New legislation should allow the state to sell storm-damaged timber more quickly, before it loses its value, the Department of Natural Resources says.
The legislation signed Monday by Gov. Gary Locke will allow the department to move quickly to sell more than $2 million worth of timber that was damaged by storms late last year and early this year, DNR said in a news release Tuesday.
DNR manages 2.1 million acres of state forest land, with proceeds from timber sales going to school construction and other public uses. Last year, timber harvests from the trust lands generated a record-high $281 million, DNR said.
DNR said the new legislation does not affect environmental-protection requirements, but lifts the $1,000 limit on “direct timber sales” to $20,000. The $1,000 limit was set in 1982.
Direct sales involve small quantities of wood products that are exempt from the advertising requirements that apply to larger sales. They are generally used in cases with significant environmental concerns and where the tree stands are too scattered for the more traditional sales program.
“Inflation alone makes the current $1,000 limit unreasonable in today’s marketplace,” Public Lands Commissioner Jennifer Belcher said. “An average mature Douglas fir or western hemlock tree might bring $350 to $500, which means that a direct sales contract can be limited to a couple of trees.
“To one degree or another, this (storm) damage happens every year. We want to create a more cost-effective program for the state and the trusts.”
In addition to raising the dollar limit on direct sales, the legislative changes should allow the state to capture the highest dollar value possible for the damaged timber by moving more quickly to sell it - reducing the possibility of theft and allowing the state to capture spot markets for high-value products such as cedar blocks and ship masts, the DNR release said.
DNR’s preliminary field surveys indicate 7 million board feet of timber was damaged in small patches on both sides of the Cascades. That amount of timber would provide enough wood for about 1,400 houses of 1,800 square feet each.
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