A persistent drum beat in these parts warn of our disappearing forest land. A half dozen letters and articles on these pages have expressed concern and local farmers have rallied at Island County Commissioners meetings numerous times over the past year asking for some action on this issue.
In 2020, commissioner candidate Nathan Howard pointed out that 13,700 acres of forest land in Island County are in a forest tax program that reduces the real estate tax on these properties to virtually zilch. This program wisely incentivises forest land owners to forego development of their timberland.
The obvious winners in this forest preservation incentive are our watersheds, our tourism assets, our cherished natural environment and of course, all of us. Also that existential climate disaster that clouds our future, since 10 acres of mature forest absorbs 25 tons of CO2 per year, the equivalent emission of five cars yearly.
Jake Stewart, writing for a group of local agricultural interests, pointed out that these cherished forests, serve important ecological functions.
These farmers advise us to counter the inaction from the county, by contacting our county representatives to let them know what you expect and demand protection of what we value.
Why does Island County allow purchasers of forest land to forego the six-year moratorium on non-forestry conversion that accompanies a Class 2 DNR forest logging permit? This myopic practice allows various logging interests to acquire forest land that’s in a tax program, log it and then sell it for non-forestry development since the new buyer can very easily dodge the conversion moratorium placed on the property by DNR.
As Howard points out, we are all subsidizing this valuable forest tax program and for good reason. I’m wondering why the county torpedoes it, for no good reason.
This newspaper reported that acres logged in recent years is holding steady but neglects to consider the important percentage metric. As our forest land disappears, the percentage of that diminishing resource that is logged increases quite dramatically.
As the drum beat suggests, drop the commissioners a line and ask them to remove this counterproductive loophole that somehow found its way into county code and guts our important forest retention program, before it’s too late.