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  • Nancy Churchill

A Win for Healthy Forests

Today’s topic is of vital importance to every county in Washington state that has Department of Natural Resource forest lands. The recent July 21 Washington Supreme Court ruling in Conservation Northwest v. Franz was a win for the DNR, schools, and the environment ( What was this case about, and why is it so important?

You may remember that many years ago, Washington State had a strong timber industry which created jobs and thriving communities. This industry produced sustainable and renewable timber resources, and the sale of timber was used to fund school districts and other services in counties with these forests. “Today, the DNR manages over 2 million acres of state trust lands to produce sustainable timber supplies and generate long-term revenues for public beneficiaries including K-12 schools, universities and fire and rescue” ( A friend of mine, who grew up in rural Skamania, tells me how wonderful her small rural schools were back when the timber industry was thriving. The entire community benefited from the timber industry. Where there were good paying timber jobs, service industries came to the community as well. It’s estimated that every timber job supported approximately 5 service industry jobs ( Then, the environmentalists basically destroyed the state’s timber industry over concerns about the spotted owl. We can discuss the effectiveness of the campaign to save the spotted owl another time, but the price of saving the spotted owl was the collapse of the entire Western Washington timber industry.

Rural Washington logging towns that were once prosperous and thriving became backwater ghost towns with high rates of poverty. The schools which were once funded by timber sales now had to be funded by the state, and by impoverished property owners through property tax levies. Rural districts have become poorer and poorer, while the high density metropolitan school districts can afford higher salaries and expensive “extras”.

Once logging was shut down in Western Washington, environmental groups starting bringing lawsuits against the DNR regarding logging and timber sales in eastern Washington. While the cases dragged through the legal system, the logging industry suffered. Today there’s such a shortage of skilled labor that some projects require bringing labor and equipment in from out of state. Obviously, those wages leave the state when the job is done, and the rural communities lose the benefit that comes from a thriving local logging industry.

A Court Victory provides Hope

In Conservation Northwest v. Hillary Frantz, “Conservation Northwest attempted to undermine the Washington Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) fiduciary duty to manage these working forests...” But in a unanimous decision, the Washington State Supreme Court affirmed that the DNR does have a fiduciary duty to manage the forests in the state trust lands “to produce sustainable timber supplies and generate long-term revenues for public beneficiaries including K-12 schools, universities, and fire and rescue” (

The American Forest Resource Council also noted “The agency’s trust mandate is embedded in the state constitution, and state and federal laws... ( For more details on the ruling, please refer to “MYTH vs. FACT: Washington State Supreme Court Affirms DNR Trust Mandate, by the American Forest Resource Council ( This article notes, “The Supreme Court has ruled that DNR has a real, enforceable trust mandate to manage state trust lands with an undivided loyalty to the defined beneficiaries. The Court rejected the anti-forestry groups’ claims that DNR should have chosen other competing interests and public viewpoints to further reduce harvest levels at the expense of timber revenue to trust land beneficiaries.”

Good Forest Management is Good for the Environment

This ruling is hopefully good news for schools in counties with DNR-managed lands. However, it’s also good news for the environment. Effective forest management will mean better wildfire control, which will reduce wildfire emissions. According to 2021 Washington wildfire statistics, a total 674,249 acres burned, with 88% of them human-caused (

Research presented in the July, 2022 American Loggers Council email newsletter estimates “wildfires emit greenhouse gasses at a rate equivalent to 48 cars per acre.” So our 674,249 acres burned in 2021 multiplied by 48 cars/acre pencils out to over 32 million cars worth of emissions from our wildfires in 2021.

Since Washington only has 2.8 million cars registered in the whole state (, it’s easy to see that controlling wildfires is the fastest way and lowest-cost way to reach Jay Inslee’s stated commitment to reaching certain green energy goals by 2030. Save the Snake River dams, and forget solar farms and windmills. Properly managing the forests and preventing wildfires is the solution to reducing Washington state emissions and meeting our environmental goals.

Action, Action, Action

The environmental groups won’t be giving up after this court loss; they will be putting even more pressure on the state Legislature to kill our much needed timber management.

If you’d like to encourage the DNR and your legislators to take immediate action to fully implement forest management goals and strengthen the state timber program, the group Healthy Forests, Healthy Communities has created a simple online form that you can submit in just a few seconds. Visit and submit the form. When you participate in government, we all win. It time to fight for the Washington timber industry and our schools.

Nancy Churchill is the state committeewoman for the Ferry County Republican Party. She may be reached at The opinions expressed in Dangerous Rhetoric are her own.


WA Supreme Court Ruling in Conservation Northwest vs. Commissioner of Public Lands

Washington State Supreme Court Affirms DNR Management of State Trust Forest Lands, by American Forest Resource Council, 7-21-22

MYTH vs. FACT: Washington State Supreme Court Affirms DNR Trust Mandate, American Forest Resource Council, 7-26-22

Healthy Forests, Healthy Communities, YouTube Video

(IMAGE) Image from the American Loggers E-Mail Newsletter, July 2022

2021 Wildfire Season Summary, WA DNR, Washington Forest Protection Association

Statista, 2020 Washington State Registrations (=2,800,000)

Action Alert: Send a message to Olympia about our state-managed working forests, Healthy Forests, Healthy Communitites


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