Members of the state’s timber regulating board sent up a cheer after voting to adopt new logging rules, but they acknowledged that their months-long struggle to balance the needs of the timber industry and those of endangered salmon runs is far from over.
Government agencies are struggling to make sense of new salmon regulations in an attempt to create a plan to help nurture the creatures’ habitat, without creating layer upon layer of conflicting regulations.
The 12-member Forest Practices Board agreed in January to proceed with rules implementing a law approved last year by the Legislature to soften the impact of logging on salmon habitat.
The new rules will impose 50 years of tougher restrictions on timber harvests near streams and on steep slopes, costing the industry an estimated $2 billion.
In exchange, the industry and landowners will receive timber excise tax credits and compensation for lost timber totaling from $100 million to $1 billion.
These temporary rules will go into effect on March 20 through June 2001.
Between those two dates, the board — which includes representatives from state and local agencies, tribes, citizens and industry — will conduct statewide hearings to gauge the plan’s environmental and economic impacts.
Meanwhile, the state Department of Ecology has released a new draft of proposed changes to the state’s shoreline management guidelines. Under state law, all local government shoreline management regulations must comply with these guidelines.
The agency is working with the National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to provide a “safe harbor” for local governments — in other words, following state guidelines would prevent local governments being held liable for salmon reduction, under the terms of the Endangered Species Act.
However, state negotiations with these federal agencies are still ongoing. At the same time, seven local governments whose jurisdictions are most effected by the salmon listing — Pierce, King and Snohomish counties, and the cities of Tacoma, Seattle, Everett and Bellevue — are also negotiating with federal agencies attempting to mitigate the impact as well.
City of Tacoma Environmental Coordinator Judith Lorbeir says, “Nobody wants to see these species doomed to extinction. But the process of creating appropriate regulations and precautions is so expensive and time-consuming that everybody is afraid we’re going to have to do this twice.”—Associated Press contributed to this story
By Christopher Hort, Business Examiner staff