For many years, Washington Environmental Council has worked to improve management of Washington’s state forests, creating a model of sustainable forestry that protects the environment and benefits all the people of the state. Now we are working toward a new future for Washington’s forests, one that addresses questions like how we can use incentives to take management of Washington’s private forests to the next level of environmental benefit: storing more carbon, providing better wildlife habitat, and helping to keep our water clean.
The goal of WEC’s Growing Our Future campaign is to transform management of at least one million acres of private forestland in Washington state from industrial to ecological practices in order to sustain our forests, produce clean water, and restore the region’s native biological diversity, while producing valuable wood products and a significant number of local jobs.
What are the key impacts of the campaign?
- Improving the ecological sustainability of managed forests in the Pacific Northwest.
- Providing income to landowners who are willing to make long-term commitments to sustainability.
- Guaranteeing responsible management for at least 100 years.
Why are healthy forests critical to a healthy environment?
- A major benefit of protecting forests from development and transitioning to ecological forest management is trees’ ability to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, directly countering climate change.
- Trees transfer CO2 into biomass and release oxygen, a process called “carbon stocking.” The eight million acres of private forests in western Washington are capable of stocking roughly 135 metric tons of CO2 per acre, and unharvested old forests can store twice as much.
- Older and established forests not only sequester more carbon, but also improve water filtration, produce more harvestable wood per acre, and provide critical habitat for wildlife.
Why is sustainable forest management important?
- Overharvesting forest in a watershed too quickly causes water quality problems, landslides in the winter, and low flow in the summer.
- Clear cut, overharvested areas threaten habitat for many wildlife.
- Forests on private lands are younger and store less carbon than state and federal lands.
- Allowing forests to grow for longer between cutting cycles increases carbon storage, improves water filtration, produces more harvestable wood per acre, and supports more plant and animal species.
Nisqually Carbon Project
For the first time in the Pacific Northwest, a forest carbon project has been verified under the rigorous carbon offset protocol in California’s cap-and-trade program. The Nisqually Carbon Project will generate 37,000 carbon offset credits after the first verification, with more to come in later years. This first batch is equivalent to taking 6,000 cars off the road. Microsoft, working with Natural Capital Partners, purchased the vast majority of the credits, 35,000, as part of its ongoing voluntary commitment to being carbon neutral, a growing national trend by companies to address climate change. Read more here.
We learned a tremendous amount about the complexities of carbon project development – explore our Lessons Learned report here!
Nisqually Community Forest
The Nisqually Watershed is located in the southeastern part of Puget Sound. With headwaters in Mount Rainier National Park, it continues through the Nisqually Glacier and ends at the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge on Puget Sound, just northeast of Olympia. The 78 mile long Nisqually River provides the largest source of fresh water to the southern half of Puget Sound.
Local groups working on land conservation and salmon restoration in the watershed founded the Nisqually Community Forest in 2011. They realized that most of the private forest in the area is owned and managed by entities who reside well outside of the area and whose economic interests are driven by investors from all over the world. The practicality of how these ownership interests play out means that the community’s well-being is not the driving factor for management decisions.
The Nisqually Community Forest has completed its first transaction—moving 640 acres of industrial timberlands from private ownership to be the start of a community forest that our partners and we hope to expand to about 30,000 acres. The Nisqually Community Forest will be managed to help achieve conservation goals as well as providing FSC certified timber to local mills. This project is designed to recover endangered chinook salmon and northern spotted owls, maintain healthy watersheds, and provide recreational opportunities for the local community. WEC serves on the board of the Nisqually Community Forest and will continue to support local leaders as the project grows.