Monday, March 19, 2012

Impact of wilderness plan on timber industry reignites jobs vs. trees debate

Has the timber industry’s time come and gone on the North Olympic Peninsula? A set-aside plan to take 21 percent of Olympic National Forest out of potential timber production and designate it as wilderness would simply feed into a trend away from logging and into a growing service economy that focuses more on recreation and tourism, according to a study by Headwaters Economics Associate Director Ben Alexander. The study was commissioned and paid for by the Quilcene-based Wild Olympics Campaign, which has put forward a similar, though less sweeping, proposal. But forest industry representative Carol Johnson of the North Olympic Timber Action Committee said the proposal — which is by U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, a Belfair Democrat whose 6th Congressional District includes Clallam and Jefferson counties, and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Bothell — would cost valuable jobs by affecting 132,000 acres of the 633,600-acre federally managed forest. “We hold to our position of no net loss of working forests,” Johnson said this week. “If it goes to wilderness, it would remove any of that acreage from any future potential economic use, remembering that most of the Olympic National Forest is already in preserved status,” she added. “What we lose is losing more of a very small number.” Under what Dicks and Murray call their watershed conservation plan, Olympic National Park also could buy and absorb into the park about 20,000 acres of private land through willing-seller, willing-buyer transactions compared with the 37,000 acres proposed by the Wild Olympics Campaign. The Dicks-Murray plan, introduced in November, also would designate as wilderness 4,000 fewer acres than the Wild Olympics proposal. Both plans appear to add the same 23 river systems that lie in part within Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest to the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers systems...more

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