The Singletary timber harvest has been put on hold.

Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Millie Judge decided on Aug. 11 to uphold an appeal of the sale by three environmental groups. Her ruling requires the Department of Natural Resources to conduct another State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) review of the acreage.

Friends of the Wild Sky, the Pilchuck Audubon Society and the Skykomish Environmental and Economic Alliance (SVENA) hoped the lawsuit filed this spring would stop the logging altogether. They believed it might be able to inspire development of an alternative route to make use of the land.

DNR spokesperson Bob Redling said the agency is not ready to comment on whether a review will be attempted before the start of the rainy season or if the process will be postponed until next year.

In her decision, Judge determined the DNR failed to provide enough analysis of the harvest area post initiation of the reconveyance process. The materials addressed the new size of the sale, which was reduced to 166 acres; it did not include a plan to protect the 21-acre parcel the agency helped Snohomish County identify, according to court documents.

Trails that are part of the Reiter Foothills Forest Recreation Plan system cross the separated 21 acres, according to court documents. The DNR intends to shut those down while the harvest takes place. The agency will also need to build logging roads, bridges, and potentially in-stream and in-wetland work.

The plan was to leave 1,464 trees unharvested out of the original 187 acres, according to court documents. DNR argued further studies were not needed, in part because the county could still change its mind about the reconveyance, which has not been completed.

Judge disagreed.

“Instead, DNR erroneously concluded that it could consider trees that will remain on the 21-acre county parcel as part of its mitigation plan simply because the county is restricted to as its future use of that land for park purposes,” according to court documents.

The DNR needed to provide more work that shows the 21 acres are being treated as distinct property. 

The harvest has been heavily debated since it was first planned for on the county-owned, DNR-managed land nearly a decade ago. Judge's decision noted Singletary has met its share of resistance.

“Public opposition to the sale for harvest has been fierce,” according to court documents.

Members of SVENA, Pilchuck Audobon and Friends of the Wild Sky are concerned about the impact logging will have on the environment and local tourism industries.

The county council determined last winter to address the objections. District 5 Councilmember Sam Low worked with Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz to reach an agreement that was supported by the council and County Executive Dave Somers.

The joint resolution encouraged DNR to remove 25 acres that surrounded trails from the sale. The Washington State Board of Natural Resources subsequently voted to maintain the original acreage. In response, the council overrode the decision and took back management of the suggested block.

“When our local community reaches a compromise over contentious public issues, we will follow through on achieving that compromise,” Somers had said.

The reconveyance was initiated and the final sale went forward in May, according to court documents.

Three companies made bids for the remaining acres on May 24. The sale came one day after the three environmental groups filed the lawsuit.

At the time, DNR representatives said they believed the agency had provided enough analysis in their studies.

“A great deal of work has gone into finding a solution around the Singletary sale that satisfies, to the best of our ability, DNR’s trust mandate, the health of the habitat and providing ample recreational opportunities in the area,” said Deputy Supervisor of State Uplands Angus Brodie in a previous prepared statement.

Brodie stated the 25-acre chunk was enough to preserve the existing park and trails, and that Franz and the agency would work closely with the community to carry out the Reiter Foothills Recreation Plan, which will increase public access in the forest.

The minimum allowed bid was $956,000. The United States’ second largest lumber producer Sierra Pacific Industries put in the highest offer at more than $1.32 million. The California-based business operates a mill in Burlington, which employs about 200 people, plus others in Washington.

According to the contract, the company was required to complete the harvest by 2020.

Of the revenue made from the Singletary sale, the state will take about 25 percent, and the county will take about 75 percent. DNR will use its portion for land management activities aimed at generating revenue.

Chunks will go to Snohomish County Roads and the state school levy general fund. The Sultan School District will receive about $400,000 for maintenance and operations, but the sum will be deducted from districts’ state apportionment funding. Smaller portions will go to Fire District 26 EMS, the Sno-Isle Library system, the Valley General Hospital and local taxing districts.

In the most recent joint resolution, the county agrees to explore other avenues for compensating taxing districts 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.