The first proposal by the Whatcom County Forestry Advisory Committee is a big one. The County Council will consider a request Tuesday, July 22, to establish a "no-net-loss" policy for working timberland.
If off-limits national forests are included, the timber industry has lost 64 percent of its land base in the last 20 years, according to a committee memo to the County Council.
Included in this total is the council's decision last year to transfer almost 9,000 acres of forest around Lake Whatcom from state to county ownership. The land had been logged while under state control. The county intends to use the land as a low-impact park.
The committee was formed after the council's vote approving the land transfer, or reconveyance. Foresters had been growing increasingly frustrated over their sense of being excluded from land-use decisions.
About 155,340 acres remain in the county for timber production, the committee said - down from about 431,500 two decades ago. The memo suggested ways to keep that number from decreasing. These included educating the public on the benefits of forestry, bringing idle forestlands into production and replacing any working forest taken out of production.
Futurewise Whatcom, a conservation group that seeks to protect working forest and farmlands, said in a written statement that it provisionally supported the committee's proposal.
"Protecting working forests is critical to sustain a viable natural resource-based economy, as long as the protection does not come at the expense of appropriate environmental protection for clean water, healthy habitat, and fish and wildlife," the statement said.
The council's Natural Resources Committee will discuss the memo at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at the county courthouse, 311 Grand Ave. in Bellingham. The proposal is not yet scheduled to go to a council vote.