Compass for the Week of 1/20/2020

In early December the Washington Department of Natural Resources released a long-awaited management plan for State Trust forests that has at its heart a concern for sustainable harvests and a court-ordered conservation plan for the marbled murrelet, a tiny threatened seabird that relies upon large tracts of old growth forest for successful breeding. Considering the DNR’s concurrent and seemingly contradictory missions to conserve the forests for the likes of the murrelet and to maximize timber sale revenues to support schools and other tax districts, it is perhaps not surprising that lawsuits challenging the legality of the plan have this month been filed on both sides of the issue, with state trust lands revenue beneficiaries on the one hand arguing that the plan breaches the DNR’s fiduciary responsibility to them by “dramatically” reducing revenues, while a consortium of environmental groups has filed a complaint that the plan does not go far enough to protect the public’s interest in conserving the forest.

In this week’s Compass, we first reprise a story we did a little more than six years ago, when the marbled murrelet was at the center of another lawsuit against the DNR, and then we catch up with the fortunes of the murrelet in a follow-up phone interview with Maria Mudd Ruth, the author of a book about the bird who was one of those consulted in devising the controversial management plan.