Skagit County appeals WA Board of Natural Resources’ adoption of 2015-2024 sustainable timber harvest level

(SKAGIT COUNTY)- With authorization from the Board of Skagit County Commissioners, the Skagit County Prosecuting Attorney has filed an appeal of the Washington State Board of Natural Resources’ December 3rd adoption of the 2015-2024 sustainable harvest level. (The sustainable harvest level is the volume of timber to be scheduled for sale during a planning decade from all state trust lands located west of the Cascade crest in Washington.) The adopted sustainable harvest level and associated Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) indicate that harvest and thus revenue to Skagit County and junior taxing districts will decline in the range of 50% below recent levels. The Board of Natural Resources has a fiduciary duty to set a harvest level that maximizes sustainable yield for its trust beneficiaries.

In filing its appeal, Skagit County seeks to better understand the Department of Natural Resources (DNR’s) management practices and policy choices that have led to revenue fluctuations. Skagit County will retain an independent consultant to analyze the FEIS, Skagit County’s forest inventory, and DNR’s Forest Estate Model, which the agency uses to determine the sustainable harvest level.

“Revenue from DNR timber sales provides over seven million dollars a year to Skagit County and the junior taxing districts,” said Skagit County Commissioner Lisa Janicki. “We have an obligation to stand up for our community and investigate this abrupt decline in revenue.”

Skagit County is one of the largest recipients of state timber sales receipts in Washington. During the Great Depression, the County acquired over 80,000 acres of forest lands through tax foreclosure and other mechanisms. Like other counties in Washington, Skagit County transferred these lands to DNR to be held in trust and managed for the benefit of the County and its junior taxing districts. This revenue provides mission-critical funding for our community’s schools, emergency management, fire districts, hospitals, libraries, conservation of agricultural lands, veterans’ relief, mental health services, economic development, county roads, and habitat-restoration projects.

Each decade, the Board of Natural Resources is required to adopt a decadal harvest. The Board of Natural Resources has decreased Skagit County’s sustainable harvest level to 259 million board feet, down from 326 million board feet in 2005. Skagit County previously submitted formal comment to the Board of Natural Resources urging it to delay a decision until DNR could explain the revenue decline. Interested parties have a 30-day window to appeal the December 3rd decision. The Sedro-Woolley School District, Concrete School District, the Central Skagit Partial County Library District, and Skagit County Public Hospital District 304 have joined Skagit County’s appeal.