On the heels of the July 21st Supreme Court ruling on Conservation NW, et al. v. Commissioner of Public Lands et al., the Pacific Northwest Forest Climate Alliance's Washington State Lands Working Group (WSLWG) and 18 other groups have released a seven-step "Call to Action" that urges key decision-makers to protect State forests in response to climate change. In light of the Supreme Court ruling's clarification that revenue maximization and timber harvesting on public land are choices, rather than constitutional obligations, this Call to Action outlines a new path for key decision makers.
“This critical ruling gives us a chance to modernize state forest practices to rise to the challenges we face,” says David Perk of the WSLWG. “From a stable climate to salmon to clean air and water and landslide prevention, older forests are essential to the thriving of ‘all the people’ of Washington State, and we have to ensure that we protect them.”
According to former Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark, “The Washington Supreme Court's ruling on July 21st was a big win for conservation and the public. With this ruling, Washington's Department of Natural Resources is no longer required to generate revenue by logging. The Court freed DNR from its trust mandate straitjacket. DNR’s leadership can now use its considerable discretion and emphasize other types of benefits such as carbon storage, recreation, and conservation.”
Sally Keely, founder of Cascadia Climate Action Now said, "Our state's forests are one of our greatest assets bearing earth's best natural climate solution." She added that these forests "provide for 'All the People' ecological safeguards, cultural benefits, and opportunities for healthy recreation. As a mother and educator, it is imperative to me that we protect and preserve Washington's older forests and their biodiversity."
The Call demands that state leaders pivot towards more ecologically sound forest management practices. Emphasizing such myriad benefits as biodiversity, habitat conservation, water quality, and climate protection, the Call to Action identifies several key steps towards more sustainable forest management in Washington State.
The Call identifies seven crucial moves state leaders should make, including urgent forest policy changes that would preserve our few remaining ecologically valuable older forests. The authors also ask our leaders to put an end to outdated, ecologically destructive forestry practices, such as clearcutting, and to implement practices that restore forest health. The document also calls for a new state forest management plan and a reconstituted BNR that better represents diverse public and tribal interests.
The authors highlight several major interventions that would support these transitions and ease the burden on traditional trustland beneficiaries, including investing in rural public services and economic development, and urges the State to invest in the revitalized "Trust Land Transfer Program" to protect forests and also reimburse trust beneficiaries.
Scientists and environmentalists recognize these demands as appropriate responses to the relentless deforestation taking place in Washington, particularly because older forests play a key role in regulating global temperatures. As Zephyr Elise of Mason County Climate Justice explains, "In this crucial moment of our climate crisis, we can no longer idly wait for federal agencies to provide leadership. [...] The time is now for every agency to implement swift actions for climate change solutions that keep pace with the state of the current climate emergency…these decisions (or lack thereof) impact the entire global community."
The Call to Action urges state leaders to make logical and appropriate changes that will better protect Washington State forests and benefit more people, including generations yet to come. As Ed Chadd of Olympic Climate Action emphasizes, "It is high time for this state to take a hard look at our forest management policies with an eye toward not just the schools our young people will study in, but the world they will inherit."