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Timber, Enviro Groups to Try Collaboration in Olympic Forest

A logging truck is seen near Port Angeles, Wash.

Timber industry and environmental groups will make a stab at collaboration to boost both logging and habitat restoration in the Olympic National Forest.

The Congressman from Washington's Olympic Peninsula announced that effort Tuesday. It's modeled on successful collaborations elsewhere in the Northwest, including the Colville and Siuslaw National Forests.

The Olympic National Forest was ground zero for some of the hottest conflicts of the timber wars of the 1990s. Periodically, local environmental groups still file lawsuits. Current timber harvest rates are a fraction of historic levels. Now, the office of Congressman Derek Kilmer has convinced sometimes-antagonistic groups to focus on areas where they can agree.

"There is a certain amount of activity we can do on public lands that, up to a certain point, maximize harvest without negatively impacting the environment. Right now, there is a gap between what we are doing now and what is best for the forest and best for communities,” Kilmer said.

Kilmer's office released a long list of participating associations, timber companies and environmental groups. Other national forests to host collaborative efforts have found success by focusing on "carefully designed" forest thinning projects.

However, green activists said this announcement will not stop their controversial push for more wilderness set asides known as the Wild Olympics Campaign.

Correspondent Tom Banse is an Olympia-based reporter with more than three decades of experience covering Washington and Oregon state government, public policy, business and breaking news stories. Most of his career was spent with public radio's Northwest News Network, but now in semi-retirement his work is appearing on other outlets.