Joe Kane: Nisqually Community Forest
The Mashel, a tributary to the Nisqually River, will be central to the forest. Half of that subbasin is in a commercial timber zone.
Twenty percent of the timber growing land in Pierce County has been owned by private investment firms on the east coast.
Community forests are a way for the conservation community to get “into the game” of forest management becoming forest managers themselves.
Five thousand acres of vital steelhead and salmon habitat was purchased by a private owner in 2009 and made $15 million in profit when they sold the land in 2015. While ownership of these lands are professional and straight forward, none of the owners are from here and are not connected to the community. They also don’t pay property taxes, since timber lands are mostly exempt and only pay taxes when the land is logged or sold. They maybe left behind $700,000 in taxes and brought back over $11 million back to the east coast.
In terms of jobs based on timber land, there are no timber mills left in the Nisqually watershed.
Because the economic benefits of owning timber lands by distant financier is disconnected from the ecological impacts of timber management, you see a difference in interests. The landowner’s interest is not the same as the local community.
Community ownership of the forest could benefit not only salmon, but family wage jobs, recreational jobs and bring the economic benefits of timber management into the watershed.
Buying a community forest wouldn’t necessarily be as hard as it sounds.
- The bottom line of the community forest would be lower, making it easier for the community organization to operate.
- The Nisqually Land Trust sold carbon credits for the first time, in this case to Microsoft.
- Impact investors, who are interested in environmentally sound investments.
Different models from for-profit commercial operation to a local non-profit were considered. In 2014 they created the Nisqually Community Forest as a subsidiary of the Nisqually Land Trust.