Squak Mountain land saved from logging
May 14, 2013
By Peter Clark
Trust for Public Land, King County, steps in with purchase
Only four days after the state approved Erikson Logging’s application to clear-cut sections of a Squak Mountain parcel, King County announced concrete plans to purchase it from developers.
Since the announcement of the company’s intention to harvest old-growth trees in the area in January, concerted efforts have been made by King County and local group Save Squak to find a way to protect the land. On May 8, the county announced it had struck a deal with the Trust for Public Land, which agreed to buy the 220-acre parcel and accept payment from the county over time.
“I’m really pleased. This has come together very well,” County Executive Dow Constantine said in a phone interview. His office and the Parks Department have been the primary driver to find a way to purchase the land. “We thought it would be better to preserve it for recreation and habitat.”
The county had explored numerous ways to reach the same results. Through the Conservations Futures program, the proposal for the county to purchase the land over time was reviewed recently on a tour through the area. Other attempts to find funding had also been forwarded through local action. Then, seeing the necessity for quick action after the logging rights were acquired, the Trust for Public Land stepped in.
The trust is a national nonprofit that conserves land for multiple uses. It agreed to enter negotiations with the current landowners to purchase the property and to allow the county to pay it back. The trust was involved with the property from an early stage and was able to reach a purchase option with the logging outfit. Constantine spoke graciously about the landowner, Kurt Erikson, and his willingness to cooperate. Through the trust’s agreement, Constantine said Erikson agreed to hold off on logging activities.
“He was very helpful, very good to work with,” Constantine said. “For all involved, it’s a better value proposition. We have a long-term plan to extend the trail system there. This adds to the opportunity for trails, and it preserves the recreational value of the mountain.”
Attempts to reach Erikson for comment were unsuccessful.
Dave Kappler, the co-founder of Save Squak, said he was encouraged by the outcome.
“It’s a real significant contribution, and I’m definitely pleased that the county stepped up,” he said. “It has been an amazingly quick thing. There are other properties, but they don’t have the imminent timeline.”
Though these steps have been taken, it is not the end of the issue. The county still has to secure the funding, which is still up for negotiation. Constantine said that there is bipartisan support for purchase on the council, but a vote to renew the parks levy could determine the outcome.
“A lot of this depends on the passing of the parks levy,” Constantine said. Already approved by the County Council, it will appear on an August ballot for a voter decision.
Kappler was just as fervent about the need for the community to back the levy, if it wanted to keep the parcel from development.
“Now, we’ve really got to get out there and support the King County levy,” he said.
An appraisal of the land is under way and the trust expects to establish a firm price by the end of June. Should the parks levy be renewed, the county would expect to begin paying the trust in phases and have it paid for by 2015, Constantine said.