Forests Recognized as Contributors to Washington State's Response to Climate Change

On March 25, 2020, Governor Jay Inslee signed HB 2528 into law which recognizes the contributions of the state’s forests and forest products sector as part of the state’s global climate response. 

Relying on recent climate reports recognizing the importance and function of working forests, the law states that sustainable forest management and forest products could be used to increase carbon sequestration by expanding forestland base, or reducing emissions from land conversation to nonforest use. For example, the hundreds of trees on a working forest can store carbon dioxide, which can help mitigate the effects of climate change. However, if the working forest is converted into agricultural, residential, or industrial land—all nonforest uses—then there is no longer the ability to store carbon. 

The law recognizes that one way to satisfy Washington State’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals articulated in RCW 70.235.020, can occur by supporting the economic vitality of the sustainable forest products sector and other business sectors capable of sequestering and storing carbon. Other sectors included in the law are working forests and the necessary manufacturing sectors that support the transformation of stored carbon into long-lived forest products.

The law then establishes a number of policies regarding the recognition of the forestry and forest products sectors as a climate solution:

  • It is the policy of the state to support the contributions of all working forests and the synergistic forest products sector to the state’s climate response. This includes, but is not limited to, landowners, mills, bioenergy, pulp and paper, and other sectors necessary for forestland owners to continue the rotational cycle of carbon capture and sequestration in growing trees.
  • It is the policy of the state to support the participation of working forests in current and future carbon markets, strengthening the state’s role as a valuable contributor to the global carbon response
  • The legislature intends to recognize and support industry sectors that can act as sequesterers of carbon, such as Washington’s working forests and associated forest products industry. 

The enactment of this law provides an opportunity for the forestry and forest products sector to expand its services and contribute to the state’s climate goals. Specifically, it encourages the planting of trees, which supports carbon sequestration; it supports the entire supply chain of the forest products sector, which in turn supports rural communities; and it encourages healthy forest management, which can mitigate the risk of wildfires. 

Beveridge & Diamond's Air and Climate Change and Natural Resources and Federal Lands practice groups help clients navigate all aspects of permitting and compliance under the Clean Air Act and counsels clients on resource and project development on federally-managed and private lands, regulatory enforcement, and litigation. For more information, please contact the author.