Washington Considers New Rules for Harvesting Timber Near Unstable Slopes

November 14, 2014

A state board wants new rules for timber harvests on landslide-prone sites.

The Forest Practice Board voted Wednesday that the Washington State Department of Natural Resources should require landowners to provide more technical information when planning timber harvests near potentially unstable slopes.

Timber harvests are already prohibited where they might affect an unstable slope. The new procedures will add another level of scrutiny for public safety.

The new rules come nearly eight months after the deadly Oso mudslide.After Oso, Washington landslide on March 23, 2014 Image NASA

The mudslide struck about 55 miles north of Seattle on March 22 when a hillside gave way in the Washington town of Oso, burying 43 people and blocking a state highway.

In July, a team of seven researchers released a report blaming heavy rain and previous landslides as well as multiple other factors for causing the mudslide along the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River.

Last month, 10 families of 14 Oso mudslide victims filed a lawsuit in King County Superior Court alleging the disaster was the result of a series of actions and inactions.

The new procedures discussed at the meeting in Olympia on Wednesday would apply in areas where surface water is absorbed through the ground into below-ground aquifers, which have the potential to cause landslides of glacial soils, like the Oso landslide.

The Forest Practice Board is a 13-member panel representing forest landowners, environmental groups, forest product manufacturers, counties, state agencies and the general public.

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