Race To Watch: Peter Goldmark for WA Public Lands Commissioner

(9 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

A whole bunch of vital races tend to get lost amidst big media’s obsession with the minutiae of the ‘big’ races, especially in presidential years.  One of those races is mentioned this morning in the Seattle P-I

The campaign to be the state’s next commissioner of public lands is one of the tightest and most polarized political races this year.

It is also the least understood, though the office determines the management of 5.6 million acres of state timber and aquatic lands, shorelines and agricultural fields for a trust that funds public schools and universities throughout Washington.

Crossposted from La Vida Locavore, more below the fold…

The Commissioner of Public Lands serves as Chairman of the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, whose mission is

DNR is a Washington State agency that protects and manages 5.6 million acres of state-owned land that you, the people of Washington, own. Much of this land (3 million acres) is state trust land that provides revenue to help pay for construction of public schools, universities, and other state institutions, and funds services in many counties.

We generate income from these lands by selling products like timber or leasing it to private agriculture businesses. Since 1970, these lands have generated $6 billion for trust beneficiaries, counties, and the state general fund.

We also manage these lands to provide fish and wildlife habitat, clean water, and public access for you. We help protect your public resources by regulating forest practices (or timber harvests) and preventing and suppressing wildfires on more than 12.7 million acres of state, private and tribal land.

The problem is when “business interests” clash with the public interest, and that’s exactly what’s happened lately under the current Public Lands Commissioner in Washington.  It’s long past time for change in many places, and the Washington State Public Lands Commissioner is certainly one of those places.

Who else do we know that makes decisions based upon politics rather than reality and science?

The Department of Natural Resources has authority to limit where timber companies can log. During Sutherland’s tenure, the state tightened its restrictions on logging unstable slopes, but areas such as the Chehalis Basin, which already had watershed plans, were left out of the new rules.

Sutherland has brokered many such deals, including the federal government’s 2006 approval of the forests and fish law, lauded as a step in the right direction by the business community and criticized by the environmental and scientific communities as a decision driven by politics, not science.

I think it’s pretty obvious by now what happens when we allow these types to control government agencies…

As an example of the state’s laxity, critics point to a steep mountain slope near Stillman Creek, a tributary of the Chehalis River’s South Fork, that was clearcut by Weyerhaeuser. Landslides then hammered the creek with mud and debris and intensified the flooding of the Boistfort Valley after the December storm.

While Weyerhaeuser lobbyists disagreed, the reality-based community pointed out the obvious

“As a geologist, I see no surprises here,” University of Washington professor David Montgomery told members of the Senate Natural Resources, Ocean & Recreation Committee.

“When you clear-cut potentially unstable slopes, you increase the risk of landslides up to tenfold,” he said.

As for the incumbent Doug Sutherland (R- What Else?) – all you have to do is follow the money

The money is as divided as the arguments: Most of Sutherland’s $581,000 in campaign contributions came from timber and mining companies and the businesses that buy their products.

A political action committee called the Committee for Balanced Stewardship, which supports Sutherland, has received $600,000 from timber and mining companies, such as Weyerhaeuser and Glacier Northwest.

Fortunately, the people of Washington have a fantastic candidate running to reverse the disastrous policies and priorities of the current administration.  

Peter Goldmark is a lifelong rancher from Eastern Washington, well-respected by people of all political stripes.  He’s also the former Director of Agriculture for the State of Washington, former Chairman of the Governor’s Council on Agriculture and the Environment, founding board member and past Chairman of the Board of Farming and the Environment…and he’s also served on the Governor’s Council for a Sustainable Washington in 2002-2003, and the Governor’s Council on Biodiversity in 2004-2005.

Here’s just a few highlights of Peter Goldmark’s many endorsements from Washington media –

From The Seattle Times

Sutherland generally lays the blame on freak winds and record rainfall, but initiated a departmental review. Goldmark sees lax management and eroding oversight.

After twice endorsing Sutherland, we are drawn to Goldmark’s scientific background and his bigger worldview for the department and the breadth of DNR’s areas of influence. Goldmark makes his living in agriculture, he knows about managing the land to maximize production. State revenues off public lands are important to schools and communities that rely on harvest income. Goldmark gets that.

But Goldmark can also take the office into a leadership role on Puget Sound cleanup, pay attention to clean water supplies and be mindful of climate-change issues.

Goldmark, a longtime member of the Washington State University Board of Regents, offers great potential for binding the eastern and western halves of the state on big resources themes. He lacks Sutherland’s management experience, but the office obviously demands something more.

From Yakima Herald

One serious markdown for Sutherland in our deliberations was that we feel DNR did not provide the needed oversight over the years that might have eased the massive damage of last year’s major floods in Lewis County. A Seattle Times analysis in July found that the Weyerhaeuser timber company clear-cut some slopes in the county with scant oversight from DNR.

Another major concern of this particular campaign is the sources of money in the candidates’ well-heeled campaign coffers.

As of our latest check, Goldmark led the money chase with nearly $788,000, with chunks of cash coming from Democrats, environmentalists, unions and Indian tribes, including a $1,600 contribution from the Yakama Nation.

Sutherland isn’t far behind, at nearly $564,000, but the fact that he is heavily backed by timber-related interests is some cause for concern. When asked about that in our editorial board interview, he dismissed the tie as an industry looking for “predictability … honesty … how they are treated.”

It should again be mentioned here that the incumbent Sutherland also has the backing of the “Committee for Balanced Stewardship”, an industry front group for logging and mining interests

A political action committee called the Committee for Balanced Stewardship, which supports Sutherland, has received $600,000 from timber and mining companies, such as Weyerhaeuser and Glacier Northwest.

That puts Sutherland’s funds in this race at well over a million dollars, virtually all of which is from the industries he conceivably “regulates”…

From the Seattle P-I

Washington state needs bolder environmental leadership in the management of its forests and shorelines. Farsighted strategies also might provide better economic returns for the educational institutions and counties that depend on revenues from the land.

Democratic challenger Peter Goldmark is the clear choice for state Commissioner of Public Lands. Goldmark, an Eastern Washington farmer, offers a good bet for more careful environmental stewardship, especially on timber lands, a willingness to spur clean-energy production and a good sense for the fiduciary responsibility to earn money from timber, leasing aquatic lands and other activities.

From The Kitsap Sun

In the race for lands commissioner, we feel Peter Goldmark has raised valid concerns about the handling of forestry environmental issues, and that Sutherland hasn’t responded adequately to them, and downplays lawsuits against the Department of Natural Resources. Goldmark’s personal priorities also dovetail nicely with the Western Climate Initiative and Puget Sound Partnership efforts. As a rancher/farmer/scientist/conservationist, he could bring effective new leadership to the Department.

From the Everett HeraldNet

Goldmark’s background seems tailor-made for this office. He’s been a rancher and wheat breeder for years — pertinent because the Department of Natural Resources, which the lands commissioner leads, leases many acres of state trust lands for farming. Goldmark, who holds a doctorate in molecular biology, knows farming intimately. He also served a short stint as the state’s agriculture secretary in the 1990s, so he’s had experience leading an agency.

Goldmark, a Democrat who ran unsuccessfully for Congress two years ago, also served on the Washington State University board of regents for a decade, and is familiar with cutting-edge agricultural research there. He’s an enthusiastic promoter of renewable energy, and says that under his leadership the department would be more aggressive in using state lands to generate wind and geothermal power.


  1. If you’re anywhere in or near Washington State, or if you’re inclined to give or help out in any other way…it’s still not too late to help ensure that Washington has another person in office fighting for a sustainable future.  No matter where we live, we’ll all be much better off with Peter Goldmark as Public Lands Commissioner in Washington State.

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