Letter to the Editor

Environmental group leaders appeal together for county protection of "legacy" trees


Thurston County Commissioners Mejia, Menser, and Edwards:

The organizations listed below request that you protect the trees in Capitol State Forest, especially the Legacy Forests within Thurston County from the environmental degradation and release of significant amounts of CO2 resulting from the clearcutting of these older growth trees.

We request that you pass a resolution to be sent to the Department of Natural Resources or use any other methods that may become available to you for the permanent protection of those stands generated prior to WWII, which are characterized by high levels of structural complexity, enhanced carbon storage potential, genetic and biological diversity, and potential as natural heritage sites.

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is constitutionally tasked with managing state forests “to maximize benefits for all the people of the state”. This should not be interpreted as simply turning the trees into revenue. Rather this mandate should include protecting future generations from climate destabilization and providing biologically diverse reservoirs, clean water, recreation and improved health and well-being for our community by preserving these trees.

Furthermore, we concur with Superintendent of Public Instruction Reykdal’s statement: ”We just have to think like we are in the 21st century in a climate crisis and not like we are in the 19th century funding schools.” Clearly we cannot pay for our children’s education by destroying their future.

Legacy Forests commonly contain trees four feet in diameter, close to 200 feet tall, and capable of sequestering massive amounts of carbon – the largest 1% hold half the carbon in the forest, which we cannot now afford to lose. Trees over 30 years old can draw down 10 to 30 times more carbon than a sapling (depending upon species). When these forests were cut in the early 1900s, cutting was done manually rather than clearcut, thereby allowing forests to
regenerate and maintain complex eco-systems that support many species of plants, animals, and birds. The current proposed clearcuts disrupt and threaten natural regeneration of these interconnected and interdependent ecosystems.

The Thurston Climate Mitigation Plan requires that 10% of our county-wide CO2 reductions come from a combination of tree protection and additional tree planting. Protecting these Legacy Forest is necessary to not move backward on this important goal.

Commissioner of Public Lands, Hillary Franz, recently announced a carbon reserve plan to protect 10,000 acres of Western WA public forests. Therefore, that sentence has now been changed to say: Unfortunately, only .5% of DNR’s land will be protected by this plan and only one parcel of the Legacy Forests in Capitol Forest, making the BOCC’s resolution more urgent.

The most recent United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report warns that we have only three years to bring our emissions’ curves down from their peaks; we will then need a 43% reduction by 2030 to remain below an increase of 1.50C of global warming. The IPCC report call on all elected leaders at every level to do everything in their power to reduce emissions.

For these reasons, we strongly request that you insist DNR permanently protect Legacy Forests in Thurston County’s Capitol Forest.

Signed by
George Watland, Chair, Sierra Club South Sound Regional Group

Sam Merrill, Chair of Conservation Committee of Black Hills Audubon

Lynn Fitz-Hugh, Executive Director of Restoring Earth Connection

Chris Chapman- for South Salish Friends Worship Group

Wendy Steffensen, Convenor of Olympia Green Faith

Walt Jorgensen for the Carnegie Group

Melinda Hughes, Executive Director of Thurston Climate Action Team

Nancy Winter – Representative of Gloria Dei

Dr. Daniel Einstein, Director of OlyEcosystems

Lisa Ornstein on behalf of Olympia Indivisible

Rev. David Robinson for the Center for Spiritual Living


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  • johngreen

    Thank you for doing this. The announcement that the DNR was now preserving 10,000 acres of old growth timber is just a drop in the bucket for what is needed. With 2,500,000 acres under it's control and with climate change looming large we should be protecting our forests more than ever. Cutting our trees to export makes us look like a third world country and we should be ashamed for what we are doing to our habitat. Governor Inslee professes to be helping against our climate change but is failing miserably regarding protecting our forests. We have do de-link cutting trees with funding public projects and schools.

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