State agencies would recognize and support efforts by timber companies to reduce carbon emissions through reforestation, afforestation, timber harvesting, and the planting of forested buffers in riparian areas, under legislation passed Thursday by the Senate Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks Committee.

“There’s a presumption out there that timber harvesting and environmental protection are mutually exclusive, but we’re learning that the opposite is true,” said Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim), who chairs the committee. “By aligning timber practices and cycles with the state’s carbon reduction goals, we can boost our rural economies and improve our environmental health at the same time.”

Van De Wege’s Senate Bill 6355 would create a Forest Carbon Reforestation and Afforestation Account to provide grants to landowners that advance the state’s carbon sequestration goals and would direct the state Department of Commerce to promote markets for the state’s forest products.

“This is a mutually beneficial partnership that can enable our private timber forest owners to stay competitive and thrive,” Van De Wege said. “Timber is a sustainable, renewable product that is superior to competing products that cause harm to the environment.”

Carbon sequestration is the process by which trees and other plants absorb carbon from the air through photosynthesis and store it in trunks, foliage and soils. Recent studies, such as one published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, indicate trees sequester the most carbon during their first 40 years of their lifespan.

“It’s time to recognize the importance of trees in sequestering carbon, and the critical role our forest products industry can play in reducing emissions,” said Mark Doumit, executive director of the Washington Forest Protection Association. “As we think long term, we can enable rural resource-based communities to prosper while helping meet our carbon reduction goals.”

“Washington’s forested and rural areas provide a steady, natural mechanism for offsetting the state’s overall carbon emissions,” said Jason Callahan, director of governmental relations for the Washington Forest Protection Association. “This bill recognizes the value of this role and provides appropriate support for it.”