Washington Adopts New Logging Guidelines To Avoid Landslides | KUOW News and Information

Washington Adopts New Logging Guidelines To Avoid Landslides

Nov 12, 2014

State officials adopted a more cautious approach to logging near landslide-prone slopes on Wednesday.

The adoption of new, voluntary guidelines came in response to the Oso landslide that killed 43 people in March.  


Washington essentially prohibits logging on unstable slopes already -- since removing trees from the wrong place can worsen erosion and landslides. Trees absorb rain, and when they're gone, more water can seep underground, where it can lubricate deep-seated landslides.

But it's not always obvious which slopes are risky.

The Washington Forest Practices Board adopted new guidelines on how careful timber owners have to be before they can get permission to cut down trees near certain slopes. To be specific, slopes near deep-seated landslide zones in glacial soil. That's just the type of slope that collapsed onto the town of Oso in March.

The new guidelines call for more thorough studies of those landslide zones and the areas that feed groundwater to them.

Environmentalists portrayed quick action on the guidelines as a matter of life and death.

Mary Scurlock works for a coalition of nine environmental groups.

Scurlock: "This important guidance is needed now. We can't control the timing or severity of the upcoming storm season, and climate change science indicates that Washington will receive more rain than snow in the Cascade Mountains. But we can improve implementation of our current rules and the policies that seek to avoid increasing the dangers posed by unstable slopes."

Timberland owners at Wednesday's hearing said following the new guidelines would be costly.

Ken Miller represents small timberland owners in the Washington Farm Forestry Association.

Miller: "We fear an overreaction or a rush to judgment regarding the Oso tragedy."

John Gold is a forester with Sierra Pacific Industries, one of the state's biggest landowners.

Gold: "We feel that rushing to adopt an incomplete work product to meet an artificial timeline does not make good public policy."

State forester Aaron Everett said he wasn't willing to delay action on landslide safety.

The Forest Practices Board unanimously approved the new guidelines as an interim measure. They plan to make further revisions in the coming year.

I'm John Ryan, KUOW News.