June 12, 2013, Issaquah Reporter: “State disapproves of latest application to log Squak”
Issaquah Reporter’s Linda Ball reports on the Washington Department of Natural Resource’s decision to deny a new logging permit clear cut Squak Mountain. Reporting on the legal ruse cooked up by Erickson Logging to pose as a small family logging operation:
The Department of Natural Resources stated in its response to logger Kurt Erickson’s most recent application to log only on the top of Squak Mountain, that it “believes the landowner/applicant is an alter ego of other persons or entities that do own 500 acres within 50 miles of saltwater. The landowner/applicant claims it owns less than 500 acres within 50 miles of saltwater and thus is not subject to the critical habitat trigger for marbled murrelets. Therefore, more information is needed to assess the potential marbled murrelets habitat at the site.”
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:
Application 2416123 was disapproved today for the following reason:
Forest Practices is requiring the Marbled Murrelet form to be completed for this application.
Forest Practice District Manager
South Puget Sound Region
Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR)
office (360) 802- 7009
cell (206) 920-5908
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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/
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
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.
Early Saturday morning, April 27, members of the King County Conservation Futures Citizen’s Committee were joined by King County Councilman Reagan Dunn for an on-site briefing of the proposed Squak Mountain logging area and a discussion of how King County might purchase the land through the parks fund to preserve it.
A representative of Trust for Public Land was also on hand to view the property and consider possible participation as an intermediary to facilitate the county purchase.
Our own Dave Kappler led Councilman Dunn on a hike through the proposed clear cut area where one couldn’t help but marvel at the grand stands of trees nestled in an urban area — a refuge for endangered wildlife and place for citizens to experience the marvel of the unspoiled outdoors.
There was considerable discussion about the head waters of May Creek and how the forest land helps control run off. The proposed clear cut would severely impact May Creek which already suffers from flooding a good bit of the year.
Councilman Dunn expressed his support of the effort to Save Squak and vowed to do whatever he could do to accomplish it.
Members of the King County Conservation Futures Citizen’s Committee are briefed on the property and proposed logging area
Councilman Dunn is accompanied to the top of the ridge above the proposed logging area
Councilman Dunn views the proposed logging area
IATC President and Save Squak leader Dave Kappler joins Councilman Dunn on the ridge to inspect the logging area
Dave Kappler points out sensitive areas as he guides Councilman Dunn on a hike through the forest area
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.
The Washington Forest Law Center, which represents the Issaquah Alps Trail Club and Save Squak, filed our formal opposition to the new Erickson logging permit with the Department of Natural Resources on Tuesday. The WFLC 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.
In addition to incorporating our original letter in opposition, the latest filing with DNR outlines the significant issues still on the table that have not been addressed by Erickson Logging. These include:
Flooding of May Valley through excessive run-off
Soil instability due to road construction to access the timber
Erickson’s failure to conduct proper studies of stream flows and fish habitat
Impact on at risk and endangered wildlife including proximity to Marbled Murrelet critical habitat and possible nesting areas
Adverse impact to Hwy 900, a major transportation corridor that already suffers from closures to due flooding, that could also affect emergency services
In our opposition, we also note that the parcels for the proposed clear cutting should be reclassified due to a current permit pending for subdivision development and Erickson’s own statements that he may develop the property after logging. This is grounds for moving oversight of the property from DNR to King County.
We have the letter and supporting exhibits here online. Both are available in PDF format and available for reading online here.