Opinion

Editorial

"Saving DNR trees should be simpleWhidbey Island has once again found itself in the position of trying to save state property from the state -- and it doesn’t make much sense.This time, the Department of Natural Resources is eyeing forest land near Langley for possible harvest. As always, our state representatives are responding -- they are working to see that it doesn’t happen.If this all seems familiar, it’s because the situation is almost an instant replay of last year when a different state agency was intent on selling its Game Farm property near Coupeville. Only a last-second buyout by a conservation group spared that rare plot of prairie from developers.To save the trees near Langley, it appears that the land will have to be moved to the head of a list of state-owned property that the state will buy from itself, using one fund to make up the loss of timber revenue in another. As state law seems to stand, DNR manages its land for revenue which is used to help build schools, and any other type of management -- such as recreational and scenic -- is limited because it does not produce revenue.This is not how things should be. The state acquired thousands of acres of timber land with statehood in 1889. Times change, and revenue is no longer the number one priority of citizens -- if it ever was. People who move to Whidbey Island don’t come here to make money, but rather to enjoy a natural environment that is far less spoiled that that on the mainland. Senselessly cutting trees to add a minuscule amount of money to the statewide school construction fund is stupid.DNR managers aren’t necessarily the bad guys -- they’re just trying to follow bad policy. In fact, a DNR spokesman tells islanders not to worry -- the forest near Langley won’t be clearcut, and they’ll tell us of their harvest plans in advance so we can -- what? -- comment after the decision is made?In a sensible world the DNR, after collecting widespread public input, would simply be allowed to designate certain land as best managed for its recreational and scenic values. Some trees could even be cut if it’s necessary for the health of the forest. But no longer would citizens have to raise thousands or millions of dollars to keep their own government from doing something bad to them.This is not an issue that is important only to Whidbey Island. All over the state there are parcels of DNR forest land that are threatened despite the fact the best use of the land is scenic and recreational.It is time for state government to catch up with its citizens. We want more scenic and recreational areas protected, and we’re tired of having to pay the state to stop it from pillaging our own property, as happened last year with the Game Farm. This is an election year, and this should make a winning issue for candidates to run on statewide."

Community Events, April 2014

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