Issaquah Reporter: “Squak Mountain not completely out of the woods with logging concerns”

May 23, 2013, Issaquah Reporter: “Squak Mountain not completely out of the woods with logging concerns”

Issaquah Reporter’s Linda Ball reports on Erickson Logging’s legal end run to avoid forest regulatory and endangered species oversight and move to clear cut Squak Mountain by transferring ownership of the forest parcels from his industrial logging operation to a new company he labels a “small forest landowner”:

As an independent appraiser works to set a value on logger Kurt Erickson’s 216-acres on Squak Mountain, Erickson has applied for another permit to harvest timber on his land.

“I filed for the upper portion in case we don’t come to an agreement,” Erickson said.

The latest filing is for 96 acres of old forest near the top of his property. King County executive Dow Constantine and the Trust for Public Land signed a conditional agreement to purchase the property from Erickson to preserve it for public use. The purchase price will be based on an appraisal, which should be completed by June 21.

Erickson said he would still like to work out a deal with the county, but said he knows what land values are and that lthings are changing with the real estate market improving.

“I have to protect my investment,” he said.

 

Click here to read the full article in the Issaquah Reporter

WFLC Files IATC & Save Squak Comments in Opposition to Erickson Clearcut Plan

The Washington Forest Law Center (WFLC), representing the Issaquah Alps Trail Club (IATC) and grassroots citizens activist group Save Squak, on May 23, 2013 filed a comment letter with the Washington Department of Natural Resources in opposition to the newest Erickson Logging permit application. Erickson’s new application attempts to use a legal sleight-of-hand to avoid regulatory oversight by transferring ownership of the forest parcels to a newly formed limited liability corporation (LLC) that he claims is not an industrial logging operation.

This is a clear end run around the protections in the law and forest management regulations since Erickson is the sole owner of the new LLC and there is no real difference between it and his existing industrial logging operation. He now claims to be a “small forest landowner” under the guise of the this new company and thus exempt from regulatory protections of the endangered marbled murrelet habitat.

Click here to download our full comment letter along with all exhibits and maps.

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WFLC Comment Letter on Behalf of IATC & Save Squak

NEWS RELEASE
Squak Mountain Still In Danger: Logger Files Permit Under New Name in an Apparent Attempt to Dodge Environmental Regulation

SQUAK MOUNTAIN STILL IN DANGER: LOGGER REFILES PERMIT UNDER NEW NAME IN AN APPARENT ATTEMPT TO DODGE ENVIRONMENTAL REGULATION.

May 20, 2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

On May 8th, Kurt Erickson refiled a permit application with the Washington State Department of Natural Resources to clearcut 96 acres of old forest, even though a similar application was recently blocked to protect habitat for threatened wildlife. Mr. Erickson’s new application seeks to take advantage of an exception to state law that allows “small forest landowners” to log otherwise protected old forests. While that exception is intended to benefit family foresters who rely on small forest holdings for their livelihood, Mr. Erickson owns hundreds of acres of forests throughout Washington State as well as a major timber harvesting operation. Mr. Erickson previously conceded his status as an industrial forester when he recently applied for a permit to log the very same property as a large forest landowner. Since withdrawing that application, he has transferred ownership of the Squak Mountain property to a new corporate entity with no other timber holdings. Under that new name, Mr. Erickson now seeks to take advantage of the “small forest landowner” exception to log the approximately 100-year old trees on Squak Mountain. The forest at issue provides suitable habitat for the threatened marbled murrelet and is part of a wildlife corridor between the popular Cougar Mountain and Squak Mountain State Parks.

The timing for this maneuver raises further alarms, as also on May 8, King County Executive Dow Constantine held a press conference to announce a preliminary purchase agreement between King County, the Trust for Public Lands and Kurt Erickson for 216 acres of property on Squak Mountain, including the area proposed for clearcut.

If Kurt Erickson’s Forest Practice Application for this acreage is granted approval, a precedent would be set that would have statewide significance for the logging industry and environmental protection. Huge corporate forest owners could simply divide their land up into multiple corporations and claim status as small forest landowners to avoid environmental regulation. State law allows small forest landowners to log otherwise protected wildlife habitat, and also requires smaller buffers around fish-bearing streams. Reduced buffers increase water pollution and reduce protections for spawning salmon. Widespread access to small forest landowner exceptions would not only have severe impacts to wildlife, clean water, and fisheries, it would disadvantage legitimate small forest landowners.

The efforts of Issaquah Alps Trails Club and Save Squak have far reaching implications beyond Squak Mountain. We have repeatedly identified weaknesses in forest practice regulations and the permit review process related to logging near residential areas and flood prone creeks. Our work with the Washington Forest Law Center helped to ensure close scrutiny over Mr. Erickson’s first attempt to log Squak Mountain. According to WFLC staff attorney Wyatt Golding, “It is now critically important to expose attempts to circumvent environmental regulation, and to encourage DNR to use its permitting discretion to preserve the integrity of the large vs. small landowner distinction.”

While King County, the Trust for Public Lands, and Kurt Erickson continue to negotiate a sales price, which they hope to conclude by June 21st, our efforts to fight the approval of Erickson’s latest permit will continue in earnest. We will formally launch our fundraising plans to ensure the greatest level of support for the King County Park levy on the upcoming August 6th ballot.

We encourage everyone to loudly and immediately make their objections to the approval of FPA #241- 6123 part of the public record prior to the decision date of June 7th, 2013. To do so, please email Bruce McDonald, DNR Forest Practices at Bruce.McDonald@dnr.wa.gov. You should also state your objections to King County Executive Dow Constantine at Dow.Constantine@kingcounty.gov and King County Councilman and our #1 publicly elected supporter, Reagan Dunn, at Reagan.Dunn@kingcounty.gov. We also encourage everyone to question the legality of Erickson’s “small forest landowner designation” by contacting the office of Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s office, which you may do by calling (360) 753-6200 or submitting an online contact form which may be found at https://fortress.wa.gov/atg/formhandler/ago/ContactForm.aspx?subject=Natural%20Resources.

About Issaquah Alps Trails Club

The Issaquah Alps Trails Club (IATC) formed in 1979, is an Issaquah-based not-for-profit recreation and conservation group devoted to hiking, establishing and improving trails, and advocacy for open space protection in central King County. The original focus of IATC was directed towards Cougar, Squak and Tiger Mountains, also known as the “Issaquah Alps.” In 1990, the Issaquah Alps Trails Club organized the first ‘Mountains to Sound March’, a hike from Snoqualmie Pass to Elliott Bay in Seattle, to publicize the need to preserve a scenic greenbelt connecting Seattle to the Cascade Mountains. Following this march, the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust was founded by regional leaders. IATC leads over a hundred hikes a year in the Greenway and works on acquisitions and planning throughout the Greenway. However, the focus of IATC’s efforts remains directed towards conservation and the establishment of hiking trails in the “Issaquah Alps.” David Kappler is the President of IATC.

http://issaquahalps.org/

About ‘Save Squak’

Save Squak, a group of concerned neighbors and community supporters in Issaquah, May Valley, and throughout Greater Seattle, was established in November 2012, to find an alternative to the environmental impact of clear cut logging planned for 216 acres on Issaquah’s Squak Mountain. With the leadership of David Kappler, the group has focused its efforts on ways to bring this land into public ownership, working with King County and other conservation groups to acquire this pristine forest acreage and add it to King County Parks.

http://www.savesquak.com

http://www.facebook.com/SaveSquak

https://twitter.com/SaveSquak

About Washington Forest Law Center

The Washington Forest Law Center is a non-profit, public interest law firm dedicated to providing legal services to organizations that monitor and protect the Pacific Northwest’s private and state-owned forest lands.
http://wflc.org/

Media Contacts

General: David Kappler
425-652-2753
davidkappler@hotmail.com

 

Legal Issues:

Wyatt Golding
206-223-4088, x. 7
wgolding@wflc.org

Click Here to Download This News Release

 

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 Press: “Squak Mountain land saved from logging”

May 14, 2013, Issaquah Press: “Squak Mountain land saved from logging”

Trust for Public Land, King County, steps in with purchase

Issaquah Press reporter Peter Clark writes about the announcement that King County and TPL have a tentative agreement to save Squak Mountain from clear cutting:

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.”

Click to read the full article in the Issaquah Press.

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

Issaquah Reporter: “A view from top — Committee tours Squak Mountain”

May 2, 2013, Issaquah Reporter: “A view from top | Committee tour Squak Mountain”

Issaquah Reporter’s Linda Ball covered last weekend’s hiking tour of the proposed logging area on Squak Mountain by the King County Conservation Futures Citizens Committee and King County Councilman Reagan Dunn:

The King County Conservation Futures Citizen’s Committee, had a close up look at Squak Mountain Saturday, April 27.

“They went into some of the forest, and got a good sampling of the area,” said Dave Kappler, the president of the Issaquah Alps Trails Club.

As an extra bonus, Kappler said they had a great view that day, all the way to the Olympic Mountains.

The committee, led by Terry Lavender, serves as an advisory board, making recommendations on land purchases to the King County Council. Also on the tour were County Council member Reagan Dunn along with Ingrid Lundin and Dave Tiemann, project managers with King County.

The tour gave Dunn, Lundin and Tiemann the opportunity to see that Squak Mountain is the missing link between Tiger and Cougar Mountains, Kappler said. Dunn is supportive of the efforts of Save Squak and the trails club to stop the potential clear-cut of 95 acres on the mountain.

Click here to read the full article