I had the opportunity to work up in the San Juans again for a few days last week. I met with about a half dozen forest owners, then hosted an afternoon seminar that focused on the barriers to economically viable forest management in the islands. Though the islands are certainly a unique community, they share a lot of similar challenges with other communities of small woodland owners throughout Washington. Long, and therefore expensive haul distances to log markets, diminishing number of logging contractors, increasing regulatory barriers, lack of information on silvicultural alternatives, etc. Arguably the biggest common barrier is decreasing log prices coupled with increasingly expensive log hauling costs. Together these factors are making it nearly impossible for forest owners on Orcas Island, for instance, to conduct a timber thinning that covers its own expenses. Without thinning, forests are becoming overstocked, fire risk is increasing and this community is losing an important revenue source. Over the next 9 months, NW Certified Forestry will be hosting a series of discussions on how to improve local log manufacturing and local lumber use in the San Juans. We feel strongly that through increased local manufacturing and local use of lumber rural communities can create new market mechanisms that support good forest stewardship. This effort will take the commitment of local architects and builders, craftsmen, wood workers, and retail lumber yards to source their wood products from smaller scale local mills and forest owners. It takes a village to raise a forest!
Director of Northwest Certified Forestry