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No Logging Moratorium In Wake Of Oso Landslide

Snohomish County

In the wake of the deadly landslide near Oso, Washington, there will be no immediate moratorium on logging around unstable slopes.

Some conservationists and regulators wanted to push for that. One of them, Peter Goldman, director of the Washington Forest Law Center in Seattle, says the state Forest Practices Board learned Tuesday it doesn't have the authority to impose a logging moratorium.

"The concept of a moratorium was dismissed for legal reasons, not for policy reasons," Goldman explains. "It's an important distinction. No one in there said 'we don't think a moratorium is a good idea.' The attorney general told the board they couldn't do it."

A Washington Department of Natural Resources spokeswoman subsequently clarified that the agency is seeking a formal published opinion from the state attorney general on the regulatory board's authority. A logging moratorium around slide-prone slopes could get another look after that.

Timber harvest regulators also discussed other policy responses in Olympia Tuesday. Those include how to make sure homebuyers learn about nearby natural hazards and how to improve mapping of landslide zones.

None of the government geologists who investigated the Oso landslide have established whether nearby clear-cuts had anything to do with the disaster. The director of a timber industry association testified Monday that loggers know it is in everyone's interest to steer clear of steep, unstable slopes.

Now semi-retired, Tom Banse covered national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reported from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events unfolded. Tom's stories can be found online and were heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.