Washington state timber industry gets exemption from species act

For the next 50 years, the Washington state timber industry will be shielded from prosecution under the Endangered Species Act for harming salmon. In return, the industry has agreed to help the fish by leaving more trees standing near critical streams, reducing logging on unstable slopes, and controlling sediment runoff. The deal, signed by the feds on Monday, applies to 9.3 million acres of timberland and 60,000 miles of streams in the state. But (there’s always a but) Native American tribes have calculated that up to 35 percent of that land may remain unprotected, as the deal gives breaks to landowners who have 20 acres or less. The initial proposal was approved by the state in 1999, despite bad reviews from two panels and a letter written by 28 scientists to Washington’s then-governor stating that the pact had “a low probability of achieving its goals.” Proponents promise that uncertainties will be studied and salmon protection increased if need be, but tribes and many enviros are skeptical.