The Washington State Board of Natural Resources chose not to save 25 acres of forest from the 187-acre Singletary timber sale near Wallace Falls State Park.
The 2-4 vote rejected a joint resolution passed last week by the Snohomish County Council and County Executive Dave Somers, intended to safeguard sections of future and existing trails for at least four years.
“Snohomish County is disappointed in today’s decision by the DNR Board of Natural Resources,” Somers said in a prepared statement on Tuesday, Feb. 7. “For ten years, efforts have been made to find a compromise that balances good stewardship of our natural resources with appropriate land management.”
Somers wrote the resolution had been a compromise involving Snohomish County District 5 Councilmember Sam Low, the city of Sultan and members of the general and environmental communities.
“The Board of Natural Resources ignored both the needs of a local community and a sensible solution,” he wrote.
The 4,735-acre Wallace Falls State Park is accessible about 5 miles north of Gold Bar off U.S. Highway 2.
Snohomish County Parks and Recreation director Tom Teigen said the resolution gave the area of focus a good chance, but “the forestry board can be pretty protective,” during an interview prior to Tuesday’s vote. Low had worked directly with Washington Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz to draft the resolution that would most closely appease both the economic need for land use, and the public’s desire to preserve the environment, he said.
Normally, timber sales aren’t drawn out for 10 years, Low said. The board — disappointingly — didn’t want to deviate from the status quo, he said.
Low spoke of the benefit the sale would have on the county’s junior taxing districts during the Feb. 1 county council meeting. Revenue from timber sales serve special service districts, such as Sno-Isle Libraries, the Sultan School District, Valley General Hospital and Fire District 26, according to the county’s resolution.
Timber is considered a renewable resource, but there are people who believe no logging is an environmental practice, Teigen said. In the case of the Singletary sale, there were also concerns that the public would lose access to major sections of the park and its aesthetic value, he said.
Teigen, who has worked for the county for nearly a decade, said DNR does make serious attempts to harvest sustainably. Clear cutting can mean many different things depending on who is asked. The Singletary sale stipulates a number of trees per acre will be left standing. Often, logging even opens up public land that wouldn’t otherwise be surveyed, he said.
Equestrian and mountain biking trails are not really at risk due to the sale, just hiking trails, Teigen said. Had the 25 acres been set aside, the area would have potentially been up for sale four years later, but it would have provided time for the area to stabilize and new plans to be put in place for modifying the trail system, he said.
The DNR board announced the sale would take place at auction sometime in February or March. The minimum bid for the sale is just under $1.8 million, according to a DNR Timber Notice of Sale agreement. The original sale was set for Feb. 22.