Yesterday was good for legacy forests in Capitol Forest
Yesterday was a good day for Legacy Forests at Capitol Forest. In response to a letter from all three Thurston County Board of Commissioners (BoCC), requesting that a parcel of land known as “Juneau,” in Capitol Forest, be excluded from yesterday’s timber sale package, Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz acted remove it.
This has not been common practice for many years.
Last May, Public Lands Commissioner Hillary Franz unceremoniously commented at a Department of Natural Resources (DNR) meeting that the DNR was removing protections on old-growth forests—many of which have been in place for decades—because the requirements to protect habitat for the endangered Marble Murrelet forest, were federally removed. As a result, between May and December, each monthly auction involved multiple legacy forest parcels adding up to 15,000 hectares of legacy forest sold and registered.
Legacy forests are naturally regenerated forests that originated before World War II after clearcutting or fire. These forests have qualities that make them uniquely adaptable to and resilient to climate change. Among the great DNR
of the remaining properties only 5% is legacy forest – the rest has become monoculture plantation forest.
A coalition of community groups consisting of Friends of Trees, the Thurston Climate Action Team, the Legacy Forest Project and the Center for Responsible Forestry have demonstrated monthly to protect these forests. Legacy forests do the lion’s share of carbon storage and are more resilient to climate change threats.
On June 16, 2022, the Thurston County BoCC, in response to concerns raised by the public, wrote to the DNR, asking them to stop auctioning Heritage Forests within Capitol Forest. The BCC did not receive a reply to their letter
until January of this year, when an inherited plot was sold. In February an additional parcel in Thurston County known as “Zabina” was sold; the average age of the trees in this plot is 103 years.
On Tuesday, February 28, the Thurston County BoCC issued a second letter to the DNR reminding them of their desire to protect these last Heritage Forests within Thurston County and specifically asking them to ban Juneau’s auction of a 95-acre parcel for the vote. with today’s package. Juneau holds 38,200 megatons of stored carbon and stores 574 megatons annually.
Yesterday in response to requests from the Thurston County BoCC, the DNR announced it was suspending the Juneau auction for next month to meet with commissioners. The DNR expressed a desire to “clarify” with commissioners about the sale and where the sale proceeds go. The Thurston County Commissioners asked for some trades to be made, to account for the difference in income.
This followed passionate testimony for the protection of heritage forests by many members of the public. Lynn Fitz-Hugh of Friends of Trees, a group based in Thurston County said, “We are really grateful to our county commissioners. These trees are protecting us, so we are protecting them. We have solutions coming out of the legislature that could give the DNR tools to protect these old growth forests. It would be a shame for them to sign up before the session ends!”
~ Alice Grendon, Programs and Communications Manager
Thurston Climate Action Team, Olympia
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