Minutes of the OPFC Public Meeting, Shelton

Olympic Peninsula Forest Collaborative Public Meeting #2

March 24, 2016 / 7:00-8:30 PM / Shelton, WA

 

Remarks from Representative Derek Kilmer:

Thank you to the OPFC.  This collaborative represents a model we can use in Congress.  We have a lot of expertise, but we may not always agree.  This collaborative shows that even with differing views, we can work together. I want to share with you my rationale for support of this collaborative. In our region we are aware of importance of our forests for timber, mills, jobs, the local economy, and the visitors they bring in for vacation and recreation.  It is tough to balance all the values. I grew up in Port Angeles and I recognized the life blood of my community was forests.  As harvest declined, I saw a lot of my friends’ parents lose their jobs, and the economy and opportunities declined in the community. So I am vested. Now, folks from conservation and timber are moving past some of the debates of past. We are finding that we can increase harvest levels and still protect the health of the forests.

I want to thank the US Forest Service.  We recognize we need some new approaches. That is where collaboratives come in, which make it easier for projects to become reality in the woods and not in the court room.  We want to build some trust, support the forest, support harvest, be part of the community.

Now we have found some consensus among the collaborative interests, but we can’t do it without the input of the community.  We have a lot of work ahead, but hopefully we can increase harvest responsibly. In reading about Secretary Vilsack’s approach, I think this is what we need more of to get things done. Thank you to USDA staff members. As we gain support for more collaboratives all around the region, we can begin to move things forward.

Anyone here knows these issues are tough. Keep at it. I’m proud of the progress. Thanks for participating.

Larry Sandoval Remarks:

Thank you, Congressman, and to the collaborative and to the public. I am the Acting USFS Supervisor until about mid May while Reta Laford is on detail in the Portland office.

I applaud the effort of the collaborative with this latest project.  There is value added to these groups coming together. Collaboratives take time and effort and it is valuable for them to engage with us.  There is a lot of process inherent to what we do, in timber sales layouts, for example.  There is a lot that goes into the effort, and we are all learning together.  This is a great opportunity for relationship building.  We have the Northwest Forest Plan where we have some sideboards. We are going to be moving forward with the revision process and it’s great to see folks engaged with us here. Relationships that we are building tonight will help with the forest plan revision and with local forest projects.

I want to recognize the USFS District Ranger from Quilcene, Dean Yoshina.

Matt Comisky and Jon Owen – Governance Document:

Matt – Thanks to everyone here. I want to reference the handout, which is our governance document.  Some background of how it came into being:  We came together to think about how we were going to govern and manage. We looked at other collaboratives around the west. Pinchot Partners let us use some of their documents; we kept some of what we knew worked and discarded what doesn’t.  It’s easy to put together the nuts and bolts, like what positions will be on the board, but we wanted to come up with purpose and goals, like a mission statement, it defines what projects we are looking for and what we want to be doing.

Jon – See page 2 for the puzzle pieces. There are about 16 participants in the collaborative. There are major timber industry and major conservation representatives. The collaborative mission statement actually took a long time for all the groups to agree, and it came from trust, and a desire to focus on areas where we agree and where it make sense to move forward.  We found with the leadership of Representative Kilmer that we have areas of win, win, win.  We are making progress. The 6 goals statements are what we are supporting.

Matt – Another key is that it took some effort for we who are not fluent in USFS and collaboratives.  The USFS is a member, but are a non-voting member. We are looking for projects we can come together on.  We still have to follow NEPA and other regulations.  We hope USFS is still the decision maker. We are here to help the USFS move faster as they go through their work. USFS does play a role but how they play it is important to note.

We are learning as we go.  We progress, we retreat from progress, and then we go again.

Drew MacEwen (Rep 35th District), Frank Gordon (Aberdeen City Council Member) and Brian Hatfield (formerly Senator of 19th District, currently on Governor Jay Inslee’s staff) are here. Thank you for being here.

Derek Churchill, Toby Thaler, David Marshall, Knox Marshall – Work Done to Date by OPFC:

Derek – We are considering pilot projects and forest treatments. I work with a variety of projects and collaboratives in WA and OR. They do work. It takes time but we have seen in 10-15 years that it has improved the USFS’s ability to manage our forest and reduce the amount of law suits and appeals in opposition to projects.  Legal actions still exist but it is encouraging to be able to move forward. One of the first pilot projects is a 70-acre thinning project by Lake Creston.  We chose a small area to do under categorical exclusions from NEPA where you don’t have to do a full environmental assessment or environmental impact statement. We want to try some new things that maybe the USFS hasn’t done that includes more intensive forestry treatments and true gaps, heavier thinning and variable treatments in which we leave some dead wood behind. We are doing this in an adaptive management area so we can see how we can learn from it and apply lessons on larger forest service projects.

David – We looked at the stand and came up with an agreement for what we wanted to try and we are going to monitor these things and move forward. We have trust and agreement and so we think we can get some incremental volume out. Trying something new is a big step.

Knox – We get on the ground and we see the amount that we really do agree on.  It’s not about cutting this certain tree, but agreeing on the project as a whole.  We are a family farm and we know this is a win to be able to get through the barriers.  We are now optimistic about getting this project through.

David – USFS is recognizing and seeing us agree and are more willing to move forward, considering that agreement.

Rep Kilmer –The collaborative set a dynamic where the USFS can actually do more.

Toby – Olympia Forest Coalition interest is to improve habitat and diversity and start recovery from heavier cutting that occurred in previous decades. But that is not our only concern; we are concerned about the community and we need timber coming off the land to support the community. We are giving the Service the room to maneuver and make some progress. I want to work on some other spots and more acreage and make some more sales. The long haul is to have everyone monitor this over time and to help prove the science that thinning makes more wood for the mills in the long run.

Paul – By preserving and maintaining habitat for critical species it also allows for producing more volume of wood products. This collaborative helps the service reach their goals.

Derek – Donkey Creek – USFS had a project where NEPA and planning was already done, but they didn’t have the staff to get it laid out on the ground.  So members of the collaborative laid out a 400-acre timber sale in working with the USFS staff.  The collaborative also did the logging systems design and went back to the USFS with the design.  This allowed the USFS to sell it earlier and increase the overall amount they could sell.

Jon – Jill and Dave were engaged in doing the lay out and were out in the forest. Jill condemned the bug repellant spray that Dave was using and encouraged him to use herbal repellant. LOL. This is where we start turning from pessimism to optimism.  Classic old school is adversarial where people don’t know each other. We started to know each other and trust and kept coming back together over and over. Usually, receipts from timber sales go back into the national treasury.  Stewardship sales on the national forest allow receipts that are generated to go back into conservation, allowing more and bigger habitat restoration. In this pilot the receipts for stewardship can allow for more harvest and more sales. It is a win, win, win.  Again, pessimism to optimism.  We are excited and we all want it to succeed.

Toby – We face two major impediments:  Lack of adequate staffing at the agency and environmental constraints.  This collaborative is designed to meet both of these. Getting more bang for the buck.

Matt – Stewardship is an interesting balance. It represents one of the contracting methods the USFS can use, but with it, the counties don’t receive their 25% share, so we need to be aware of the balance.  Counties who do have a milling infrastructure get to benefit by keeping that infrastructure in place. Restoration can range from road maintenance to control of invasive species. All these have benefits that fall out from it.  You can build the contract so that if there is excess revenue from the sale, rather than go back to treasury, it can stay in the forest.

Matt Comisky and Jon Owen – Membership:

Matt: We’re passing around the sign-in sheets. Collaboratives are place-based.  We are on the road show to get local public engagement. If you are interested to keep up with what we are doing, there is a place on the sign-in sheet to give the particulars for that.

You will read on the sign-in sheet that if you are willing to be a member, you are willing to push the six goals forward and support them. We are firm and want to hold to that. Some collaboratives have started out as one thing and then have issues come into their purview that has slowed them and kept them from progressing. We want to keep very narrowly focused. We don’t say there won’t be other benefits, but we just want to stick to this.

Jon:  We found the collaboratives that work have hired a forester. We hired Derek, who is well respected in the industry.  Everyone has donated a lot of time and now everyone has skin in the game.

Audience Q&A:

Q:  I am a resident of Mason County, and tonight I am wondering who is not in the room tonight.  And it concerns me that there are so few people.  Why do you think this group is this so small?

A:  We had a lot of people in Forks. We were expecting 30-40 people here.  A lot of the logging community were skeptical. Now that we are moving the pendulum in the other direction, we are not seeing them as much. Timber supply on the peninsula has really shrunk.  What we are seeing in the contract logger is skepticism, but also optimism.

Rep. Kilmer:  We have a lot more sign-up sheets. I would encourage you to reach out to the local Chamber of Commerce and tell them it makes a lot of opportunity for our community. Even those who are not in the room are welcome to stay tuned.

Joe – Our meeting minutes will be on line.

Matt – Maybe we were impacted by the time of day.  Forks was held around lunch time and we had about 70 people.  When we switch to the evening, we actually have less engagement.

I attended the Forks meeting and now I am here. Maybe those of you from Mason can do the same thing:  Go to Grays Harbor and help promote.

Q:  First introduced in Port Angeles by a collaborative in NE WA.  I focused on that particular forest to learn.  Have you found any parallel with other collaboratives and their similar interests?

A:  Jon – One of the things is that we have looked at every other collaborative in WA.  Matt is on a lot of collaboratives and on their boards. There are similarities we draw on and there are differences:  different forest types, for example.  Parallels are with the Gifford Pinchot and with newly formed Darrington Collaborative group.  Some stuff aligns and some doesn’t.  How they went about their process and our process.  They took on A to Z; we are only doing H to Z. For them, a contractor takes on doing all of the above:  designating the project area, agreement with USFS, they pay for the NEPA with a consultant, timber sale projects and restoration work.  Mills get the logs, so they get some money back from what they put into NEPA. It is half way done. They did the first EA.  There is a potential group from ID that might litigate. They are going into the second EA. There are a lot of eyes on it.  Have to crawl before you walk.

Rep. Kilmer – Where USFS has directed resources in the past is primarily to drive forests on east side.  If there is an appropriations process this year, we are pushing for projects in the wet forests on the west side.

Closing

David: We are really excited you built a mill here in Shelton. I think this is going to be good for Mason Co.

Derek – What the USFS is working on is taking some of those adaptive management areas where NEPA is already done and trying some different things in partnership. One of the projects in discussion is in the south fork of Skokomish.

Knox – Criticism helps us and we encourage more participation. We don’t want a secret agenda and we want to address all the issues.

Rep. Kilmer – I want to reiterate:  Help us get the word out, contact my office, web site, sign-up sheets, share with the community. It only works when folks stay involved.

If you take nothing more away from tonight,  please take the notion that folks who have not normally seen eye to eye are actually working together. There is an African proverb that states, “If you want to go fast, go alone…but if you want to go far, go together.”

The old ways do not serve us well for economic health or forest health.  That is my impetus for being here and doing what I’m doing.