OLYMPIA, Wash. - The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Weyerhaeuser Company announced an agreement Thursday to voluntarily increase landslide protections while reviewing two watershed analyses.
The link between timber clearcuts and landslides has been debated for decades, but there is now an agreement that may connect the two forever in this state.
At least part of the widespread flooding that swamped Lewis County in December 2007 was due to mudslides in the Stillman Creek and Upper Chehalis watersheds.
Some flood victims and environmental groups blamed steep slope clearcuts on Weyerhaeuser timberlands for causing some of those slides.
Weyerhaeuser defended its logging practices but late Thursday signed an agreement with the state Department of Natural Resources to review its decisions in those watersheds and include new methods when deciding where and how to cut in the future.
"Weyerhaeuser is the first forest products company willing to partner with the State of Washington and take steps to reduce the risk of landslides associated with major storm events," said Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark. "While this is initially a voluntary action on the part of Weyerhaeuser, I expect that the scientific information generated by this and other efforts of the partnership will result in improvements to resource protection."
Under current forest practice rules, potentially unstable slopes in watersheds can be managed by a watershed analysis outside of current forest practice rule prescriptions used on forested lands that do not use watershed analysis.
Friday at a special Forest Practices Board meeting, Commissioner Goldmark will present the agency's plan to commence voluntary reviews of all watershed analysis throughout the state. The Board will also discuss additional steps the state can take to increase landslide protections.
"This is a major event because it sets a model for how other landowners hopefully will also voluntarily agree to review their analysis," said Goldmark.