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Posted on: January 26, 2017

Port Reaches Out to Trust Land Beneficiaries

On January 20, the Port of Port Angeles hosted an informational gathering for the beneficiaries of Clallam County’s Forest Trust Lands. The timber industry is one of the three areas of economic development and job creation that the Port supports, and a goal of its Strategic Plan is to “achieve a reliable and sustainable timber harvest.” Another goal is to “enhance stakeholder engagement and outreach efforts.” The January 20 meeting was offered in support of both these goals.

Trustlands are areas of commercial forest that reverted to Clallam County when land owners in the 1930s did not pay their property taxes. Washington State’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has overseen the trust lands for many years.

By law, the DNR is required to manage these lands to provide funding for the county’s junior taxing districts (the beneficiaries). These include schools, fire districts, hospitals, libraries, the Port, the Roads Department of the county, and other entities that provide vital services to the taxpayers of Clallam County.

Connie Beauvais, District 3 Port Commissioner, facilitated the meeting. “There are 21 junior taxing districts in our county, all of whom rely on revenue from our county forest trust lands,” says Beauvais.  “The Port of Port Angeles, one of the 21, realizes the importance of becoming educated and involved on this topic.  A number of timely issues are being considered by the Board of Natural Resources that affect the management of our county forests, and we felt it important to draw together informed presenters and junior taxing districts to learn about decadal harvests, arrearage, fiduciary responsibilities and the importance of beneficiary participation.”

The Port invited beneficiary agencies to the meeting to provide information about issues affecting how funds are generated from trustlands. One is the establishment of a sustainable harvest level. This calculation is made every ten years and sets the allowable amount of harvest for the county’s trust lands, which in turn provides revenue to fund programs and infrastructure. Lisa Anderson, Trust Outreach Specialist of the DNR, discussed this and other factors, such as federal rules and required set-asides for endangered species.

Ms. Anderson was followed by Ann Forest Burns, Vice President of the American Forest Resource Council (AFRC). She discussed changes in acres available for harvest under the different alternatives offered in the proposed marbled murrelet long-term conservation strategy, as well as in the alternatives for establishment of a sustainable harvest level.

Rod Fleck, Attorney and Planner for the City of Forks, explained the DNR’s fiduciary responsibility and the concept of arrearage, the difference between the amount of allowable harvest on the trust lands and what actually was harvested. In the last decade there has been a significant undercut, resulting in less funding for the beneficiaries. The conditions that caused this undercut are complex, and the attendees were encouraged to learn more and get involved in the process as the sustainable harvest level is set for the coming decade.

Harry Bell, formerly a forester with Green Crow and Chair of the Port’s Timber Advisory Committee (TAC), presented the TAC’s recommendations for the Port’s testimony to the Board of Natural Resources. These recommendations included authorizing a 10% increase in the calculated harvest levels, given that timber markets are uncertain and the additional 10% would provide a cushion against more arrearage.

After a question and answer period, Karen Goschen, Executive Director of the Port, discussed the next step of presenting testimony at the state’s Board of Natural Resources meeting on February 7. She announced that the Port was willing to provide travel to the February 7 Board of Natural Resources meeting and encouraged taxing districts to contact her. She also announced the Port is willing to host additional meetings and asked participants to submit topics of interest.  “It is important to let the Board of Natural Resources know that our distressed community finds the loss of timber revenue to taxing districts and the loss of jobs unacceptable.”  The lack of reliable harvests makes it difficult for taxing districts to operate and fund capital projects.

For further information, please contact:

Karen Goschen at (360) 417-3424
Executive Director
Port of Port Angeles

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