New Partnership Aims to Improve Environmental Quality and Economic Vitality of Olympic National Forest
Representative Derek Kilmer and a group of conservation, timber and local government stakeholders today announced the formation of new partnership called the Olympic Peninsula Collaborative. Members of the partnership approved the following statement to explain its purpose and goals:
The Olympic Peninsula Collaborative will bring together stakeholders from the environmental community, the timber industry, and representatives from federal and local government around shared goals of increasing timber harvest from the Olympic National Forest while benefitting the environmental quality of our forests and watersheds. The Collaborative will work together and with federal officials to address issues that stand in the way of achieving the stated goals. Ultimately, the purpose is to show we can simultaneously create a more environmentally sound forest, provide for increased, sustainable timber harvests on the Olympic National Forest, and provide economic benefits to timber communities on the Peninsula.
- Increasing the amount of acres treated and total harvest volume produced in forest restoration projects under the Northwest Forest Plan and increasing the number and footprint of aquatic and other non-thinning related restoration projects.
- Creating a framework of agreement on the type and locations of forest restoration treatments that benefit the ecosystem and provide for increased harvest levels under the Northwest Forest Plan.
- Improving treatment effectiveness and working to reduce the time and cost required to plan and prepare projects through increased efficiencies for the Forest Service.
- Creating a framework of agreement around innovative forest practices, treatments and techniques that integrate ecological, social, and economic goals, and exploring whether the Adaptive Management Area (AMA) established under the Northwest Forest Plan provides an opportunity to test these alternative approaches.
- Collaborating on specific projects, as needed, to create an environment that reduces conflict and seeks to achieve a common vision about the future of the Olympic National Forest.
- Creating a forum for addressing any problems that stand in the way of accomplishing our stated goals with the active involvement of federal elected and agency officials.
Organizations and representatives supporting the Olympic Peninsula Collaborative include:
American Forest Resource Council
Cosmo Specialty Fibers
Green Creek Wood Products
Merrill & Ring
Olympic Park Associates
Olympic Forest Coalition
Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society
Pew Charitable Trusts
Sierra Pacific Industries
Simpson Lumber Company
Wild Olympics Campaign
The Olympic Peninsula Collaborative, modeled on similar partnerships elsewhere in Washington state and around the country, is a grassroots, stakeholder driven partnership and the first of its kind to be solely devoted to building greater consensus around public lands on the Olympic Peninsula. Since early this year, Representative Kilmer has convened discussions with a wide variety of stakeholders on solutions to problems facing the Olympic National Forest including a field hearing in August in Port Angeles dealing with collaborative forest harvest agreements.
“I have always said that we don’t have to choose between economic development and environmental protection. This is the beginning of a long-term partnership that I hope will help prove that’s true,” said Representative Derek Kilmer. “The Olympic Peninsula Collaborative will show we can build consensus and can bring folks together to simultaneously create a more environmentally healthy forest, provide for increased, sustainable timber harvests on the Olympic National Forest, and provide economic benefits to timber communities on the Peninsula.”
“We thank Congressman Kilmer for bringing all parties to the table to focus on areas where we agree rather than disagree.” said Olympic Forest Coalition President Connie Gallant and Olympic Park Associates Vice President Tim McNulty in a joint statement. “This collaborative process will improve habitat conditions in the forests and streams on the Olympic Peninsula for a range of species. Currently, there are thousands of acres of dense and structurally simple forest on the ONF that provide poor habitat. Increasing the amount of carefully designed, habitat restoration thinning treatments in these types of forests will improve diversity and encourage the development of more complex, older forest conditions. Combining thinning with holistic watershed restoration projects will improve water quality and fish & wildlife habitat. OFCO and OPA will be helping to craft and monitor these projects to ensure they follow the best available science and the Northwest Forest Plan.”
“The current approach to managing the Olympic National Forest is not meeting the economic, social, and ecological needs of the forest or communities on the Peninsula. Common sense solutions to create jobs through increased active, sustainable timber management on the Olympic National Forest is urgently needed to address chronic local unemployment and poverty rates that are among the highest in the state and nearly double those of the Seattle area,” said Matt Comisky, Washington Manager of the American Forest Resource Council. “The volume of timber currently harvested from the Olympic National Forest is less than 10 percent of historic levels, only 13 percent of the volume of timber that dies each year, and a mere 3 percent of the annual forest growth. Our industry looks forward to working with Congressman Kilmer and other partners to promote more balanced, innovative approaches to timber management that provide a sustainable future for our industry and the local communities as part of continued discussions about the future of the Olympic National Forest.”