When good environmental policy is the byproduct of a sustainable healthy working forestry industry, everyone wins.
In the mid-1990s, the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act expanded listings to include fish and forested streams that affected 75% of Washington State. The forestry industry chose to be proactive and got ahead of the problem by developing a collaborative solution to preserve fish habitat while maintain the health of our working forests.
The Forests and Fish Law, passed 15 years ago, was the result of that collaborative effort among those sharing a passionate interest in maintaining our region’s working forests, and protecting clean water and healthy salmon habitat.
The law recognized that in the mission to repair endangered salmon runs, private forestland owners because of their extensive experience were a partner, not an adversary.
Private forestland owners have implemented the Forests and Fish Law’s scientifically-based forest practices, repairing culverts, roads, and fish passage barriers, and establishing buffers around streams in which salmon live.
Washington Forest Protection Association Executive Director Mark Doumit sat down recently with Comcast Newsmakers for a televised discussion of the work that’s been done by private forestland owners so far.
“So far the program has been very successful,” said Doumit. “Currently, we have fixed over 5,000 culverts and opened up 3,100 miles of stream so that the fish have habitat to access now.”
“We’ve been putting buffers on our stream banks so that now you’ve got anywhere from 50 to 100 feet of timber along every stream so that it keeps the water cool and it keeps the silt out of the water,” continued Doumit. “Also, as the trees fall, it leaves habitat for the first to survive and the woodland animals.”
While the Forests and Fish Law gives the forestry industry a vital role in protecting our environment, it also provides much-needed stability to the long-term nature of owning forestland. By aligning Washington state’s forest practices with the federal Endangered Species and Clean Water Acts, owners have a predictable basis to plan ahead.
It is the epitome of a win-win order in which the health of our salmon runs and the economic viability of our forestry businesses are mutual beneficiaries of a collaborative process.
As our state explores new ways to impact our environment while allowing our economy to flourish, perhaps the Forests and Fish Law can be seen as one very successful model for achieving balance.