Rich Tree Species Diversity
Although the trees in Box and Rain are not the thickest or tallest our field teams have encountered, this forest still features the signature beauty and structural complexity of a legacy forest.
Our field team identified eight major tree species: Pacific Silver Fir, Hemlock, Western Red Cedar, Douglas Fir, Cottonwood, Maple, Alder, and even the much less common Pacific Yew! Like many other plant and wildlife species in our region, the Pacific Yew, a source of the cancer-fighting drug taxol, is threatened by the relentless logging of its mature forest habitat from northern California up through Alaska.
Tell DNR TO PERMANENTLY PROTECT THIS IRREPLACEABLE CENTURY-YEAR-OLD FOREST!
Dear Commissioner Hilary Franz, Board of Natural Resources, and Whatcom County Council,
The undersigned urge you to protect all mature “legacy” forests found within Whatcom County, including “Upper Rutsatz,” “Box of Rain,” “Brokedown Palace,” and “Over the Hills.” These are the names of just 4 of the legacy forests that are slated to be logged in the next 2 years. There are at least 18 legacy forests scheduled to be logged in the next decade! These legacy forests have significant ecological value to our county because the majority of them are within the Nooksack River and Lake Whatcom watersheds. Legacy forests are structurally complex forests that naturally regenerated after being logged sometime before 1945. Forests 80-150 years old sequester and store more carbon than any other age forest. There are only about 6500 acres left of unprotected Whatcom County legacy forests on DNR managed lands, which is only 7% of the 89,000 acres of DNR forest land in Whatcom County! Once legacy forests are logged, they are turned into monocrop tree plantations and are gone forever.
The majority of Upper Rutsatz forest originated in 1890 and contains remnant old growth stands. It is beloved by the surrounding community for mountain biking, hiking, and foraging. Over 1000 people signed a petition and over 1500 emails were sent during the public comment process urging DNR to protect it. As a result Upper Rutsatz was paused by DNR, but it is not permanently protected. Whatcom County residents also spoke up in defense of the legacy forest known as “Bessie” timber sale, which resulted in DNR including it in “phase 1” of DNR’s Carbon Project.
Upper Rutsatz, Box of Rain, and Brokedown Palace all border the Middle Fork Nooksack River. Over the Hills lies in the South Fork Nooksack River watershed. The Nooksack watershed is in great peril: diminishing summer stream flows and winter flood events put endangered pacific salmon populations at further risk of extinction. Multiple studies show that mature forests increase summer stream flow compared to younger tree plantations. These mature forests are not renewable resources. They play a critical role in watershed health, climate change adaptation/mitigation, and preserving biodiversity.
Thank you for creating the Carbon Project and the Trust Land Transfer program. We urge DNR to include all legacy forests within Whatcom County in "phase 2" of the Carbon Project or the Trust Land Transfer program. Please work with Whatcom County to create a management plan for forests within our county that takes into account climate change, biodiversity, wildlife habitat, recreation, and watershed health.
Thank you for listening.
1 - Ysabelle Kempe, “Logging forests takes this toll on already strained Nooksack River, research suggests,” Bellingham Herald, 3/24/22 https://www.bellinghamherald.com/news/local/article259307584.html
2 - Perry and Jones, “Summer streamflow deficits from regenerating Douglas‐fir forest in the Pacific Northwest, USA.” Oregon State University, August 2016.
Segura, et. al, “Long-term effects of forest harvesting on summer low flow deficits in the Coast Range of Oregon.” Journal of Hydrology, June 2020.
This petition will be sent to the following people:
DNR Northwest Region Manager
Deputy Supervisor for State Uplands
DNR Baker District Manager
Commissioner of Public Lands
Board Member and Professor
University of Washington
Board Member and Superintendant
of Public Instruction
Richard T. Koenig
Board Member and Interim Dean
WSU College of Agriculture
Board Member and Senior Budget
Assistant to Jay Inslee
DNR Carbon Project Lead
Note: Location shown on map is approximate.
See sale map for exact location.
Trails and forest roads run throughout the Box of Rain. It lies at the confluence of Clearwater Creek and the Middle Fork Nooksack River. This is a very popular recreation site for mountain biking, hiking, camping, horseback riding, foraging, and more. Clearcutting this forest would destroy the tranquility of these recreational opportunities along with all the intricate natural features of this landscape. The logging of Box of Rain would be an irretrievable loss for our community.