Legislation builds on Evergreen Jobs Initiative

By STEVE BROWN

Capital Press

Gov. Chris Gregoire has signed into law legislation designed to promote employment in the state's forest products industry by analyzing education and skill standards for existing and emerging green occupations.

House Bill 2420 cleared both houses of the Legislature on March 10; Gregoire signed it March 24.

Legislators asserted in the bill that the state's forests are sustainably managed, that the forests create environmental benefits and generate wealth through recreation and tourism, and that the $17 billion industry provides about 45,000 direct jobs.

HB2420 builds on the 2009 Evergreen Jobs Initiative, which in part called for creating 15,000 new clean energy jobs in the state by the year 2020. Forest products and ag industries were not entirely classified as green industries, though certain activities such as organic farming and sustainable forest management were included.

Language in HB2420 requires the Employment Security Department to interpret the term "forest products industry" to include businesses that grow, manage, harvest, transport and process forest, wood and paper products.

It also requires that panels specifying green industry skills must consist of representatives from green industry sectors, including forest products companies.

Employment Security and the Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board are also charged with identifying barriers to the growth of green jobs in those industries.

Industry representatives testified in behalf of HB2420, saying forest product production should be considered the original green industry because of its roles in carbon sequestration, recycling practices, use of all the components of a tree, use of by-products as an alternative energy source and green building construction.

Gregoire also signed House Bill 2659, which would simplify reporting requirements for timber purchases. It adds the following criteria to reports filed with the Department of Revenue:

* The seller's name, address and contact information.

* The forest practices application or harvest permit number, if available.

* An estimate of net volume by tree species and log grade.

* A description and value of all property improvements such as road construction, road improvements, reforestation, land clearing and stock piling of rocks.

Timber cruise -- a sample measurement used to estimate the amount of standing timber the forest contains -- and timber thinning data are no longer required for the timber purchase report.

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