Two strong candidates, including incumbent, vie for lands commissioner

October 7, 2008

By Jon Savelle

As the November election approaches, voters have a multitude of candidates and issues to ponder. From a ballot proposal for a new fire station to the race for governor, the choices are clear and the outcomes will be important.

Doug Sutherland

Doug Sutherland

What may not be quite so clear is that the race for commissioner of public lands also has direct bearing on this region. Of the Issaquah Alps — Cougar, Squak and Tiger mountains — both Tiger and Squak have vast tracts of forest under the control of the state Department of Natural Resources, directed by the lands commissioner.

Today, that person is Doug Sutherland, a Republican and former Pierce County executive who is running for re-election. His Democratic challenger, Peter Goldmark, is a wheat and cattle rancher from Okanogan County and a former director of the state Department of Agriculture.

The two men have some background in common. Both grew up on ranch or farmland in eastern Washington, and both have served as wildland firefighters.

Beyond that, however, the candidates diverge.

Peter Goldmark

Peter Goldmark

Sutherland has a bachelor’s degree in history from Central Washington University, has owned a tent and awning company in Tacoma, and has served as a member of numerous public boards. These include the Puget Sound Air Quality Authority, the Tacoma Urban League, the Commencement Bay Cleanup Action Committee, the Salmon Task Force, the Western States Lands Commissioner Association and the Mountains to Sound Greenway.

Goldmark has cultivated wheat and cattle for 35 years, including 20 years as a scientist developing new strains of wheat. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Haverford College and a doctorate in molecular biology from the University of California at Berkeley. He has served two terms on the Okanogan School Board, has been a regent of Washington State University and in 1983 was named the Washington State Conservation Farmer of the Year.

In the state Voters’ Guide for the Nov. 4 election, Goldmark’s statement says,“As a scientist, Peter understands the opportunity to create green jobs and address climate change through investments in wind, biomass conversion and other energy sources,” the guide says. “Peter is committed to reversing Bush Administration policies of dependence on foreign oil and outsourcing of jobs.”

Sutherland’s statement says he “knows how important forest jobs are to rural communities. He replaced outdated forest policies that previously led to massive fires and habitat destruction. Coming from a union household, he stands beside workers, instituting new fitness rules for firefighters — and meeting them himself.

Both candidates have supporters among Issaquah’s environmental community. Ken Konigsmark, one of the directors of the Mountains to Sound Greenway (of which Sutherland is a board member) supports Sutherland for another term as lands commissioner.

“I think Doug has done a superb job as Lands Commissioner,” Konigsmark said in an e-mail to The Press. “He’s been very effective in leading the management of 5 million total acres of our public lands (including aquatic lands) in a way that balances revenue generation, environmental sustainability and public use/recreation, in the midst of increasing demands/challenges in each of those areas.”

On the other side, Issaquah Environmental Council vice president Connie Marsh is ready for someone else.

“It would be a change of pace if we got rid of Sutherland,” she said. “We would have, potentially, a more environmentally protective outlook on public lands. I personally would prefer that. But what you do with weird things like public schools would have to be negotiated. I’m not sure how much change is even possible in that position.”

Of the 5.6 million acres under the direct control of the Department of Natural Resources, 3 million are trust lands that are managed to provide income for public schools, universities and other institutions. The income is derived from timber sales and through leasing land to private agriculture enterprises.

The agency also regulates and fights fires on 12.7 million acres of state, private and tribal land.

As the incumbent, Sutherland has garnered broad support from business, resource industries and many individuals. By Oct. 2, his campaign contributions totaled $537,000, of which he had spent $153,000. His campaign lists dozens of endorsements, including unions, farmers, builders, real estate developers and alternative-energy advocates.

Goldmark’s support is based almost entirely on individuals, though he is endorsed by the Washington Education Association; the Washington Labor Council; the Washington Conservation Voters; and U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray.

Reach Reporter Jon Savelle at 392-6434, ext. 234, or

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