A bill sponsored by Rep. Mike Chapman, D-Port Angeles, updating the state Department of Natural Resources’ forest riparian easement program, which reimburses landowners part of the value of trees on their property that cannot be harvested because of fish protection regulations, was signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee recently.
House Bill 1531 was written at the request of the Washington Farm Forestry Association. “We are excited to have someone supportive of small timberland owners in Olympia,” said association government affairs director Heather Hansen, who herself is a small forest landowner.
The Forest Riparian Easement Program compensates landowners for trees required to be left next to streams, wetlands and adjacent unstable slopes because of regulations put in place to protect fish habitat. The voluntary program provides funds equivalent to at least half the value of the trees they need to protect.
“The bill highlights the value of the forest riparian easement program and the resources it protects,” said Hansen. “The societal benefits of economically viable working forests are multiple, and include the protection of clean, cold water, the provision of wildlife habitat, the sheltering of cultural resources from development, and the natural carbon storage potential of growing trees.”
The bill requires the Department of Natural Resources to share information about the carbon sequestration benefits of the forest riparian easement program with other state programs attempting to quantify carbon storage or account for carbon emissions, and promote the expansion of funding for the program as part of the state’s overall climate strategy.