by Matt Comisky
AFRC Washington State Manager

What can we do about it?

In part 2 we covered some of the reasons you should care about the TLT program. In part 3 we will identify some ways to address the issue. While well intentioned, this program is broken and needs a tune up. Much like a new car off the lot, TLT was a shiny new program that worked at the time. Many miles later, it needs new tires, brakes, and transmission work to carry it over the future miles it must travel. The agency does need a mechanism to reposition underperforming assets just as any other trust manager would consider. But this system needs to be reformed for the benefit of the beneficiaries both today and tomorrow. But what can we do about it?

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In the near term, there are several different ways to work on effecting change to this program, but all require engagement. Just at different levels and with different groups that can help to create change. Either individually or as a group (PTA, School Board, etc.,) get involved with the Advocates for School Trust Lands (formerly CLASS) or the Washington State School Directors Trust Land Task Force. These are the primary groups engaged on many of these issues. Look for other groups advocating for the sustainable maximum management of DNR trust lands, such as your local beneficiary tax district. Talk to your legislative representatives. Tell them your concerns over specific parcels or the program. Comment to the Board of Natural Resources on the topic or when transfer parcels come up for approval by the Board. And express your concerns to DNR staff and the Commissioner of Public Lands throughout the process. Ask for more transparency. Advocate for a broader picture of the immediate, future, and unintended consequences of transfer of the proposed parcels. All before the decision is made by the legislature.

Soon AFRC hopes to bring forward some concepts and ideas to tune up the program. Concepts to protect the corpus of the trust, protect future generations while providing for the current, and to allow the trust manager, DNR, the needed ability to reposition assets for the benefit of the beneficiaries. Why do we care? Because without the vibrant customer base our members provide, the value of the trust asset is greatly reduced. The reduction in harvest volumes due to decreases in available acres means potential curtailments or shuttering of customer milling facilities. Which means a reduction or loss of customers who competitively bid on timber sales. This ultimately is not good for our members or the communities our members and their employees live, work and play in. Nor does it support the beneficiaries; schools, libraries, fire districts, etc. today or in the future. Maintaining the maximum working forest land base in Washington is good for today’s generation and tomorrow’s.