Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Long-Term Forest Practices Applications (15-year logging permit)

We took out a permit two years ago in anticipation of a commercial thinning operation on our parcel. The commercial operation never came to be, for various reasons, so the permit isn't actually being used. However, its 2-year maximum term and impending expiration pressured us to make certain decisions when we would rather have waited.

Effective 2008, Washington now offers a Long-Term Forest Practices Application to small forest owners. Long-Term permits are valid for 3 to 15 years once they’re approved, and the landowner chooses the timeframe.

The main benefit for forests is that small landowners are encouraged to do some longer-term planning. With short-term permits, landowners tended to harvest once per generation, and they over-harvest as a result. I've watched my neighbors do it, and I understand the pressure they're under.

A long-term permit doesn't reduce the overhead costs of logging, but it allows small-scale harvesting or an ongoing operation if the landowner is in a position to do it that way. If a severe winter leaves loads of blow-down or snags, an owner can respond -- without the paperwork and waiting period of a short-term application. If pulp markets rise, an owner can quickly harvest poles. Than he can wait several years if necessary for the saw log or house log market to improve, before cutting larger timber. It makes sense.

What we need now are more options for getting small-scale logging done. Loggers won't return calls if you have fewer than 40 acres, or if you don't want to cut for the maximum allowable immediate yield. Their financial model requires (a) cutting large, profitable, Fir saw logs, and (b) hauling out enough timber to leave a profit after the cost of move-in and move-out. We need some loggers who are set up to do small harvests profitably.

Completing a Long-Term Application can be more work than filing a standard application, but once you have one, you’re able to go out and implement your plan whenever the timing is right for you. Currently, the Small Forest Landowner Office has Jeff Galleher (program manager) and Jenni Dykstra (Fish and Wildlife Biologist) available to assist landowners and DNR field foresters with Long-Term Applications. To get started, call your local DNR stewardship forester.

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