Dems come out for Commissioner of Public Lands

Democrats, supporters and otherwise curious, came out last night at the Upstage in Port Townsend to hear from Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark . Commissioner Goldmark, up for re-election, in what appears to not be a tight race at this point, discussed his role for the crowd. He outlined that the Commissioner position handles a huge range of issues, from managing the state forest lands that are used to help fund the public schools (“about 40% of the money comes from us” he said), to fighting forest fires in eastern Washington. He is also in charge of the bottom lands of the Sound, Strait and out to 3 miles offshore on the Pacific Coast. He also manages the rivers of the state.

Closer to home, his agency is in charge of state tidelands, and as such, was responsible for helping put in place the aquatic reserves, that now protect almost 64k acres of sea bottom off Protection Island and Minor and Smith Islands. This act, which was proposed by People For Puget Sound, was championed by DNR. The purpose of this was to protect those areas from commercial exploitation, such as tidal turbines, and pipelines. They help to produce the fisheries that many of the pelagic birds of Protection Island feed on. The act has not affected fishing off these locations.

Commissioner Goldmark has done, to this reporter anyway,a great job of running an efficient agency, selling off numerous non-needed assets such as airplanes (the job entails traveling all over the state frequently, and in the past, most Commissioners flew in small planes for efficiency), and laying off staff where needed to help balance the budget, which unfortunately was left in disarray by his predecessor. He supported and got put in place the Aquatic Reserves proposals. He supported and forced the ending of the Maury Island quarry project, which was not wanted by the people of Vashon and King County, and could have had negative impacts on key salmon rearing habitat. He reversed the disastrous approval of the Pit To Pier, that was put in place in the lame duck days of his predecessor, over the objections of Jefferson county politicians. He lobbied the Governor to get money to cash strapped timber counties, including the Olympic Peninsula. This money was put back into local economies. He spearheaded the Puget Sound Corps, which has provided jobs to returning veterans and young people at time when jobs are very scarce.

The difficulty of his position is that, by it’s very nature, it is a position that forces the decision of industry over ecology. His stand on biomass is one area that needs greater clarification, and perhaps another look by him based on locale. Coming as he does from Eastern Washington, with the incredible destruction done by invasive pine beetles, it is natural that he look at biomass as a way to clear the forests so they don’t burn. We support the notion of experimenting with biomass to clear highly flammable underbrush and downed trees in Eastern Washington. However, he seems ignorant of issues faced here, as his own study from WSU, done for the Legislature in 2006, showed that there was not enough biomass to fuel the two proposed plants here on the Peninsula. Whether we are subjected to worsened air pollution by these plants, and whatever fuel they eventually burn, is something that he seemed to not be fully understanding.

But the evening belonged to him, (and his campaign manager wife, Wendy) as the Democrats presented him with a sizable check, and the questions were polite and comments were supportive.

Today, there are too few politicians that actually get positive things done for our environment. While we may not agree with all Commissioner Goldmark’s stands, we have found him to be a most effective Commissioner and highly support his candidacy for re-election.

Protection Island Reserve Signing Ceremony -Video

We were there on Weds and watched Commissioner Goldmark dedicate the Protection Island Reserve. Watch it at


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