Logging on the Key Peninsula, an integral part of its history, is also a part of the present. High lumber prices, combined with the fact that timber from federal and state forestland cannot be sold on the export market, make trees on the KP valuable. The KP News reviewed Forest Practice Applications (FPAs) submitted to the state to understand logging practices in the community. 

In the first 10 months of 2018, nearly 50 FPAs were submitted to the state to log close to 480 acres on the Key Peninsula. The number of acres to be logged ranged from 1.2 to 40 per application. A few applications were for selective logging, but at least 90 percent were for even-age logging (clearcutting) and included a statement that there was no intent to convert the land to nonforestry use within three years. According to the Pierce County assessor treasurer, there are 38,090 acres and 11,906 parcels on the Key Peninsula. 

Most FPAs were for parcels less than 10 acres in size, submitted by loggers for the landowner. Most of those applications were for clearcutting, though a few were for selective logging. Some landowners, particularly with parcels of 20 acres or more, worked with consultants. Others, with experience in forestry, oversaw the logging themselves and plan to actively manage the land in the years to come. Finally, some FPAs were designed to make way for development. 

About one-third of all FPA applications came from Cedarland Forest Resources. In most cases Cedarland was both the owner and applicant and nearly all of the applications were to clearcut while reserving a portion of the parcel for a single-family residence, a plan that, on review of all the 2018 FPAs, is almost unique to the company. The parcels are purchased, logged and then placed on the market to potential homebuilders. 

Joe Staley of NorthWind Forest Consultants said that most individuals he works with choose to log for the income—for such things as medical expenses, college funds or retirement. Some landowners do want help with managing the forestland after it is logged. 

“My philosophy is that I am a tree lover,” Staley said. “I understand people have to have houses, but it doesn’t have to be out in the middle of nowhere. I think we have to be selective. If you say you are going to log and replant and manage, then do that. Do what you say you are going to do. I hate conversion of land from forestry to development.”

Ron Schillinger is a logger and forester who grew up on the Key Peninsula. “Our family has been tree growers, timberland owners, sawmill operators and owners and loggers here on the Key Peninsula since 1887,” he said. “My mother and father were both born and raised here.” 

Schillinger knew logging was dangerous work, but he loved trees and so when he went to Washington State University he majored in forestry. He worked as a forester for King County, for Weyerhaeuser and in Grays Harbor County at Montesano. He has been managing his family’s 45 acres on the KP for the last two decades. 

“Our family has had a passion for growing trees,” he said. “Trees are a crop. You harvest, plant and go on with life,” he said. 

This year Schillinger logged 14 acres; the trees were mature, and part of managing forestland means cutting them down. And though he knows that in 20 years it will no longer look bare, he said clearcutting was still hard to see. He contracted directly with a logger and plans to nurture the forest with a diversity of trees. 

According to Kevin Zobrist, Washington State University Extension Forestry associate professor, the best way to assure the outcome is to hire an independent forester. “The forester works solely for the landowner, and is responsible for getting the landowner the best deal possible,” he said. “The forester will take care of the permits, inventory the timber, market the timber for the best price, work with the logger, draw up a contract that protects the landowner’s liability, and ensure compliance with that contract, including cleanup (slash disposal) and reforestation.” 

Dick Hopkins, a consulting forester, said, “I can look and tell by the destruction caused during logging and by what the reforestation looks like later who did some of the logging. A skillfully logged site will have three sturdy wildlife trees per acre and two healthy leafy green trees per acre, as required by law. Logging slash will be cleaned up within the first 100 feet from a public road, and logging slash in general will be piled or hazard-abated. Roads will be ditched; skid trails are water-barred; culverts are clean and free flowing. The site may not look like a park, but it certainly does not look like a hurricane came through.”

The WSU Extension has a list of foresters available at: forestry.wsu.edu/consultingdirectory. A  list of loggers who have been accredited through the Master Logger Program offered by the Washington Contract Logger Association is available at loggers.com/master-logger-program. 

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