Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Election for Washington Commissioner of Public Lands

Washington State’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has one of the most complex missions in state government. Managed by the Commissioner of Public Lands, DNR administers a $625 million, two-year budget.

Peter Goldmark is finishing his first 4-year term as Commissioner and will be facing Clint Didier (who filed at the last minute) in the 2012 election for the position.

In order to assess which candidate is best qualified to lead DNR as Commissioner, Goldmark or Didier, it's important to understand what the Commissioner and DNR does.

What is the job?

As Commissioner, Goldmark chairs the Board of Natural Resources, which sets policy for the management of state trust lands. These lands include some 5.6 million acres of publicly owned forests, agricultural and grazing lands, and commercial properties. The Board’s functions include: approving trust land timber and mineral sales; establishing the sustainable harvest level for forested trust lands; approving of sales or exchanges of trust lands; and guiding DNR’s stewardship of state Natural Area Preserves, Natural Resources Conservation Areas, and aquatic or submerged lands.

State lands raise millions of dollars each year to fund the construction of public schools, colleges, universities, and other government institutions, as well as county and state services. In fiscal year 2007 alone, the lands managed by DNR under the leadership of the Commissioner, produced more than $209 million in revenue for trust beneficiaries.
DNR is also responsible for approximately 2.6 million acres of aquatic lands, which include shorelines, tidelands, lands under Puget Sound and the coast, and navigable lakes and rivers and natural lakes, generating nearly $35 million every two years.

The Commissioner must ensure that DNR monitors cleanup and restoration efforts from mining operations, and assists communities by providing scientific information about earthquakes, landslides, and ecologically sensitive areas.

Science is the basis of DNR’s work and the Commissioner must be sufficiently conversant with the various disciplines used by DNR foresters as they use techniques based on science to help manage state forests, including trust lands, for long-term public benefit. They regulate timber harvest practices on state and private forestlands that reduce timber losses, and protect clean water and habitat. DNR foresters also help small forestland owners improve forest health and reduce wildfire risks, and maintain public access to recreation on state lands, and they protect natural, undisturbed, and unique ecosystems.
DNR scientists provide a wide range of research, monitoring, data, information, and expertise that support state policy, resource management, and resource protection programs. They work on riparian restoration and management, conservation and preservation of natural areas, silvicultural prescriptions and resulting forest stand treatments, Washington’s geological survey, watershed analysis, and endangered species conservation strategies, to name a few. Sciences essential to DNR’s work, and for which the Commissioner must have more than a passing knowledge, include forest entomology, forest health, aquaculture, geology, biology, hydrology, and other natural resources sciences.
DNR aquatic staff work near the waters of the state with businesses, government, communities, and volunteers to manage and protect these precious resources for long-term public benefit. Aquatic responsibilities also focus on public recreational access, navigation, commerce, environmental issues, aquatic leases and easements, and special projects. 
DNR engineers build forest roads, bridges, culverts, and fish barriers and crossings that protect streams and habitat. They produce data and products to assist with management of trust lands and regulatory functions. DNR engineers also create aerial maps, and identify and maintain a statewide repository of land boundary information, along with other responsibilities. 
DNR also manages the largest on-call fire department in the state. DNR forest fire fighter crew members and natural resource workers perform pre-suppression and suppression activities in order to protect 12.7 million acres of non-federal land including private, state-owned, and tribal land from wildfires. The Commissioner of Public Lands chairs the state Forest Practices Board, which sets regulations concerning private timber harvests, forest road building, and other forest operations.

What are the candidates' qualifications?

Peter Goldmark is the current Commissioner of Public Lands and has held that position for the last 4 years. He earned his BA from Haverford College, near Philadelphia, in 1967, and earned his PhD in Microbiology from the University of California at Berkeley in 1971. He was also selected for a post-doctoral fellowship in Neurobiology at Harvard.

Goldmark has had a lifelong involvement with agriculture, science, education, and public service. To this day he maintains a small scientific research facility at his ranch and has published scientific articles in national and international journals. He currently maintains a wheat-breeding program at his facility and has recently released new varieties for Washington wheat farmers.

Included among Goldmark’s many public service positions are the following:

  • Director of Agriculture for State of Washington, appointed by Governor Lowry in 1993
  • Chairman of the Governor's Council on Agriculture and the Environment in 1994-1996
  • Governor's Council for a Sustainable Washington in 2002-2003
  • Governor's Council on Biodiversity in 2004-2005
  • Founding board member and past Chairman of the Board of Farming and the Environment, a unique coalition of farmers, ranchers, and conservationists founded in 1999
  • Board of Regents of Washington State University, 1996-2005; President of the Board in 1999-2000
  • Board of the Washington State University-University of Washington William D. Ruckelshaus Center, 2003-present 
  • Okanogan School Board, 1998-2005
  • Wildland firefighter, Okanogan County, Fire District No. 8 - 30+ years
  • Commissioner of Public Lands, 2009 to present

Goldmark has been endorsed by Washington environmental groups, labor unions, Native American tribes, and all Washington's major elected leaders (for a full list click here).

Clint Didier is a farmer in Eastern Washington near Pasco, and owns and operates an excavation company. He earned an Associate of Arts degree from Columbia Basin College in Pasco, and a BA in Political Science from Portland State University, where he excelled in football.

After graduating from PSU, Didier played professional football for the Washington Redskins for 7 years, during which time he participated in three Super Bowls, and then played another 2 years for the Green Bay Packers.

Didier was assistant coach for the Connell High School football team for 9 years. He stepped down in 2009 to run for the US Senate against Patty Murray.

Didier has been endorsed by the Tri-Cities Tea Party, the Spokane Homebuilders, the Gun Owners Action League of Washington, the Franklin County Farm Bureau, and Pastor Fruiten's Picks, among others (for a full list, click here)

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