by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The Western slopes of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula are prime timber country. During World War II, Joyce Daman’s grandfather purchased some of that land and logged it to support the war effort. He appreciated both the land and the legacy it would provide for future generations. He passed some of that timber land down to Joyce’s father, who gave it to Joyce.
Three generations managed that land according to some of the strictest timber management practices in North America. After 70 years, the timber was ripe for harvest. Yet to harvest timber, even on private land, requires permission from Washington State’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The Damans applied for their permit, and it was granted. They hired a team of loggers from the local community. But just as they began, DNR changed its mind and issued a “stop work order” against the Damans.
It turns out a Seattle-based anti-logging group had challenged the Damans’ permit. That was all it took to put the team of loggers out of work and threaten to destroy the rewards of 70 years of good stewardship.
If you follow all the rules only to have them change at the last moment … is this the rule of law? If you can do everything right, get a permit, even get started, only to have government change its mind and stop you in your tracks … are you really free?
Washington State has 40,000 private land owners managing small stands of timber. Unlike other farmers, these families harvest once in a lifetime. When they plant a seedling, they do it not for themselves but for future generations. How can they hope and plan for the future if the rules mean nothing? Why invest in good stewardship? Even worse, this story illustrates why so many people now believe buying influence with politicians has become a necessary investment.
Families like the Damans need predictability in order to invest, provide jobs for the local community, and benefit from their hard work and good stewardship. Groups like the Washington Forest Law Center should not be able to use the Department of Natural Resources or any other government agency to target, harass, or take from other citizens. The Damans’ story is a tale of government gone wrong—a Tale of Tyranny.