The March 31, 2014 Teanaway Community Forest (TCF as the locals call it) was the first meeting of the newly appointed Teanaway Community Forest Advisory Committee, announced jointly by the DNR and WDFW. Opening remarks were presented to the attending public by Commissioner Peter Goldmark, and were limited to a moment of silence for the victims of the OSO slide, from which WDFW commissioner Phil Anderson flew to the meeting. Also, the Lands Commissioner provided boiler plate praise for what has been accomplished by establishing this committee. This was followed by a lengthy and tedious presentation by Lisa Dally Wilson of Dally Environmental directly addressing the Advisory Committee about purpose, process, goals and charter of the Advisory committee, items that should have been handled in advance. The public needs details about the activities of the advisory committee and is most likely not interested in committee policy and procedure, although this display of procedural planning did reap one interesting item, Ms. Dally’s request for the committee to agree to her hiring of Forterra staff member Diedra Petrina, Kittitas County Project Associate as her assistant. This was not seen as a conflict by the Advisory board, though some of the public disagreed with that assessment, as it was couched as benefitting the local economy, and some doubted the statement rang true. The procedural discussion was not a wise use of time considering the committee plans on meeting only 10 times in 15 months and this was meeting #1. That leaves only 9 meetings to cover a huge amount of information and application of law to an expansive and complicated plan.
Along with the purchase of the TCF land, the legislative intent was for a community-based advisory committee. There lies the tale of two communities. Reviewing the list of those applicants to make it to the prized seats of the committee, it is clear that of the nearly 90 people who applied for a seat at the committee, the chosen few represent a separate community from the one impacted. One community is this committee that is comprised of individuals from corporate environmental organizations who have a well-established agenda; Trout Unlimited, Forterra, Wilderness Society, Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust, Trust for Public Lands, others, as well as governmental representatives. http://wdfw.wa.gov/news/mar1014b/
The other community which is without a seat on the advisory board is the community of legislative intent, the independent citizens not connected to a conservationist group or government entity. This is the community which will be impacted by the management plan this Advisory Committee is to develop for the DNR and WDFW. This is a shame because all could benefit from the common sense and real life experience of individual citizens who live and work within the community. These property owners have to limit themselves to public comment sessions, and requests for timely information.
What is not clear is if the Advisory Committee meetings are formal public comment sessions where citizen input is recorded. One citizen had the excellent recommendation that if a sitting member misses more than 3 meetings, that member should be replaced from the list of rejected members, hopefully an actual community member. Another good idea would be to film these meetings to allow for a broader view and review of the process. This would also be a way for comment to be recorded.
The DNR website is purported to be an information portal for interested citizens, but it is not clear at this time exactly what will be published there. Property owners have requested the timely availability of information about future meetings, agendas and specific agenda materials well in advance of meetings, published meeting notes within 24 hours after a meeting, and email contacts for Advisory Committee members. Additionally, but not requested at last night’s meeting, monthly accounting of revenues gained and expenditures per RCW 79 would also be a good way for citizens to track the accountability of the Advisory Committee. At this time it is recommended that a place to “share ideas, values, and concerns about the TCM” would be firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Rick Roeder, Washington State Department of Natural Resources, 713 Bowers Road, Ellensburg, Washington 98926-9301. It is always a good idea to cc your own State Representative and Senator, and keep a hard copy.
The TCM is codified in RCW 79, http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?Cite=79
and was modified by the legislature with SB5973
The complicating factor in this new experiment, the state’s first Community Forest is that there are deadlines directly related to following the controversial and complicated Yakima Basin Integrated Plan. The plan has a goal of water storage and other objectives that must be met by June 30, 2025. If those goals are not met, then the state Board of Natural Resources will transfer the Forest to the Common School Trust for commercial forestry, or to otherwise dispose of the property. The deadline the Advisory Committee is facing has to do with when the Washington State Legislature and Governor approved the purchase of the 50,272-acre Teanaway property last year. They directed DNR, in consultation with WDFW, to manage the land as Washington's first state-owned community forest. They directed the agencies to develop a management plan by June 30, 2015, with the assistance of a community-based advisory committee, to address watershed protection, working lands for forestry and livestock grazing, recreational opportunities, conservation of fish and wildlife habitat, and establishment of an ongoing community partnership to guide management of the forest. The seeming contradiction in statements has some citizens concerned and they are wondering how the managers will achieve financial stability. On the one hand it is stated that the legislature is committed to providing ongoing funding for the TCF, on the other hand it is being called a working landscape with timber harvest, grazing, and recreation monies being reinvested into the forest. The TCF is exempt from the schools trust, and from required passes. It would be important to track what is meant by reinvestment into the forest.
Here are some links that may help in understanding the Integrated Plan
The purchase of the land:
An explanation of the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan:
Concerns of the citizens attending the meeting were wolf management, preventing biosolids use for sylvaculture, and the use of large woody debris for projects.
Other concerns were promoting forest health and reducing flooding issues. Harvesting to reduce fire risks. Update mapping using imagery and LIDAR.
No dispersed camping within the forest boundaries.
No curtailment or expansion of recreational activity types and continued user group access for trail maintenance.
Keep the grazing rights but establish policy regarding such uses.
Improve existing campgrounds but do not add any additional. Increase patrolling activity, and limit the number of nights allowed to camp at one time.
Do not try to out-engineer nature and put downstream residents at flood risk. Do not do any projects within a mile of residence. Do not add additional large wood in river projects.
Create a solid financial plan that makes the TCF self-sustainable by the 2025 deadline.
Provide a local contact to report problems and issues to and coordinate gate openings and closings, trail work and so on.
Provide a TCF annual report listing financial, personnel, timber inventory, and other metrics to help community members understand how their forest is managed.
Make sure that local residents are members of the next TCF Advisory Board when the current member’s initial term is over.
The date of the next meeting was not decided upon due to travel plans of some Advisory Committee members.