White River purchase leaves logging opponents optimistic
April 2, 2013
By Peter Clark
While King County’s recent purchase of development rights for 43,000 acres in the White River Forest may sound like bad news for proponents trying to save Squak Mountain from logging, it could be a positive sign.
With Erickson Logging operators planning to harvest the 216 acres soon, local residents and downstream property owners have shown increasing concern for the effects logging would have on the ecology and value of living in the area.
On March 21, the county paid $11.1 million to the Hancock Timber Resources Group for the development rights to the forest south of Enumclaw.
“I’m actually very pleased about the White River area,” said David Kappler, president of the Issaquah Alps Trails Club and founder of Save Squak, an organization to save the mountain from logging. “The county had authorized money to save, and they planned for some time to make the deal.”
He found the county’s dedication uplifting as it signified its continuing commitment to retain green space. He said the vast difference in size between the two parcels of land supports the idea that if the county was willing to protect the large expanse south of Enumclaw, then the chances for Squak Mountain protection were high.
County officials echoed his optimism. County Communications Manager Logan Harris, at the very least, indicated that the resources used to purchase the White River property would not detrimentally affect a decision about the Issaquah land.
“It won’t have any impact on Squak Mountain,” he said. “It remains a priority for the county.”
In the meantime, the Save Squak group received more good news with Erickson Logging’s official permit application withdrawal March 20. Jim Heuring, program coordinator with the Washington Department of Natural Resources, said the initial application to harvest timber from most of the acreage in the parcel contained a number of flaws.
“We basically told him that he could withdraw it or we would refuse,” Heuring said. “In his current configuration, it would not be approved.”
Once adjustments have been made to the application, he said the logging outfit expects to begin the process anew.
“They intend to resubmit, but we haven’t heard anything new about that,” he said.
The county will not reach a decision on the local land until May at the earliest, when a citizen’s oversight committee will offer its recommendation to the King County council.
“In April, citizens will take a tour of the area, make their recommendations and then it will all go to the council,” Kappler said. “I’m hoping they can pull it off.”