Environmental tag makes timber more valuableThe city of Astoria's 3,700 acres of forest surrounding the Bear Creek watershed near Knappa have been certified as being managed in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way.

That certification means any timber harvested from the forest could sell at a higher price because of demand from mills that want their products to carry an environmental label said Robert Hrubes, senior vice president of Scientific Certification Systems, the firm that evaluated Astoria's forest for certification.

Hrubes' presentation came during an Astoria City Council meeting Monday night.

He said now the city can point to its certification as proof the city is working to harvest its timber in a way that's sensitive to the environment and not a danger to Astoria's drinking water.

"You can now say: 'I do good forestry, but just don't believe me, I've been third-party certified,'" he said.

Hrubes' firm checks to see if forests comply with the standards of the Forest Stewardship Council, an internationally recognized forestry accreditation group. Now that Astoria's forest has been certified, Hrubes said more work will be done in about five years to ensure Astoria still warrants certification.

Barry Sims who compiled the information that went into SCS's report for Astoria's certification, said that because the forest surrounded a watershed meant to serve as the city's water source, it already had been managed in a responsible manner for several decades. He said roads in the area are well maintained and don't erode much, there is a good mix of tree species and animal habitats are well protected.

"They scored pretty highly across the board," he said.

Following the presentation of the certification, the city's Public Works Director Mitch Mitchum put a request before the council to accept bids for a timber sale to thin 88 acres of the watershed forest. He said thinning is part of management plans created by the city, Oregon State University and a private forestry consultant.

Mitchum said the thinning, which is expected to take place during July, August and September, is expected to bring in about $100,000. He added the timber harvested from the sale, would now be certified.

City Manager Dan Bartlett said the funds from the harvest would go to the capital improvement funds, where they have traditionally been sent.

In other business, the council:

• Approved a request by Astoria Library Director Jane Tucker to submit a preliminary proposals for grants from the state to explore the possibility of a library district encompassing Columbia, Clatsop counties and, possibly, Tillamook, into one library district. Tucker said the proposal would be due April 11. She said the grants would only give the libraries the resources to explore the possibility of a district and would not be a binding step.

Compere said looking into a district was "a great idea" as it could make libraries in all three counties better and more efficient.

• Amended a city ordinance to end mandatory garbage service and approved a resolution setting rates for new garbage city options. City Manager Dan Bartlett said the city's garbage contractor, Sunset Refuse and Recycling, had already stopped serving people who were refusing to pay for garbage service, and so the action would only change the ordinance to reflect that.

He added the new garbage services will let people have their trash picked up on a monthly or on a "will-call" basis and won't mean a rate increase for the rest of Astoria's garbage customers.

Councilor Loran Matthews said he didn't believe ending mandatory garbage service would mean more people would dump illegally, because many are already doing that.

"I'm not sure we'd create any problems we don't already have," he said.

Bartlett also reminded the council the city does have nuisance laws that could force people to clean up their trash if they just left it on their property instead of paying for a pick-up.

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