The project has been generally welcomed by leaders in Skamania County, which depends more heavily on timber revenue than other counties. About 80 percent of the county is federally owned — most of that in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest — and another 10 percent is private timberland.
“We do support it because it keeps it in a working forest capacity, where at some point in time it does pay (taxes),” said Skamania County Commissioner Chris Brong.
The effort began several years ago after controversy swirled around housing developments popping up on privately owned forests in the area. Columbia Land Trust began working with Skamania County and Pope Resources, the county’s largest private landowner, around 2006. The goal was a pragmatic solution, said Jon Rose, president of Olympic Property Group, Pope Resources’ real estate subsidiary.
“Rather than viewing conservation, forestry and development as competing interests, the partners’ goal was to achieve a balance of these interests with a special emphasis on the long-term maintenance of working forests,” Rose said in a released statement.
Columbia Land Trust hopes to complete the final phase of the Mount St. Helens Forest Conservation project in 2016.