Olympic National Forest is now on the flip side

The economics of Olympic National Forest has been turned upside down.

The forest was once the wood basket of the Northwest, generating enough money from the sale of massive fir and cedar trees to build roads, trails and campgrounds — and more roads. The forest generated enough money to support a large staff of foresters and forest rangers and have money left over to support other forests.

Over the years, experts have come to realize that natural systems were often ignored in the effort to get the wood out. And this isn’t just the view of tree-huggers and spotted-owl lovers.

Farmers and residents in the Skokomish River Valley have paid the price of too much logging and road-building in the upper watershed. Shellfish-growers and others who depend on natural resources have suffered, along with fish and wildlife best suited to old-growth conditions.

And so the economics has turned. Now, much of the logging involves commercially thinning second-growth forests to restore old-growth conditions at a faster pace. Under new stewardship programs, the money can be used to decommission roads that are still sending massive amounts of soil and gravel downstream into the Skokomish River and other waterways. Congress is now putting money back into the forest for ecosystem recovery rather than taking money out.

There is a lot more to this story than I was able to tell in today’s Kitsap Sun. It’s a story I’ll be telling for a long time to come.

One thought on “Olympic National Forest is now on the flip side

  1. The farmers and residents in the lower Skokomish valley built on a natural flood plain. They would be flooded out periodically even if the upper valley was untouched. Roads that comprise less than 1% of the watershed can not possibly be “sending massive amounts of soil and gravel downstream”. Flood plains flood, that is what they are there for.

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