Gov. Jay Inslee signed legislation Wednesday that essentially says the forest products business, practiced sustainably, does more good than harm for the environment because forests keep greenhouse gases from the atmosphere by storing carbon.
House Bill 2528, was co-sponsored by 24th District Representatives Steve Tharinger, D-Sequim, and Mike Chapman, D-Port Angeles. Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim, also of the 24th District, prime sponsored the companion Senate bill.
“This legislation recognizes the importance of trees, wood and paper products in absorbing and storing carbon,” said Mark Doumit, Washington Forest Protection Association Executive Director. “Recognition that the forest and wood products sector, including landowners, mills, bioenergy, pulp and paper, and the related harvesting and transportation infrastructure is part of our state’s natural climate solution, also supports rural communities and jobs.”
Once enacted into law, state agencies would recognize and support efforts by the timber industry to sequester carbon through reforestation. The legislation also encourages landowners to grow more trees that promote air quality and sequester carbon from the atmosphere by promoting investments in sustainable forestry and wood production.
Washington private forests and wood products sector sequesters 12% of the state’s carbon emissions, and working forests play a significant role in reducing greenhouse gases, according to the industry association.
The bill acknowledges that there may eventually be a market for the monetary value for the carbon stored by state forests and says if money, beyond the value of the sale of timber, accrues to the state it could go toward reforestation and promotion.
A bill report prepared by legislative staff offers this explanation of the legislation:
“There has been a continual narrative that the forest industry is bad for the environment. There are some who would to like have a carbon policy used to reduce the cutting of trees or to extend rotations, and that cannot be allowed to happen. There needs to be a healthy manufacturing component within the forestry sector. This bill seeks to recognize the contribution of forestry and wood products as part of the state’s climate solution. If sequestered carbon, in the form of trees, is left on the landscape, it could burn, it could decompose, and could then turn into a net emitter of carbon. The critical link is to take the carbon from landscape and put it into building materials, then replant trees and start the cycle over again. The approach in this bill makes rural communities and the forest products sector part of the solution, supports the rural tax base, avoids wildfires, and avoids conversion to other land uses. The bill gives recognition to the forest products industry as part of the solution.”
The bill will go into effect 90 days after March 12th, when the session ended.