DNR Promises Tighter Controls on Logging Near Landslide Zones

By John Ryan/KUOW

The Washington Forest Practices Board is holding a special all-day meeting today in Olympia to discuss the science of landslides -- and what the state is doing to avoid triggering them. The board sets rules for logging and other land use in Washington state.

On Friday, the Department of Natural Resources announced it would be more careful before approving logging near landslide zones. The change in policy comes six weeks after a landslide near the town of Oso killed at least 41 people.

The Department of Natural Resources will require a detailed geological study before approving logging anywhere a landslide could harm public safety. Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark made the announcement in a press release Friday afternoon.

Goldmark said his agency is still studying whether a 10-year-old clearcut at the top of the Oso landslide played any role in that hillside's collapse.

Clearcutting can let more rain water percolate deep underground, where it can lubricate glacial soils.
The Washington Forest Law Center welcomed the move. But the environmental group said there are no standards for defining deep-seated landslide hazards.

It said Goldmark's announcement means nothing without new rules setting forth exactly where those landslide hazard zones are located. No geotechnical studies were done for the 2004 clearcut at the edge of the Oso landslide zone. State officials relied on outdated scientific information that said that cut was outside the zone where logging might help trigger a landslide.
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