Washington State tree lovers celebrate forest preservation victories
Photo via Center for Responsible Forestry

LAKE SUTHERLAND, Wash.—In a campground with firs tall enough for marbled murrelet to nest, tree lovers gathered May 11 to celebrate their victories in preserving legacy forests on the Olympic Peninsula.

The Master of Ceremonies, Nina Sarmiento, a leader of the Center for Responsible Forestry (CRF), said they were gathered on the tribal lands of the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe and that the preservation of the forests is the work of a grassroots coalition.

They listened to the music of the jazz trio, “Whump” who played “After Midnight” and “I Try to Do My Best.”

CRF leader Mary Jean Ryan reminded the crowd that it was the eve of Mother’s Day and they were gathered to honor “the ultimate mother, Mother Earth” by working to preserve legacy forests.

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR), she said, recently allocated 2,000 acres of state-owned forest to a carbon-capture program, part of the Washington State Climate Commitment Act (CCA). It includes 952 acres of conservation land handed over by DNR to Jefferson County. But neighboring Clallam County was not on DNR’s list and received no conservation acres.

Jefferson County Commissioner Heidi Eisenhour asked her fellow commissioners: Why not “donate” some of their conservation acres to Clallam County? The Jefferson County Commissioners approved the gift, as did the DNR.

Photo via Center for Responsible Forestry

The Jefferson County gift gave Clallam County the credits needed to save “Shore Thing,” a timber parcel in the Elwha River watershed. DNR planned to sell the “Shore Thing” timber parcel to replace a cancelled timber sale, “Power Plant-Unit 3” near the banks of the Elwha River. Now, “Shore Thing” has also been removed from the list of timber sales—two timber parcels in the Elwha watershed saved from logging by the tireless grassroots movement to save legacy forests.

Ryan hailed the twin victories and thanked Jefferson County for its generosity. Yet she warned that the struggle is far from over.

DNR, she said, transferred six timber parcels into the CCA carbon-capture program. But then suddenly announced more sales in late May of legacy forests, some in the Elwha watershed. One of the parcels is a short hike up the mountainside from the campground, and many trekked up the trail to admire the towering Douglas fir, red cedar, and spruce trees that will be clearcut unless stopped by the grassroots movement.

Ryan urged redoubling the struggle to save legacy forests in the Elwha watershed and elsewhere as a key to preserving drinking water, wildlife, recreation, and reversing climate change.

Washington State Rep. Mike Chapman, a Democratic candidate for the State Senate in the Nov. elections, told the crowd, “I was the deciding vote in committee for the Climate Commitment Act” approved by the legislature and signed into law in 2023.

A Republican initiative to repeal the CCA is on the ballot, he warned, a law “that allows us to set aside legacy forests” to remove CO2 from the atmosphere and help reverse global warming. He urged a massive voter turnout to defeat this Republican ballot measure.

Chapman decried the harvesting of millions of board-feet of timber then loaded on ships and exported to Asia. “Why not mill the timber here in the U.S., creating jobs and producing lumber and paper?” He drew strong applause.

12-year Gabriel Barzola Reed shows a lovely watercolor he painted of a honeybee sipping nectar from a bright pink cherry blossom. | Tim Wheeler / People’s World

The picnic was the Forest Conservation Spring Celebration co-sponsored by the Elwha Legacy Forest Coalition, Olympic Climate Action, the Center for Responsible Forestry (CRF), and the Earth Law Center. Also present were members of Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action (PSARA) and the Clallam County Democratic Party.

Port Angeles City Councilman Lindsey Shromen-Wawrin was one of the council members who signed the letter urging cancellation of the “Power Plant-Unit 3” parcel and a total ban on all logging in the Elwha watershed that provides all the drinking water for Port Angeles. The forests, he added, store millions of gallons of drinking water, store carbon, and also “create more jobs when left standing” than the handful of jobs created by clearcut logging. The crowd greeted his comments with sustained applause.

Schromen-Wawrin added that he was not speaking as a City Councilman in appealing for votes to defeat Donald Trump and other Republican extremists. He, too, appealed for a get-out-the-vote drive to defeat all three Republican ballot initiatives—their scheme to repeal the Capital Gains tax on billionaires, their crippling of the Long Term Care Act, and the initiative to repeal the Climate Commitment Act.

Sarmiento introduced one of the youth volunteers, 12-year Gabriel Barzola Reed, who had a concise message for the crowd: “I like trees.” Gabriel also loves bees, holding up a lovely watercolor he had painted of a honeybee sipping nectar from a bright pink cherry blossom.

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Tim Wheeler
Tim Wheeler

Tim Wheeler has written over 10,000 news reports, exposés, op-eds, and commentaries in his half-century as a journalist for the Worker, Daily World, and People’s World. Tim also served as editor of the People’s Weekly World newspaper.  His book News for the 99% is a selection of his writings over the last 50 years representing a history of the nation and the world from a working-class point of view. After residing in Baltimore for many years, Tim now lives in Sequim, Wash.