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Community Forest Provides Example of Wash. Carbon Fee's Potential

The Washington Legislature has funded a pilot program to turn the Chimacum Ridge into a community forest. (Courtesy of Phil Vogelzang)
The Washington Legislature has funded a pilot program to turn the Chimacum Ridge into a community forest. (Courtesy of Phil Vogelzang)
September 27, 2018

CHIMACUM, Wash. – Under the carbon fee initiative on the November ballot, part of the revenue collected from large carbon polluters would be directed toward creating healthy forests.

The Olympic Peninsula's Chimacum Ridge is providing an example of what that investment could look like for local communities.

Under Initiative 1631, 25 percent of funds collected would be invested in "clean water and healthy forests."

Sarah Spaeth, director of conservation and strategic partnerships with the Jefferson Land Trust, says her group and other partners are going to buy the 850 acre Chimacum Ridge and create a community forest.

She says it will be an example of how Washingtonians can manage forests to be healthy and resilient.

"Along with supporting a thriving, local economy with good jobs and protecting natural resources – the habitat on the ridge, the healthy salmon runs in both forks of Chimacum Creek – and then recreational and education opportunities and cleaner air for everyone," she explains.

The Washington Legislature is funding the conservation easement to buy Chimacum Ridge as a pilot project to demonstrate what a shift from industrial management to a more localized approach could look like.

Spaeth says the community forest approach will create local economic opportunities, such as harvesting timber for the wooden boat industry or berries for cider production. And she says there is potential to do this in other rural communities too.

James Schroeder, director of conservation for The Nature Conservancy in Washington, says the state's forests need help, noting that 2.8 million acres of forests in eastern Washington are considered unhealthy.

He says recent active wildfire seasons are evidence of forests' poor health, too, and also a threat to Washingtonians.

"1631, as an initiative, would create a funding source for us to invest in those forests so that they become much more resilient to the types of wildfire that we've been seeing over the past several summers," he states.

Critics of I-1631 say the fees on large carbon polluters will be passed on to Washingtonians.

Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz says climate change is costing the state, and I-1631 is a smart way to combat its effects and save money in the long run.

"The sooner we can start investing in our natural resources and making them more resilient in the face of changing climate, the sooner we'll actually be able to reduce the cost to our communities and to our public," she stresses.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA