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The Impact – Bill Would Let DNR Access Carbon Markets

Mike McClanahan profile by Mike McClanahan

“Trees in Washington state are some of the most carbon sequestering tools that are out there.”

Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz

From timber sales to aquatic leases, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources raises money for trust land beneficiaries in a variety of ways. House Bill 1789 would also grant the agency access to the carbon markets in new ways.  

It’s a legislative priority for Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz.

“Our state has stepped up through the Climate Commitment Act to truly address the emissions of our carbon and start to also be investing in carbon sequestration and storage opportunities,” said Franz. “As the manager of over 6 million acres of land in Washington state, 2.6 million acres of aquatic land, 2 million acres of forest land, a million acres of agricultural land – we’ve been looking at opportunities for over four years of ways that we could actually take advantage of these new carbon markets.”

“The problem was when we went out, we realized that we don’t have the legal authority to sell carbon. So nonprofits, local governments, private industries have the ability to sell carbon to the market, but the state does not have that ability. As I say, we’re able to sell timber, we’re able to sell wheat, apples, grapes, we can even sell marijuana and gooey ducks, but we cannot sell carbon,” said Franz.

Bill advocates and opponents lined up to testify at a public hearing in the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee on February 14

 Supporters say giving DNR the option to develop and sell carbon offset projects could help cover the cost of replanting trees in fire ravaged areas and create new opportunities for using state trust lands.

“We think this is going to create new jobs, as others have said, from thinning and other forest health and sustainability activities. And I think that it’s a win-win bill,” said Jerry Eriksen of Columbia Carbon.

Opponents fear it will hurt timber dependent communities and take lumber out of productions in the long run.

“While some might claim and even promise that House Bill 1789 won’t reduce available supply from working state trust land, our experience with the Carbon Project tells us a different story,” said Ron Hurn of Interfor US Timber.

The House passed an amended version of the bill on a vote of  82 to 13. The amended bill would only allow DNR to use new planting where no forest existed, replanting a burned or logged forest, or through projects on aquatic lands such as those involving kelp forests. 

HB 1789 is now in the Senate.

Watch our full interview with Commissioner Franz here: