Final acquisition set for Squak Mountain forest, with King County-The Trust for Public Land accord

Public celebration May 10 of 226-acre forest acquired for recreation, habitat

A public celebration is set to commemorate preservation of 226 acres of high-quality forestland in the IssaquahSquak_Mountain_timber Alps – the result of a partnership between King County and The Trust for Public Land. This acquisition adds to King County’s Cougar-Squak Corridor parkland.

“Our partnership to protect Squak Mountain’s irreplaceable fish and wildlife habitat is cause for celebration,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “I want to thank The Trust for Public Land and the people of King County on behalf of generations who will enjoy hiking, viewing wildlife, and other recreation in this forest.”

“Our mission is saving land for people, and that’s exactly what we’ve done here,” said Paul Kundtz, State Director for The Trust for Public Land. “We’re very proud to have helped add Squak Mountain forest to King County’s publicly owned lands.”

“Preserving Squak Mountain answers the public call to save the forest from clear cutting and protects this cherished habitat and recreational area adjacent to prized County and State parks,” said King County Council Chair Larry Phillips. “I thank The Trust for Public Land for partnering with us to preserve this property.”

“This is a great victory for the residents around Squak Mountain that brought this important issue to our attention,” said King County Council member Reagan Dunn, whose district includes Squak Mountain. “Thanks to the advocacy of organizations such as “Save Squak” and the Issaquah Alps Trail Club we are saving valuable habitat while increasing recreational opportunities for King County residents.

A public celebration of the Squak Mountain forest acquisition is scheduled for May 10, when partnership leaders and environmental supporters will make brief remarks and invite everyone to take any of several short guided hikes through the forest.

This forestland is closed to the public until 2015, so the May 10 event will be an early opportunity for the public to see the property. King County Parks must prepare the site for public use before full access can be allowed, including property clean-up, removing infrastructure, establishing trail routes, and ensuring property is safe and ready for public use.

The Trust for Public Land purchased the 226–acre property in six parcels from the previous landowner. King County recently purchased about half of the total acreage from The Trust for Public Land using King County Parks Levy regional open space funds, Conservation Futures funds, and Real Estate Excise Taxes.

The Trust for Public Land will retain ownership of the remaining acreage until King County raises the additional funds to complete the purchase, when it will be added to the County’s Cougar-Squak Corridor.

Parks will open the property for hiking-only use in 2015. Parks anticipates having a public planning process in 2015 to help determine future uses for the site.

The May 10 public celebration event starts at 10 a.m. and includes options for hikes of varying lengths through the property. Access to the celebration location is at 10610 Renton-Issaquah Road SE (State Route 900) (Click here for map).

There has been significant interest in the public to see this land, trail system, and natural resources conserved. The grassroots efforts were led by the organization “Save Squak” which helped focus community energy in support of this acquisition.

“We could not have wished for or imagined a better cooperative effort between citizen groups, all levels and departments within King County and The Trust for Public Land,” said David Kappler of the Issaquah Alps Trail Club, and a primary organizer of the Save Squak citizens group.

King County has been interested in maintaining the land’s recreational opportunities and preserving its rich forest habitat which supports a variety of wildlife and birds, including black bear, cougar and possibly endangered marbled murrelets. The headwaters of May Creek, a seven-mile-long salmon stream that flows into Lake Washington, rise here.

A prominent natural feature visible from State Route 900 on the Mountains to Sound Greenway, this part of Squak Mountain has long been used as a private forest camp and is wedged between Squak Mountain State Park and King County’s Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park.

About The Trust for Public Land
Founded in 1972, The Trust for Public Land is the leading nonprofit working to conserve land for people. Operating from more than 30 offices nationwide, The Trust for Public Land has protected more than three million acres from the inner city to the wilderness and helped generate more than $34 billion in public funds for conservation. Nearly ten million people live within a ten-minute walk of a Trust for Public Land park, garden, or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year. Learn more at http://www.tpl.org/.

About King County Parks

King County Parks – Your Big Backyard – offers more than 200 parks and 26,000 acres of parks and natural lands, including such regional treasures as Marymoor Park and Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park, 175 miles of regional trails, 180 miles of backcountry trails and a world-class aquatic center. By cultivating strong relationships with non-profit, corporate and community partners, King County Parks enhances park amenities while reducing costs. Learn more at http://www.kingcounty.gov/parks/.

King County Proposition No. 1 — Parks Levy PASSES

King County Proposition 1, the Parks Levy passed overwhelmingly with over 70% of the vote cast. The Parks Levy is key for saving the Squak Mountain parcels from clear cutting. It is one of the funding sources for King County to acquire the land from the Trust for Public Land which is facilitating the preservation by buying the land from Erickson Logging and holding onto it until King County can budget the necessary funds.

Many thanks to all the voters in King County who helped pass the Parks Levy. You not only helped Save Squak, but you have helped many other worthy projects focused on preserving park land for current and future generations.

BREAKING NEWS: DNR Denies Latest Erickson Logging Permit Application

DNR Requires Adherence to Marbled Murrelet Provisions

We just received word late this afternoon that the Washington Department of Natural Resources has denied Erickson Logging’s latest permit application to clear cut Squak Mountain. Erickson’s legal ploy to transfer ownership of the parcels to a newly formed corporation posing as a small family forest operation to avoid requirements industrial logging operations are subject to seems to have failed for the moment. Here’s the word David Kappler, IATC President and Save Squak leader, received this afternoon:

Mr. Kappler,

Application 2416123 was disapproved today for the following reason:

Forest Practices is  requiring the Marbled Murrelet form to be completed for this application.

Bruce McDonald
Forest Practice District Manager
South Puget Sound Region
Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR)
office (360) 802- 7009
cell      (206) 920-5908
bruce.mcdonald@dnr.wa.gov
www.dnr.wa.gov

Thanks to all the folks at the Washington Forest Law Center and every citizen out there who sent in comments to DNR for your hard work and support — your efforts and perseverance made the difference! Save Squak will keep you updated as we learn more.

Sleight of Hand: Erickson Files for New Clear Cut Permit Under Different Name

Erickson Logging has filed new FPA for the upper triangle (see below to view or download). This was submitted by Erickson on the same day King County and Trust for Public Land’s news release about a deal being negotiated.

Of note, Erickson filed this one as a clear cut of 96 acres which was excluded from the recently granted permit due to a number of environmental issues.  He has now listed himself as a “small forest owner” which would exempt him from several restrictions, especially those that involve marbled murrelet habitat.  Erickson created a new LLC and listed this LLC as the landowner. However, he is still the signer on the FPA.

He is known to be a large forest owner and a large scale logger. It is unclear whether he will truly be exempted from certain restrictions just by creating this new LLC and submitting a new FPA as a small forest land owner for these same lands. Unfortunately, early indications are that Erickson may be able to get away with this legal sleight of hand since Bruce McDonald of the DNR has already hinted the state is probably OK with it.

We’ll have more updates as we learn more. In the meantime, please submit comments on the new FPA (#241-6123). The comments can be emailed to Bruce McDonald, DNR Forest Practices at BRUCE.McDONALD@dnr.wa.gov

Click to download a copy of this new Erickson permit application to clear cut Squak Mountain.

Issaquah Reporter: “Squak Mountain saved | Trust for Public Land to rescue Squak Mountain”

May 8, 2013, Issaquah Reporter: “Squak Mountain saved | Trust for Public Land to rescue Squak Mountain”

Issaquah Reporter’s Linda Ball covers the move by King County and TPL to save Squak Mountain from clear cutting:

Just in the nick of time, King County executive Dow Constantine and the Trust for Public Land have signed a conditional agreement to purchase the 216-acres owned by Erickson Logging, Inc. on Squak Mountain, saving the pristine forest from logging.

This news could not have come any sooner since the Washington State department of natural resources had approved the revised forest practices permit for Kurt Erickson late last week, giving him the green light to log 95 percent of the 95 acres he proposed to log in his second application.

The approval was troubling to members of the grass roots organization Save Squak, because the state DNR did not consider comments from the King County Department of Permitting and Environmental Review regarding flooding in the May Creek basin. According to Bruce McDonald with the DNR, harvesting timber is not considered to cause the creation of an impervious surface.

Click to read the full article in The Issaquah Reporter.

Seattle Times: “King County proposes to buy forest on Squak Mountain”

May 8, 2013, Seattle Times: King County proposes to buy forest on Squak Mountain”

King County, with The Trust for Public Land as an intermediary, has tentatively agreed to buy 216 acres next to the Cougar Mountain/Squak Mountain Corridor.

The Seattle Times’ reporter Keith Irvine covers the proposed King County purchase, with Trust for Public Land as an intermediary, of the Squak Mountain forest parcels currently owned by Erickson Logging and slated for clear cutting.

King County, with the help of an intermediary, has tentatively agreed to buy an Issaquah-area forest that otherwise would be logged and possibly developed into mountainside estates.

Under the deal announced Wednesday, the nonprofit Trust for Public Land (TPL) would buy 216 acres on the side of Squak Mountain from Erickson Logging, and then resell it to the county.

Erickson and TPL must agree on a price next month after completion of an independent appraisal.

A coalition of environmentalists and residents of May Valley has urged King County to buy the land in order to expand an existing wildlife and recreation corridor and to prevent increased flooding along May Creek.

Click here to read the full article in The Seattle Times.

Breaking News: King County & Trust for Public Land Announce Plan to Protect Squak Mountain

TPLKCNews Release

Date: May 8, 2013

Executive Constantine and The Trust for Public Land announce plan to protect Squak Mountain

Putting 216 acres of land in public use would protect forest from clear-cutting

King County Executive Dow Constantine and The Trust for Public Land today announced the signing of a conditional agreement that seeks to purchase 216 acres of land on Squak Mountain near Issaquah – the first step in a partnership between King County and The Trust for Public Land aimed at buying and protecting the land for public use.

“This is exactly the kind of project The Trust for Public Land exists to help with,” said Mike Deller, Washington State Director. “Our mission is to help local people and organizations save places they love, keeping them open and cared for into the future.”

“This welcome and well-timed agreement helps us save this valued forestland,” said Executive Constantine. “Thanks to The Trust for Public Land we can now work to acquire the property at a fair price, and secure the funding to preserve this land in perpetuity.”

The Trust for Public Land’s initial agreement with the property owner calls for an independent appraisal and agreement on the final purchase price by June 21. During the appraisal process the property owner, who received a logging permit on May 2, has agreed to postpone logging.

King County will work to secure the funding necessary to take ownership of the land in the long term. Potential funding sources include Conservation Futures funds, and regional open space acquisition funds in the King County Parks levy, which is on the August ballot to replace the current levy that expires at the end of this year.

The plan calls for The Trust for Public Land to buy the property in February 2014, convey a portion of it to King County when the County has initial funds for a first phase of purchase, and hold the rest of the land until the County secures and the County Council approves all remaining funds to acquire it as part of the King County Parks system.

“I congratulate the Executive and The Trust for a partnership that will keep this land available to the public,” said County Councilmember Reagan Dunn. “This stretch is both a valuable habitat area and a source of recreation for people from around the region.”

“Public outcry about plans to clear cut forestlands on Squak Mountain meant swift action was necessary to preserve this cherished habitat and recreational area adjacent to prized county and state parks,” said Councilmember Larry Phillips, Chair of the Transportation, Economy, and Environment Committee. “I thank The Trust for Public Land for partnering with us to preserve this property. It was partnerships like these between open space advocates, the community, and government that ensured the Issaquah Alps are preserved in their natural beauty and open to all rather than cleared and developed.”

A prominent natural feature visible from SR 900 on the Mountains-to-Sound Greenway, this part of Squak Mountain has long been used as a private forest camp at the edge of Squak Mountain State Park and Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park.

King County is interested in maintaining the land’s recreational opportunities and preserving its rich forest habitat which supports a variety of wildlife and birds, including black bear, cougar and possibly endangered Marbled Murrelets.  The headwaters of May Creek, a 7-mile-long salmon stream that flows into Lake Washington, rise there.

Bringing this land into public ownership and preventing the planned logging means protecting the headwaters of salmon-bearing streams, and providing a potential public recreation access point to existing public open space properties and trails in the area – including Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park, the Cougar/Squak Corridor and Squak Mountain State Park.

# # #

About The Trust for Public Land
Founded in 1972, The Trust for Public Land is the leading nonprofit working to conserve land for people. Operating from more than 30 offices nationwide, The Trust for Public Land has protected more than three million acres from the inner city to the wilderness and helped generate more than $34 billion in public funds for conservation. Nearly ten million people live within a ten-minute walk of a Trust for Public Land park, garden, or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year. Learn more at http://www.tpl.org/.

About King County Parks
Celebrating its 75th Anniversary, King County Parks – Your Big Backyard – offers more than 200 parks and 26,000 acres of parks and natural lands, including such regional treasures as Marymoor Park and Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park, 175 miles of regional trails, 180 miles of backcountry trails and a world-class aquatic center. By cultivating strong relationships with non-profit, corporate and community partners, King County Parks enhances park amenities while reducing costs. Learn more at http://www.kingcounty.gov/parks/.

A Sad Day: DNR Approves Erickson Logging Permit

On Friday morning, May 3, The Washington State Department of Natural Resources approved Erickson Logging’s permit to clear cut Squak Mountain. This is a sad day for residents of Squak Mountain and May Valley, as well as the citizens of King County as a special urban forest seems destined to be felled by chain saws.

Save Squak and the Issaquah Alps Trail Club will continue the fight to save Squak Mountain, working with King County to purchase and protect this unique area for future generations as well as head off the flooding and property destruction in May Valley that would follow a clear cut.

Click to download the DNR’s decision granting the permit.

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Forest Practices Application/Notification Notice of Decision

IATC & Save Squak Urge King County to Acquire Squak Mtn Parcels

The Issaquah Alps Trails Club and Save Squak sent a joint letter on Friday, April 19, 2013, to the King County Conservation Futures Citizens Oversight Committee encouraging it to include acquisition of the proposed logging area on Squak Mountain in its planning.

Click to download the letter here

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IATC & Save Squak Letter to King County Conservation Futures Citizens Oversight Committee

King County Reiterates Opposition to Erickson Application in Letter to DNR

The King County Department of Permitting and Environmental Review reiterated its opposition to Erickson Logging’s application for a permit to clear cut Squak Mountain. In a letter to the Washington Department of Natural Resources on April 16, King County formally commented on the second permit application and strongly opposed DNR approval, noting the significant flooding problem currently suffered by May Valley will be exacerbated by denuding the mountain.

Click to download the King County letter to DNR.

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King County Letter to DNR Opposing Erickson Clear Cut