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Study of wilderness plan for Olympic Peninsula sees no effect on logging; Driscoll responds

Advocates of the Wild Olympics proposal to add wilderness protections for 126,000 acres of Olympic National Forest land are highlighting a new study arguing the plan won't reduce the supply of timber or affect logging jobs.

Here's the study by consultant Stewardship Forestry, which was commissioned by the Wild Olympics Campaign as an update to an analysis of an earlier, more ambitious version of the plan. In a fact-check of an ad by Congressional candidate Bill Driscoll critical of Wild Olympics and opponent Derek Kilmer, I noted the earlier study found it would remove between 2.2 percent and 3.7 percent of the forest's timber base, which indicates some possible - but perhaps minimal - effects on the timber harvest and jobs.

The new study of  the scaled-back plan finds an even smaller impact, 0.5 percent to 0.8 percent of the total timber base, and argues that the current logging of less than 1 percent of the forest per year could continue or even speed up despite the protections. It concludes:

"The proposed wilderness within the Wild Olympics legislation will not limit timber supply under the current management    policy framework, and thus should not result in reduced harvesting or job losses."

Driscoll says while that may be true under the current management policy, he aims to reverse that policy. Wild Olympics would lock it in as law in the newly created wilderness areas.

The Republican 6th District candidate wants to renegotiate administrative policies that in many cases prohibit logging on stands of trees more than 80 years old. "We're going to have to relax that restriction if we're going to get any kind of a more normal harvest level," he said today.

That would be a huge challenge, given those rules have stood since the Clinton-era deal that addressed spotted-owl habitat. But it would be an even tougher to accomplish in certain areas if Wild Olympics passes.