Forest landowners prove cooperation works | Brunell

The state’s largest environmental, wildlife and natural resources agencies recently recognized 43 large forest landowners for their “exemplary efforts” to upgrade forest roads and stream crossings that improved salmon habitat and water quality.

After investing more than $300 million collectively, these landowners rebuilt 25,000 miles of forest roads, replaced more than 6,000 in-stream barriers to migrating fish, and opened in excess of 3,500 miles of previously blocked spawning habitat.

The recognition is a milestone in collaboration and a remarkable turnaround from nearly a half-century ago when regulators, fishermen and loggers were at each other’s throats.

It took a couple of visionary leaders from vastly different backgrounds to set up the problem-solving framework which is in place today.

Billy Franks, Jr., the legendary Nisqually tribal leader, was a fisherman with an engaging personality and an abundance of common sense and wisdom. Even though he fought bitter fish wars and was arrested, he wasn’t resentful. To him, the battles weren’t about the past, they were about the future.

Stu Bledsoe was a World War II Navy fighter pilot who saw combat in the Pacific Theater. He had the same warmth, engaging manner and genuine commitment to settling a feud, which many thought unresolvable.

Bledsoe was a rancher, former legislator and state agriculture director in the Evans Administration and head of the Washington Forest Protection Association – the powerful organization representing private forest landowners.

Together, they were the “calmer heads” which were needed to reduce tensions and set a respectful tone. They started bringing other leaders together to listen to one another’s perspective and conduct research to determine what would work.

At that time, Judge George Boldt, a Tacoma federal jurist, issued game-changing rulings which were upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. However, the landmark decisions didn’t settle differences, they only exacerbated them.

Boldt ruled that natural fish spawning and rearing habitat must be restored. That meant reducing silt in spawning beds, curbing soil erosion from logging roads, and reducing harvest areas along streams to keep water temperatures low.

The overriding fact was wild salmon and steelhead runs were declining. Something dramatic needed to happen outside the court room and legislative chambers.

Bledsoe understood that forest landowners were in for dramatic and costly changes, but his members could not afford another round of prolonged litigation nor to be shut out of the woods.

Frank felt the same way. He would repeatedly say that while the lawyers argue, fish runs decline. Litigation meant paralysis for everyone.

Both took enormous risks and recognized they had a hard sell with their constituents. The talks were emotionally charged and at times, were on the verge of unraveling. Somehow, Frank and Bledsoe kept the train from derailing.

After a decade of hard work, the forests and fish agreement was ratified by the state legislature and signed into law by Gov. Gardner in the 1980s. It led to streamside buffer zones, road culverts revisions, which allowed migrating fish to pass, and put sensitive areas off limits to logging.

The bottom line was simple. Frank wanted fish runs restored and Bledsoe wanted timber landowners to be able to plant, manage and harvest trees. They soon realized their interests were compatible.

To Bledsoe and Frank respectful relationships mattered as did the words they wrote and spoke. They realized that unless they brought people with diverse views together and found ways to work out their differences, everyone would lose.

Too bad Frank and Bledsoe aren’t around today. We could all use a good dose of their common sense, wisdom and good manners. It’s the best way to build public trust and solve problems.

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at theBrunells@msn.com.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@kentreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.kentreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in Opinion

Robert Whale can be reached at robert.whale@auburn-reporter.com.
If you’re right, and you know it, then read this | Whale’s Tales

As the poet Theodore Roethke once wrote: “In a dark time the eye begins to see…”

Robert Whale can be reached at robert.whale@soundpublishing.com.
Grappling with the finality of an oncologist’s statement | Whale’s Tales

Perhaps my brain injected a bit of humor to cover the shock. But I felt the gut punch.

Cartoon by Frank Shiers
Legislature back in session next week | Cartoon

State lawmakers return Jan. 8 to Olympia.

Cartoon by Frank Shiers
Santa doesn’t drive a Kia | Cartoon

Cartoon by Frank Shiers.

Cartoon by Frank Shiers
Salute to veterans | Cartoon by Frank Shiers

On Veterans Day, honor those who served your country.

File photo
Why you should vote in the upcoming election | Guest column

When I ask my students when the next election is, frequently they will say “November 2024” or whichever presidential year is coming up next.

Robert Whale can be reached at rwhale@soundpublishing.com.
Here’s a column for anyone who loves their dog | Whale’s Tales

It is plain to me in looking at dogs small and large that a decent share of them are exemplars of love on Earth, innocents who love unconditionally and love their chow.

Robert Whale can be reached at rwhale@soundpublishing.com.
Please protect your children from BS spreaders | Whale’s Tales

Among the most useful things I studied in college were debate, and… Continue reading

Email editor@kentreporter.com.
It’s time to change Kent’s City Council elections to districts | Guest column

If you were asked who your city councilmembers are, would you have an answer?

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He is a former president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and lives in Vancouver. Contact thebrunells@msn.com.
Dear government: Hold your horses when regulating trucks | Brunell

Next to gasoline and diesel, natural gas also has the greatest number of refueling stations.

Cartoon by Frank Shiers
Mariners get red hot | Cartoon

Cartoon by Frank Shiers