Post-Dam Elwha River Thriving, But Logging Threatens Gains

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The Elwha River watershed on the Olympic peninsula has been transformed since dam removal a decade ago, but logging could harm the the habitat’s progress. Washingtonians are rallying on Sunday to protect nearby forests. The Elwha River dam removal has been the largest in U.S. history to date.

Elizabeth Dunne, director of legal advocacy for Earth Law Center, said forests in the region have come back to life, but at least six timber sales on state-managed land in the watershed contain legacy forests, or forests with many old growth characteristics. She said the forests also are important to Port Angeles.

“There’s been some really strong community opposition, that’s growing, to this logging particularly in the Elwha River watershed because the Elwha River supplies drinking water to the city of Port Angeles, which has about 20,000 people,” Dunne said.

The Department of Natural Resources rejected a request from the Port Angeles city council last year to delay a logging auction, saying the agency is required to manage state trust lands to generate revenues for public services and infrastructure. On Sunday, people are rallying near an active timber harvest site in the region to protect these forests.

Opponents of logging in the region note only about 80,000 acres of legacy forests remain on state managed lands in Western Washington.

Brel Froebe, interim executive director of the Center for Responsible Forestry, said legacy forests play many vital roles.

“They are incredible tools to fight climate change,” Froebe said. “They sequester and store more carbon than many forests in the entire world.”

Froebe noted his organization does not want to stop logging, but pointed to Washington state’s Climate Commitment Act, a law passed in 2021 aimed at helping reach the state’s goal of reducing carbon emissions 95% by 2050 and with a focus on environmental justice. Froebe said protecting Elwha River watershed forests through this legislation could fund communities that rely on logging.

“We really want to make sure that this is a win-win and that rural communities shouldn’t have to choose between sacrificing their precious ecosystems and funding things like schools,” Froebe said.

On Sunday, rally goers are calling on Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz to stop the logging of legacy forests in the Elwha River watershed.

Featured photo: Leaders from Port Angeles, Washington, asked the state to stop logging in a forest near the Elwha River known as Aldwell. (

Eric Tegethoff

Eric Tegethoff is a journalist covering the Northwest. Eric has worked as a reporter for KBOO, XRAY FM, and Oregon Public Broadcasting in Portland, Oregon, as well as other print and digital news media. In 2012, Eric traveled to North Dakota to write about the Bakken region oil boom. He's also worked at a movie theater, as a campaign canvasser and quality assurance at a milk packaging factory. Eric is originally from Orlando, Florida. He graduated from the University of Florida in 2010.

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