State trust land management

Smalma

Active Member
Following is some ideas that I have been thinking about and am interested in the thoughts of the members here.

At the time of statehood a number of western states were deeded significant chunks of federal lands to be used for the pubic good (trust lands). Here in Washington the state has approximately 3 million acres of trust lands managed by the Department of Natural Resources. About half of that land is forested which is largely managed for timber harvest with the income going to help fund public schools. Is that still the best public use of that land?

Some back ground observations -
1) I have noticed that water always flows down hill.
2) Our rivers are the sum of all their tributaries.
3) The rivers with the most intact tributaries tend to have the more robust Chinook and steelhead populations; the Skagit would be an example.
4) In the Puget Sound region for the ESA listed southern resident killer whales, steelhead and Chinook the current recovery efforts are failing; populations continue to decline.


Since north Puget Sound resources are what I know the best I'm going to use the Stillaguamish as an example of how the management of the State's trust land could be changed to benefit public by forcing a major change in the current ESA Puget Sound recovery paradigm.

Currently the Stillaguamish is unraveling from its headwaters down to Puget Sound. This has resulted in excessive bed load material (too much sand and silt) from numerous land failures. That excessive material has destabilized the stream channel resulting in a channel widening, simplification of the salmonid habitats, unstable spawning gravels, elevated stream temperatures, more frequent flooding, etc. all leading to decreased freshwater survival of the listed fish and a greatly reduced carrying capacity of the basin to produced those fish.. Much of that destabilization can be attributed to the effects from timber harvest. The majority of the 684 square miles that comprise the Stillaguamish basin remains forested with that majority of that forested land being public. Some 268 square miles (39% of the basin) is US forest lands and 81 square miles (11%) are state trust lands.

I'm suggesting that instead of managing the Stillaguamish state trust lands for school income that they be management for the return to mature forests to support the recovery of various ESA species. Yes I realize that funding for schools will have to come elsewhere but if recovery of the ESA listed species is to remain a viable objective in basins like the Stillaguamish how those trust lands are managed may be the best option. Over the last couple decades much of the salmon habitat recovery projects have focused around public lands; the estuary recovery projects are examples of this approach. Several years I reviewed a variety north Sound estuary recovery projects the reason for the focus on public lands was obvious. On a per acre cost restoring private lands were roughly 10 times more expensive than those on public lands; the difference of course was the cost of land acquisition.

Since the public all ready owns the state lands all that is needed is the will to change how that land is managed and find an alternate funding source for the schools. If the state were to start down this path they would be in a position to lobby for similar land manage changes on the federal lands. In addition a review of land owner ship patterns in the basin would also provide direction for other land acquisition to form connected blocks of mature forests in key tributaries.. Obviously the above is only a bare bones proposal but I will be more than willing to answer any questions.

Seems to me that such an approach might actually something that environmentalist, fish advocates, orca advocates, etc. could all get behind and might actually have a chance to change the recovery paradigm from extinction is the only option.

A viable path to actually achieving recovery or a unrealistic dream?

Curt
 

Rocking Chair Fan

No more hot spotting
To suggest taking money from our schools is just plain wrong. Education IS the single most important investment one can provide to our kids and future generations. They will (hopefully) be solving world hunger, cancer, climate change, pandemic diseases, etc. to name a few...

It has taken well over over a decade to get Washington to fund schools and they are not doing a great job at that... Education expenditures are approximately 40% of Washington's budget.

So what is more important - world hunger, cancer, climate change, pandemic diseases, etc. or a few f%$#king fish?

Edited to add - sorry for the tone but not the message... It just hit one of my hot buttons
 
Last edited:

Brian Miller

Be vewy vewy qwiet, I'm hunting Cutthwoat Twout
WFF Supporter
While I agree that State lands should be managed to protect fish habitat the State was found in contempt and ordered to pay $100K/day from Aug 2015 until June 2018 by the WSSC for failing to comply with the 2012 ruling that the the State must fulfill its only and paramount constitutional obligation to fully fund education in the state. Taking away an entire river drainage from the statutory resource designated specifically for funding education when the state is still not fully funding the actual costs of education, particularly special education is probably not going to meet with much acceptance.
 

KerryS

Ignored Member
To suggest taking money from our schools is just plain wrong. Education IS the single most important investment one can provide to our kids and future generations. They will (hopefully) be solving world hunger, cancer, climate change, pandemic diseases, etc. to name a few...

It has taken well over over a decade to get Washington to fund schools and they are not doing a great job at that... Education expenditures are approximately 40% of Washington's budget.

So what is more important - world hunger, cancer, climate change, pandemic diseases, etc. or a few f%$#king fish?

Edited to add - sorry for the tone but not the message... It just hit one of my hot buttons
I’m curious as to how much of school funding comes from state timber sales?

I understand your anger but smalma did say that a part of his idea was to replace school funding using income from a different source not to eliminate it.
 

quilbilly

Big Time Hater
Not much

In 2014, for instance, DNR timber sales contributed $120 million to Washington’s $7.6 billion K-12 budget. In context, $120 million barely buys one new 4A high school.

The timber industry was already locking in its income when the constitution was written way back then....remember reading about how they lobbied for as much access to state land as the could get...and figured ' for the children ' would be their best bet at grabbing a bunch of state land they could log in perpetuity, and so that's how that all happened.
 

Rocking Chair Fan

No more hot spotting
@KerryS - I would suggest that we wait until Washington state stabilizes meeting its ongoing constitutional mandate of fully funding schools before looking at other places because I am sure it will evolve over time.
 

KerryS

Ignored Member
Not much

In 2014, for instance, DNR timber sales contributed $120 million to Washington’s $7.6 billion K-12 budget. In context, $120 million barely buys one new 4A high school.

The timber industry was already locking in its income when the constitution was written way back then....remember reading about how they lobbied for as much access to state land as the could get...and figured ' for the children ' would be their best bet at grabbing a bunch of state land they could log in perpetuity, and so that's how that all happened.
If I did the math correct (good possibility I didn’t) that 120 million is approx 1.5% of the school budget. Not much money in the total budget.
 

bk paige

Wishin I was on the Sauk
Clear cut logging has to stop, period. It is the single most devastating environmental impacts to our watersheds. Just in the past 20yrs the rampant logging in the upper Skykomish river has changed some tributaries significantly already and the main stem as well.
There is no sign that it will stop and they are logging on some very steep hills, just inviting more landslides. Not to mention the herbicides they spray after the harvest to prevent the underbrush to choke out the planted saplings.
Until we go to a selective harvest our rivers are doomed, loggers are reaching higher and steeper ground creating more erosion and sediment loading. I know it's a pipe dream to switch to selective harvest, but we and our children will have no fish and no stewards to fight for them.
 

Rob Allen

Active Member
Following is some ideas that I have been thinking about and am interested in the thoughts of the members here.

At the time of statehood a number of western states were deeded significant chunks of federal lands to be used for the pubic good (trust lands). Here in Washington the state has approximately 3 million acres of trust lands managed by the Department of Natural Resources. About half of that land is forested which is largely managed for timber harvest with the income going to help fund public schools. Is that still the best public use of that land?

Some back ground observations -
1) I have noticed that water always flows down hill.
2) Our rivers are the sum of all their tributaries.
3) The rivers with the most intact tributaries tend to have the more robust Chinook and steelhead populations; the Skagit would be an example.
4) In the Puget Sound region for the ESA listed southern resident killer whales, steelhead and Chinook the current recovery efforts are failing; populations continue to decline.


Since north Puget Sound resources are what I know the best I'm going to use the Stillaguamish as an example of how the management of the State's trust land could be changed to benefit public by forcing a major change in the current ESA Puget Sound recovery paradigm.

Currently the Stillaguamish is unraveling from its headwaters down to Puget Sound. This has resulted in excessive bed load material (too much sand and silt) from numerous land failures. That excessive material has destabilized the stream channel resulting in a channel widening, simplification of the salmonid habitats, unstable spawning gravels, elevated stream temperatures, more frequent flooding, etc. all leading to decreased freshwater survival of the listed fish and a greatly reduced carrying capacity of the basin to produced those fish.. Much of that destabilization can be attributed to the effects from timber harvest. The majority of the 684 square miles that comprise the Stillaguamish basin remains forested with that majority of that forested land being public. Some 268 square miles (39% of the basin) is US forest lands and 81 square miles (11%) are state trust lands.

I'm suggesting that instead of managing the Stillaguamish state trust lands for school income that they be management for the return to mature forests to support the recovery of various ESA species. Yes I realize that funding for schools will have to come elsewhere but if recovery of the ESA listed species is to remain a viable objective in basins like the Stillaguamish how those trust lands are managed may be the best option. Over the last couple decades much of the salmon habitat recovery projects have focused around public lands; the estuary recovery projects are examples of this approach. Several years I reviewed a variety north Sound estuary recovery projects the reason for the focus on public lands was obvious. On a per acre cost restoring private lands were roughly 10 times more expensive than those on public lands; the difference of course was the cost of land acquisition.

Since the public all ready owns the state lands all that is needed is the will to change how that land is managed and find an alternate funding source for the schools. If the state were to start down this path they would be in a position to lobby for similar land manage changes on the federal lands. In addition a review of land owner ship patterns in the basin would also provide direction for other land acquisition to form connected blocks of mature forests in key tributaries.. Obviously the above is only a bare bones proposal but I will be more than willing to answer any questions.

Seems to me that such an approach might actually something that environmentalist, fish advocates, orca advocates, etc. could all get behind and might actually have a chance to change the recovery paradigm from extinction is the only option.

A viable path to actually achieving recovery or a unrealistic dream?

Curt



I like the idea but i see consequences

1. Such changes are going to be seen as anti school. The timber companies are going to push that angle hard.

2. This will put a big increase of pressure on private timberland that is often intertwined with state lands. Some of that habitat is surely held in private hands and could be just as important as the state land.

3. This will cost jobs. And increase dependence on timber from other areas which likely have their own issues. Destroy the Maurice to save the stilly?

Just food for thought?
 

Brian Miller

Be vewy vewy qwiet, I'm hunting Cutthwoat Twout
WFF Supporter
I wonder if voters had known the privatization of liquor sales would increase the cost would there still be a state monopoly?
 

davew

Active Member
Whether we can preserve the native runs of salmon and steelhead in our region is an open question. However, we all know incremental things that can be done to help protect them (habitat preservation, harvest restrictions, etc.). The problem is that each of these incremental things has a political constituency built up around it that makes money off their contribution to the decline of salmon and steelhead. And, since the fish are declining for multiple reasons, actions addressing any one cause will likely produce only minimal results. If you try to preserve habitat, farmers, dam operators, loggers, etc., all complain. If you try to reduce harvest, the tribes, non tribal fishing interests in Washington, Alaska and BC all cry foul.

I think they only viable solution is strong political leadership at the state level that elevates preservation of the fish to a much higher priority - using the salmon and steelhead as our leading indicator of environmental health. Publicly calling for shared sacrifice among the contributors to the problem and accepting the economic impacts that result is necessary. Unfortunately, this will take political courage and the willingness to take on entrenched economic and political interests. Cross your fingers.
 

_WW_

Geriatric Skagit Swinger
WFF Supporter
I thought the lottery was to help school funding. I thought school levies were to help school funding. I though we had a tax surplus.

I agree that the children need to be educated. And once they are they will realize how we, that's you and I, squandered multiple opportunities to preserve these natural resources by failing to take the tougher path to preserve it for them. I doubt they will forgive us...and I don't think they should.
 
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GeorgeV

WFF Supporter
The problem we would like to solve is 'low salmon and stealhead numbers' . That ONE thing is what needs focus. There are many things that impact fish survival, improving the survival numbers will impact many other things, co-lateral damage. BUT, the focus must remain on the ONE and ONLY OBJECTIVE, get a plan for the fish. Just an agreement on fish survival. After a plan is conceived, then solve the 'co-lateral damage. Fish survival and co-lateral damage can't be solved at the same time. Fish biologists and the science folks shouldn't be burdened with impacts on budgets for whatever, those are outside the scientist's field of expertise. Let's 1st get a plan for the fish/orcas, now get a plan for the co-lateral damage, this could/should be in the talking stage by a different group of people while the fish scientists are doing their work. A solution will never happen in a stadium full of 'stake holders' interrupting with a bunch of "ya but" or "what if" or "did ya think about this" or "bunch of pinko, commie" comments. Compromises will be necessary, it is how things get done. Because disagreement is part of "getting to yes" doesn't mean someones a dumb SOB. "Never yield to negativity"
 

SawyerJones

Active Member
I'd like to see more selective harvest, smaller clearcut in parts of forests that have the least impact on the local hydrology.

You can walk through a good number state forests and see that they were planned with care, to reduce impact to streams, with very adequate Riparian management zone buffers - but it would be nice to see more

That being said, selective cutting and smaller clear cuts are not cost effective at all. In a lot of cases it is not profitable enough to even try.

At the end of the day it will always be about the money. No timber buyer is going to purchase a timber sale that does not have an adequate profit margin.

The world needs timber and I'm good with that. Washington state has extremely progressive harvest laws surprisingly, but it needs to be even more progressive.
 

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