May 21, 2008
I would like to thank the members and staff of the board for allowing me the opportunity to testify today.
My name is Preston Drew. I’ve been in the logging business since 1972. In those years, I have been involved in about every aspect of the business, federal and state timber sales, contract logging for mills and other buyers, ground based and cable operations.
Most of my experience, and where I prefer to be, is in relationships with private landowners. I offer a turn key service, from the initial cruise to the post-harvest cleanup and planting, or clearing. Statistics generated by the Washington Contract Loggers Association (I am a member) show I represent a fairly typical logging operator in most categories. (age, assets, time in business, etc.)
I own land in King county. I have substantial timber on that land, as well as my residence. I manage the timber resource by selective logging, replanting and invasive specie control.
I have been actively involved politically for about 10 years. I currently serve on the board of Citizens Alliance for Property Rights (www.proprights.org). The organization was founded in 2003 in response to increasing government regulation of rural lands that amounted to the taking of private property. It began in King County. Today, we have chapters in 5 counties, a formal affiliate in another county, and two more chapters in the process of forming. The video telling our story can be viewed on our website.
I am accompanied today by Ray Burhen. He is the landowner with whom I have my current contract. Ray grew up during the depression, served in the U.S Navy during World War II and the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He has a degree from the University of Washington with emphasis on engineering and zoology, has been in the sawmill and trucking business and also worked in aerospace.
Ray owns timberland in King and Snohomish counties and farm land in King County. He also owns commercial property and has developed and sold off parcels.
He lives in Duvall, in the Snoqualmie Valley, where he has been active in local politics, the senior center, and historical society. He has donated land, money and many hours to endeavors including being the driving force behind the preservation of historic landmarks.
He reminds me of my grandfather in his attitudes and attributes. He makes decisions easily, is considerate of others needs and keeps his word. He may be the finest landowner I have worked with during my career. I hope members of the board will agree with me that he is the kind of landowner that is in the state’s best interest to keep in the forestry business.
He has been growing trees on some his lands for over 50 years. When he bought these properties, he always had the expectation that when it came time to realize his investment, he would be able to harvest.
The purpose of my being here today is to argue for lesser buffers on low grade streams. I seek relief from regulation in what are basically seasonal drainage channels, dry most of the year, that have little value to fisheries. I am not here to change the RCW that is the Forests and Fish law. I know this is beyond the board’s authority. I am talking about the WAC, the rule making authority. I want lesser buffers and more operating flexibility near seasonal channels. I want to be able to harvest these areas with reasonable rules. I want a change in the WAC setting the minimum definition of an “F” stream. Two foot channels and less than 16% gradient where fish are “presumed to use”. A channel meeting these “physicals” requires the landowner to buffer with identical dimensions required for a Class 1 water. The onus is then on the landowner to determine fish use, or not. I don’t want to have to study it to death where the delays and fees kill off any reasonable profit and discourage forestry.
I believe the ‘on the ground’ implementation and enforcement of this WAC is regulatory overreach that does not reflect legislative intent of the statute or the negotiations leading up to the law. I will discuss issues familiar to all of you. What might be new will be examples of how this policy is affecting a representative landowner and operator. Over-classification of seasonal low grade streams is an aggravating factor driving forest land conversion, especially in the gentrifying counties around Puget Sound.
I will discuss two timberland properties. The first I will refer to as the “Vanbrocklin”. 250 acres located in low elevation south Snohomish County. Roughly half the land is predominately in hardwoods, the remainder is in softwoods, mainly Silver Fir. Gradients are gentle and undulating. The first forest practice permit was applied for and approved in October 2007. It covered 55 acres of the hardwood type. There were several dry draws, a small forested wetland, and a well defined stream channel in the far corner of the permitted area. About 35 acres were logged. The remaining 20 acres are still standing for reasons that will be discussed later. There is a current operation underway on 40 acres in the softwood portion of this property permitted in March of this year.
The second timberland parcel is a 35 acre parcel located in low elevation east King County. Timber is a 50 year old mixed stand of hardwoods in the wet areas and softwoods on the uplands. Gradients are gentle with three stream channels that drain to a pond located off the property. I will refer to this property as “Novelty”.
While doing our planning to prepare for operations, the landowner and I had intended to log the Novelty property first. The market for cedar and alder was strong. I had not previously done permitting under the fish and forest law due to the fact that most of my recent business had been logging and land clearing associated with development. I studied Forest practices Illustrated to bone up on the current rules. After several visits to the property, I decided two of the stream channels were 5’s and one was a 4. Under the new rules, two would be Ns and one Np. But one was already classified as an “F” stream. I contacted Larry Fry from the DNR south Puget office and asked about the procedure to reclassify what I thought was obviously wrong. He told me that was a Fish and Wildlife function and said he would have them take a look. After lengthy delays getting a state biologist, Larry sent Kurt Beardslee, or one of his technicians, from Wild Fish Conservancy, to look at these channels. I don’t blame Larry for this, because I think he was just trying to get the process moving, but the landowner and I know of Beardslee and his organization. Had we known, he would never have been allowed on the property. Asking these people, who boast on their web site of the “correct reclassification of over 6000 streams” is tantamount to asking the Sierra Club what the proper timber cut should be! All three channels were reclassified “F”!
Note the pictures below, not a drop of water. These pictures were taken June 23, 2007. Would you drop your hook at this location in search of an elusive trout?
Applying wetland buffers, “F” stream buffers to these channels, as well as the pond just off the property destroys the economic viability of any timber operation. The property interest that is the timber has effectively been taken by regulation.
So we went up to the “Van Brocklin”. No fish streams were depicted on the base map in the area most accessible with the least road building required. I tried to permit in time for a road building weather window. I walked the draws and found no water. About the time I started, it began to rain, and it continued to rain, and then it rained some more. This has been the wettest year I can remember in the last dozen years. From November to April, it never stopped. All the low areas filled, the draws all flowed. I became concerned with some of the heavier flows. I was working with the Small Forest Landowner Office on the next permit in the stream areas of the property and so I had Boyd Norton, small forest landowner specialist, look at these channels. After consultations with Boyd and Steven Haugn, DNR forester, I decided to stop logging in areas where I might be encroaching on required buffers. We ended up doing assessments on all these streams. I have attached a copy of Boyd’s report.
Bottom line is that after this unusually wet winter and following the rules as they apply, the landowner loses vast amounts of land and timber, my job becomes a complicated mess trying to comply with the buffers and set asides while isolated patches become difficult or impossible to reach. Other than the main drainage, none of these channels had water in them in October. Now three of the tributaries are preliminarily defined as “F”. Even if a protocol study changes the typing, the time involved represents a significant burden on myself and the landowner. This should be a “dream” job. These regulations, as they apply, are ruining it, and I don’t see fisheries gaining in any meaningful way. It is idiotic to apply the same buffers to a ditch, dry most of the year, as a significant Class I water, such as the Snoqualmie River.
The University of Washington recently did a study on forestland conversion. They identified the primary driver as the difference in land use values in forestland versus development. The next most significant factor was regulatory complexity/uncertainty.
Ray Burhen is exactly the landowner demographic being looked at in the study. He has owned land long term that he could have developed long ago, but did not. Why? In his own words “I like to grow ‘em”.
These lands are surrounded by suburban development. Who sitting here today could blame him if he said “forget it” and just developed his property. Even with an alternate plan, he loses 40 acres on the Vanbrocklin, about 15 percent, complying with the rules. Do fisheries gain with watersheds surrounded by houses instead of forests?
It is in my short term economic interest to urge this landowner to convert. I might get the job. I won’t do that because I share the same concerns about our loss of productive forestland as many others. I would much rather be logging then doing development work. This is such great land for growing trees.
The stand was planted only 37 years ago and today I think the cut on the first 40 will yield a million feet. It is the third crop of timber this land has produced. Will there be a fourth?
This board should recognize the harm being done by this over regulation. The “two foot under 16 % grade” rule that “presumes fish use” and places the onus on the landowner to prove otherwise discourages forestry and is an aggravating factor driving forestland conversion. Applying “F” stream buffers to dry ditches as if they were significant Class I waters, such as the Snoqualmie River, makes no sense. Respect for private property rights will encourage forestry.
Thanks again for this opportunity to testify.