Washington state’s 1889 Constitution requires the Department of Natural Resources to log our 2.1-million-acre, school-trust forests to help pay construction costs for K-12 schools and universities. In 2014 DNR timber sales contributed a measly $120 million to Washington’s $7.6 billion K-12 budget.
Using timber as a funding source has proven to be inadequate as evidenced by the recent McCleary court decision calling for the state to properly fund K-12 schools. The DNR uses this indisputable mandate to manage public forests for maximum revenue for school construction at great expense to other precious resources salmon, water and threatened species.
DNR currently faces legal and local opposition to logging proposals that endanger salmon strongholds like the North Fork Skykomish and Methow rivers, where the agency seeks salvage timber from fragile watersheds scorched by last summer’s fires for the benefit of the school trust, according to DNR. And last year DNR authorized clear-cutting on prime University of Washington trust land near Forks, even though in 2008 the DNR itself deemed it key habitat for the endangered marbled murrelet.
The state Supreme Court’s historic McCleary directive offers legislators the opportunity to eliminate the DNR mandate from the K-12 funding system. It is time that we demand our children’s schools be funded with regular and dependable tax sources.
Melody Mayer & Bill Scheidt