More state land would be opened to timber harvesting under a proviso Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim, secured in the Senate’s proposed operating budget.

Since 1997, the state has restricted harvesting on 176,000 acres of state trust lands to protect the marbled murrelet pending long-term federal and state agreement on how to preserve the endangered species. After considerable study, the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is about to complete its analysis of how many acres can be safely opened to harvesting without harming the marbled murrelet population.

With a DNR study offering several options that would satisfy that goal, Van De Wege’s proviso would direct the agency to choose Option B, which would free 166,000 acres for harvesting. Fees for the rights to harvest timber on state trust lands go to state and local governments, primarily for education.

“The studies show that we can harvest additional acreage, creating family-wage jobs and boosting our local economies, without endangering the marbled murrelet population,” Van De Wege said. “This option strikes a healthy balance between the preservation of this bird and the creation of good jobs in communities that desperately need them.”

The budget is scheduled to be voted on today by the full Senate.

This effort comes in addition to two bills Van De Wege has supported that would spur job growth on the Olympic Peninsula and in rural and coastal areas across the state by boosting the timber industry:

Senate Bill 6140 would create jobs in rural communities by directing DNR to evaluate state land, forestland, revenue streams and related management methods to make it easier to transact common-sense land swaps and help spur mill activity.

SB 5450 would add cross-laminated timber to the state building code, making it easier for businesses to incorporate timber dependent technology in residential and commercial construction. In addition to creating a stronger market for wood, the cross-laminated timber provides an environmental benefit by sequestering carbon.

Both bills passed the Senate and await action in the House.