This week, the Washington State Board of Natural Resources (BNR) adopted two major strategies that affect the K-12 common school trust and specific districts with forest board lands within their borders.
Leading up to BNR’s strategy adoption, WSSDA’s government relations team and Trust Lands Advisory Committee (TLAC) worked closely with the Department of Natural Resources to represent the interests of common schools. Their work has included:
The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) manages 3 million acres of state trust lands in Washington. State trust lands are managed to produce non-tax revenue for specific beneficiaries, including K-12 common schools. WSSDA’s Trust Lands Advisory Committee exists to assist the WSSDA Board of Directors to ensure that trust land revenues are maximized to benefit school construction efforts. The development of BNR’s two strategies was informed by years of collaboration between the DNR, WSSDA, and other stakeholders.
The BNR amended the 1997 State Trust Lands Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) to include a long-term conservation strategy for the Marbled Murrelet. The HCP is an agreement with the federal government authorizing the Department of Natural Resources to conduct land management activities compliant with the Endangered Species Act.
The strategy is intended to protect the Marbled Murrelet by setting aside 66,000 additional acres of habitat on state trust lands in western Washington. In exchange for that conservation plan, the state receives a permit to harvest timber on unencumbered lands.
The BNR established a sustainable harvest level of 4,654 million board feet (the volume of timber to be scheduled for sale) for fiscal years 2015-2024. Setting this level is an important component of DNR’s management of sustainable trust assets, and must be done per the HCP. For school districts that receive state forest revenue, it is important to realize that, in many counties, harvest levels through 2024 will be reduced to account for excess harvests in the previous five years. See page 10 of the December 3rd, 2019 Chair Report to compare the 2015-2019 and 2020-2024 harvest levels by county.
Russ Pfieffer-Hoyt, WSSDA’s TLAC Chair, shared the following statement: “The Common School Trust was established at statehood by our far-sighted founders to provide a permanent, non-tax revenue source for public schools. I want to thank WSSDA and all of the school directors who have worked with DNR staff to keep a focus on the interests of the school children of Washington state, who are the beneficiaries of the Common School Trust.”