Today, Washington Wild sent a comment letter signed by 110 elected officials, local businesses, and conservation, recreation, and wildlife organizations urging Washington State legislators to allocate $8 million in the supplemental capital budget to fund six Trust Land Transfer (TLT) projects. With higher-than-expected returns from the Climate Commitment Act’s carbon auction, legislators should allocate funding for these heavily forested TLT project sites as natural climate solutions.
The Trust Land Transfer Program is a Win-Win-Win
Funding TLT projects is good public policy—it conserves ecologically valuable lands, increases responsible access for outdoor recreation, improves financial return to trust beneficiaries, and can even protect working forests at risk of conversion. Additionally, the TLT program can be utilized as a natural climate solution.
Healthy ecosystems such as forests and wetlands sequester carbon by absorbing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere and storing it in various repositories, or carbon sinks, such as trees, root systems, undergrowth, and soils. Even more exciting is that western Washington’s forests are especially good at this, with studies indicating they have some of the highest sequestration rates in the world! Combined with cutting fossil fuels and accelerating renewable energy, natural climate solutions offer immediate and cost-effective ways to tackle the climate crisis while also addressing biodiversity loss and supporting human health and livelihoods.
A Closer Look at the Six Proposed Projects
The projects put forward for consideration in this session are not new, but rather have been in progress for some time and need only a small amount of funding to be completed. Five of the projects would complete Natural Area boundaries that were contemplated ten or more years ago. The sixth project, Blakely Island, has been proposed by DNR for funding by the legislature since at least 2019. Funding these projects would largely clear the deck of past incomplete projects and set the stage for a clean slate of new projects considered under the revitalized TLT program thanks to HB1460 that passed last year.
Each of these projects is heavily forested and if permanently protected by this funding, will continue to sequester significant amounts of carbon every year. Logging these parcels would emit significant carbon emissions and DNR has already decided they are not suitable for timber production. Without TLT funding, however, they will remain in perpetual limbo and beneficiaries will receive no financial benefit from these underperforming trust assets. If the legislature chooses not to fund these projects from the Natural Climate Solutions account, we urge instead consideration for funding from the traditional bond-backed capital budget/State Building Construction account as that’s been the historical source of TLT funding. However, the projects can sequester significant amounts of carbon and thus merit funding from the Natural Climate Solutions account.