focus from sustained yield timber production to endangered species protection. Only 16% of the total forest area was identified as Matrix Forest where perpetual and recurrent commercial timber harvest could be done. Matrix Forests are the Working Forests where active forest management and commercial timber sales provide a balance of ecological and economic benefits. The Olympic National Forest was not allocated any Matrix Forest leading to heavy job losses, and a massive road maintenance backlog, loss of deer and elk habitat, loss of recreational road access and increased risk to fish habitat.

Since the mid-20th century a large portion of the Olympic National Forest was commercially harvested. Most of these lands are currently in various stages of planted or naturally regenerated second growth forests. Our selection criteria for the proposed Matrix Forest were at least 90% second growth, at least 80% previously harvested, had or have roads, have few recreational trails, and have regenerataed into heavily stocked stands that are in declining health, are an increasing fire risk, and no longer provide the early successional habitat diversity important to deer, elk and many other species. Delineation was done from Forest Service timber age maps, aerial photography, substantial local knowledge and field examinations.

Notwithstanding the young age and heavy stokcing, some of this proposed Matrix Forest was recently designated as critical habitat for the Spotted Owl. We believe that a legislative delineation of this Matrix Forest will open opportunities for ecological forestry timber harvests* to provide early successional deer and elk habitat and to protect the small patches of residual own habitat left during previous harvests. Note that the Port of Port Angeles recently released an economic impact study of HR 5995 which included a Matrix Forest proposal of 168,200 acres for harvests that would enhance Spotted Owl habitat. This could be a compatible addition to this proposal.

A recent study by the Washington Forest Protection Association indicates that for each 1000 acres of private Working Forest, 8.8 family wage jobs and $400,000 in annual wages are generated. Using these estimates as a rough guide, and assuming that half the area would not be harvested in order to provide protection for water quality, fish, Spotted Owls, unstable land forms, etc., the 143,150 acres of proposed working forests woudl provide over 600 family wages job and $29,000,000 in annual wages.

More importantly, we expect this Matrix Forest to provide sufficient long-term supply of logs to reduce the likelihood of another mill closure, encourage infrastructure investment, and provide timber sale revenue for counties and for forest and stream restoration. This infrastructure stability will also have a positive effect on revenues from state trust and private forest land timber harvests.

Wilderness Reduction

We reduced the HR 5995 wilderness designations in the Dungeness River and Humptulips River watersheds where these designations included substantial previously harvested and roaded second growth forests. These areas are in need of timber harvest treatments for forest health and wildlife habitat.

Wild and Scenic River Designation

With one exception, we restricted the HR 5995 wild and scenic rivers designation to the Olympic National Park and proposed existing wilderness areas only. The exception is the upper Quinalt where down river residents fear that up river wild and scenic designations in the National Park will enable eventual administrative condemnation of their private lands.

*In December 2010, Secretary Salazar set in motion a plan to apply the principles of active forest management, as suggested by Professors Norm Johnson and Jerry Franklin, on BLM lands within the Coos Bay, Roseburg, and Medford Districts in Oregon. The Medford pilot project, which was the first of three sales, received no protests or administrative appeals and sold for more than four times the appraised value.