In considering the Lake Whatcom Landscape Plan, I am conflicted over several issues which have, in part, been discussed by other Board members today.
E2SSB 6731 requires that the Department develop and implement a management plan that appears to exceed the requirements of existing rules and regulations that address water quality, slope stability and road construction issues. What is lacking in the existing management plan that would indicate these are problem areas not being appropriately addressed by the existing rules and regulations?
No one questions that the Department must adhere to all existing state and federal laws impacting the management of our trust lands. However, I believe the Board has an obligation to identify instances of an unfunded mandate that originate at either the state or federal level that conflict with our fiduciary responsibility. The Department's preferred landscape alternative, developed by a broad constituency of user groups and interested parties, calls for reduced levels of economic activity when compared to the current management plan.
The goal of directives, such as E2SSB 6731, presumably is to enhance the production of public goods and perhaps protect public safety. But this law does not request a scientific study to determine the effects of current forest management activities on the public good to determine what kind of relationship exists between the two. Instead, it presumes there is a negative relationship and requires an alteration of management procedures based on that assumption.
Should such activities be funded by the trust beneficiaries at the risk of reduced income levels or should the state general fund absorb these costs? Even if there was a negative relationship, where does one draw the line between an expenditure undertaken to produce a public good such as water quality and management activities designed to enhance the income potential of the land?
Lastly, although the state trust lands are public lands they are not managed under provisions of the public trust doctrine. Rather, they are managed as legal trusts for the benefit of designated beneficiaries. Hence, I do not believe that it is proper to impose the costs of producing additional levels of public goods onto the trust beneficiaries without just compensation.
Therefore, I believe that the Department should: (a) immediately undertake to investigate ways to transfer ownership of appropriate state lands out of the watershed and (b) seek ways to compensate trust beneficiaries for unwarranted reductions in asset value induced by the preferred landscape alternative.
Dean and Member, Board of Natural Resources