OLYMPIA, Wash., March 23, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today Gov. Gregoire signed legislation, HB 2238, to help do a better job of spending money on environmental mitigation. This legislation, sponsored by Rep. JT Wilcox-R, Yelm, expands options for environmental mitigation to include investments in forestry programs, thereby increasing forestry conservation and rural resource jobs. Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, was co-sponsor of the bill. The legislation had strong bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate.
"Many of us have seen projects in our district and wonder why they are spending mitigation money the way they are. This new law allows project proponents to look at the entire watershed and do something that makes sense, like protect a currently functioning ecosystem instead of trying to build a new one that costs considerably more and might have a 50 percent failure rate," said Wilcox.
The new law does not expand regulation or create any additional requirements. Local, state and federal governments currently require environmental mitigation for projects that impact the environment. This bill expands the options for using mitigation dollars by including already existing statutory mitigation programs, such as the Forestry Riparian Easement Program (FREP), Family Forest Fish Passage Program (FFFPP), and the Riparian and Habitat Open Space Program (RHOSP) – all designed to improve conditions for fish, water and wildlife on forested parcels of land.
"This is a good first step, for the law to recognize how private landowners contribute to environmental protection, and how ecosystems are connected. Protecting riparian areas and other functions in forested lands through the compensatory mitigation program will allow small landowners and forest investors to keep making investments in working forests while adding real value to construction mitigation around the state. " said Mark Doumit, Executive Director of the Washington Forest Protection Association.
"The Washington Farm Forestry Association (WFFA), representing small private family forest landowners across the state, is thankful for the efforts of Reps. Wilcox and Clibborn to recognize and attempt to provide additional funding for the Forestry Riparian Easement program, promised by the Forests & Fish Law. We hope HB 2238 will allow the State to provide a portion of the compensation for our riparian buffer timber, helping to keep our tree farmers in business," said Rick Dunning, WFFA Executive Director.
The bill will study the possibility of forestry programs being included in the compensatory mitigation program, The Department of Ecology and Fish and Wildlife will report to the Legislature on the successes and constraints of utilizing existing state forestry programs by Dec. 31, 2012.
"This is an opportunity to reach out to land owners to use environmental mitigation funds in creative ways to keep land in working forestry and provide permanent improvements to our rivers and streams for fish and people," said Bill Robinson, The Nature Conservancy's state government relations director for Washington.
About the Washington Forest Protection Association. Founded in 1908, WFPA is a trade association representing private forest landowners in Washington State. Our members are large and small companies, individuals, and families who grow, harvest, and re-grow trees on about 4 million acres. Forestry provides nearly 120,000 family wage jobs in the state. www.wfpa.org and www.forestsandfish.com.
About the Washington Farm Forestry Association. Founded in 1947, is a non-profit organization representing the diverse interests of about 1500 Family Tree Farms, with ownerships ranging from a few acres to a few thousand acres. The membership manages these forests for timber, other forest products, recreation, aesthetics, wildlife, fish, and aesthetic reasons of ownership. www.wafarmforestry.com
About The Nature Conservancy. The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide, including more than 550,000 acres in Washington. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org/washington.
SOURCE Washington Forest Protection Association