The Singletary timber sale will go to auction sans 25 acres, preserving a trail system that traverses the popular Wallace Falls State Park.
A Snohomish County Council and County Executive joint resolution saved the section of forest believed to be a boon to the local tourism industry. The agreement overrides a Washington State Board of Natural Resources’ decision to maintain the full 187-acre yield through a conveyance process.
DNR spokesman Bob Redling said the state department respects the county’s choice. It is not uncommon for blocks of trees to be pulled last minute from sales, he said.
“It is their (the county’s) right under the law to request reconveyance at any time,” he said. “It might complicate the sale, but it should not hurt the quality.”
Skykomish Valley Environmental and Economic Alliance president Inessa Pearce said saving the 25 acres is a great start. Members of the local community advocacy group had emailed county councilmembers with requests for reconveyance, she said.
Pearce said the county is helping local recreation businesses by protecting the area from harvest. A vital piece of forest that surrounds planned and existing trails will remain intact. For tourists, “hiking in clear cuts is a traumatic experience,” she said.
“Some companies have this thinking that people can hike in clear cuts, and recreate in clear cuts — that this is normal,” Pearce said.
District 5 Councilmember Sam Low was one of two councilmembers that opposed the resolution. He said the arrangement was hastily developed and poorly pieced together.
“This is going to cost us extra money, and potentially cut more trees,” he said. “... there are a lot of uncertainties with this. It was not laid out how much it will cost, or exactly how this was going to go forward because this was so last minute. I hate to put my name on something on this.”
Low worked with Washington Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz to draft a previous joint resolution supporting the state setting aside 25 acres from the harvest.
The area in question is part of DNR’s Reiter Forest that borders Wallace Falls State Park, roughly five miles north of Gold Bar. The county council unanimously passed the previous agreement, which DNR later declined.
The first resolution included input from various stakeholders, such as the junior taxing districts, state, county and environmental groups, Low said; it “had the support of everyone.”
For some, buy in was the reason the agreement made in the original resolution was upheld.
“When our local community reaches a compromise over contentious public issues, we will follow through on achieving that compromise,” said Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers in a statement.
Administrators of the Sultan School District, one of the sale’s beneficiaries, say they were frustrated by the decision, because it postpones the sale.
School district superintendent Dan Chaplik said the harvest has been consistently stalled since 2008. As a result, school district capital projects have gone unscheduled and unplanned due to a lack of funds. He said the school district is in the process of taking out a loan for a handful of improvements because, while the money will likely come eventually, waiting isn’t working.
In the recent resolution, the county agrees to explore other avenues for compensating taxing districts, such as Sno-Isle Libraries, the Sultan School District, Valley General Hospital and Fire District 26, for any reduced revenue in the reconfigured sale. The original resolution agreed the 25 acres would be safe for four years while the county came up with a way to make up the balance.
The Singletary sale, as the state planned, was responsible, Chaplik said. He said labeling the harvest as clear cutting is inappropriate.
“I have walked the property myself,” he said. “I certainly wouldn’t be in favor of an irresponsible forestry plan that mowed over a beautiful park, and that is not what you have at all. There are people out there that don’t want to see one tree cut from here to Moscow.”
Low said the original resolution marked the 25 acres as a special management area, so more trees would have been saved per acre than in regular harvests. Under the original resolution — the full 187-acre sale — DNR would have paid for project components, such as road construction and surveys required for conducting the harvest, he said.
The county will take over the 25 acres from DNR management, Redling said. It can only be managed as a park or wildlife area. The reconfigured sale will likely go to auction sometime in April or late spring. It will likely remain reduced acreage; another 25 acres will probably not be added on elsewhere, he said.