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Originally published Friday, May 23, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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State praised for logging sustainably

The state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has earned top grades for sustainable logging practices on more than 145,000 acres of state...

Seattle Times staff reporter

The state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has earned top grades for sustainable logging practices on more than 145,000 acres of state forestlands in the Puget Sound region.

The certification from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) comes after a review of all aspects of forestry on the lands in question, from the size of clear-cuts to length of time between harvests.

The approval of the Washington, D.C., nonprofit is considered more strict than another certification process by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, a group originally founded by the pulp-and-paper industry. All 2.1 million acres of state timberlands already carried that label.

The quest to earn the new FSC designation took eight years; it was begun by the former state commissioner of public lands, Jennifer Belcher.

As the current commissioner, Doug Sutherland, announced the new certification Thursday, environmentalists praised the achievement. But they also said they hoped Sutherland would now pursue FSC certification for all DNR timberland.

"We think this is a great first step," said Shawn Cantrell, executive director of Seattle Audubon. "DNR can and should be managing all of its lands in a way that is truly sustainable."

But Cantrell noted that most of the forestland that earned the FSC certification is in heavily populated areas and popular recreation sites, such as Tiger Mountain near Issaquah and the Capitol Forest in Olympia, where there is political pressure not to clear-cut.

"This is a relatively easy, safe step and not really changing management practices," Cantrell said. "If it is good enough for the liberal Puget Sound region, it should be good enough for all the lands around the state."

Sutherland said the process is expensive and that he would submit management plans for certification of other forestlands as funding allows. He declined to be specific about which lands might be next. The certification did not cause the state to make any changes in its overall management plan for the Puget Sound area, Sutherland said.

Using sustainable logging practices on such a large block of Puget Sound forestland is good news for fish, wildlife and birds.

In Washington, 93 of 317 bird species are in decline, according to a 2004 report by Washington Audubon. Sustainable forestry practices will help give birds a stronghold they need to survive in a rapidly developing region, said Matt Mega, conservation director for Seattle Audubon.

Puget Sound forests are also crucial to the health of the Sound, which is affected by clearing of forests and disruption of the natural hydrology of the landscape.

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The certification could also be good for marketability of DNR wood products. The higher price that certified wood brings won't filter back to the state, Sutherland said, but it could ensure products made from DNR wood are attractive to a wider pool of customers.

Many major retailers, including Home Depot, prefer wood certified by FSC because it is believed to be the most credible by consumers looking for sustainably harvested wood.

Lynda V. Mapes: 206-464-2736 or lmapes@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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