By MATTHEW WEAVER
The Washington State Society of American Foresters and other timber groups will hold a forest products legislative reception next week.
The industry is reaching out to all state legislators and their staff, said Ellie Lathrop, 2013 chair of the society. The reception will be from 6 to 9 p.m. Jan. 17 at the new children's museum in Olympia.
The goal is for legislators to better understand the forestry organizations in the state, Lathrop said, and encourage them to get to know industry members and their representatives.
The biggest issue for the industry is the state's interpretation of federal regulations that consider logging roads to be point-source pollution and require a discharge permit under the Clean Water Act, she said.
The situation is in limbo as the Environmental Protection Agency revises its rules, Lathrop said.
"It's really important for us to be able to manage our forest lands economically to make good forest products," she said. "A private company is not going to make the investment if they know their resource is unreliable."
The state's industry is relatively free of issues, she said, since the Forests and Fish Law was passed in 2001. The law identifies forest standards to protect the environment.
"Our regulations have been really quite stable because we were able to get it designated to legislation rather than regulation," Lathrop said.
Other forestry and forest product organizations, including the Washington Tree Farm Program, Washington Forest Protection Association, Washington Hardwood Commission, Washington Agriculture and Forestry Education Foundation and Northwest Pulp and Paper Association, are working with her group, Lathrop said.
"We do hope to make this a regular event, but we'll just have to see how it works," she said. "There's a great synergy and advantage in the various organizations coming together."
The society is a volunteer, non-profit organization so it cannot lobby on issues, but can work to educate, Lathrop said. Other participating organizations do not have the same restrictions.