Final acquisition set for Squak Mountain forest, with King County-The Trust for Public Land accord

Public celebration May 10 of 226-acre forest acquired for recreation, habitat

A public celebration is set to commemorate preservation of 226 acres of high-quality forestland in the IssaquahSquak_Mountain_timber Alps – the result of a partnership between King County and The Trust for Public Land. This acquisition adds to King County’s Cougar-Squak Corridor parkland.

“Our partnership to protect Squak Mountain’s irreplaceable fish and wildlife habitat is cause for celebration,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “I want to thank The Trust for Public Land and the people of King County on behalf of generations who will enjoy hiking, viewing wildlife, and other recreation in this forest.”

“Our mission is saving land for people, and that’s exactly what we’ve done here,” said Paul Kundtz, State Director for The Trust for Public Land. “We’re very proud to have helped add Squak Mountain forest to King County’s publicly owned lands.”

“Preserving Squak Mountain answers the public call to save the forest from clear cutting and protects this cherished habitat and recreational area adjacent to prized County and State parks,” said King County Council Chair Larry Phillips. “I thank The Trust for Public Land for partnering with us to preserve this property.”

“This is a great victory for the residents around Squak Mountain that brought this important issue to our attention,” said King County Council member Reagan Dunn, whose district includes Squak Mountain. “Thanks to the advocacy of organizations such as “Save Squak” and the Issaquah Alps Trail Club we are saving valuable habitat while increasing recreational opportunities for King County residents.

A public celebration of the Squak Mountain forest acquisition is scheduled for May 10, when partnership leaders and environmental supporters will make brief remarks and invite everyone to take any of several short guided hikes through the forest.

This forestland is closed to the public until 2015, so the May 10 event will be an early opportunity for the public to see the property. King County Parks must prepare the site for public use before full access can be allowed, including property clean-up, removing infrastructure, establishing trail routes, and ensuring property is safe and ready for public use.

The Trust for Public Land purchased the 226–acre property in six parcels from the previous landowner. King County recently purchased about half of the total acreage from The Trust for Public Land using King County Parks Levy regional open space funds, Conservation Futures funds, and Real Estate Excise Taxes.

The Trust for Public Land will retain ownership of the remaining acreage until King County raises the additional funds to complete the purchase, when it will be added to the County’s Cougar-Squak Corridor.

Parks will open the property for hiking-only use in 2015. Parks anticipates having a public planning process in 2015 to help determine future uses for the site.

The May 10 public celebration event starts at 10 a.m. and includes options for hikes of varying lengths through the property. Access to the celebration location is at 10610 Renton-Issaquah Road SE (State Route 900) (Click here for map).

There has been significant interest in the public to see this land, trail system, and natural resources conserved. The grassroots efforts were led by the organization “Save Squak” which helped focus community energy in support of this acquisition.

“We could not have wished for or imagined a better cooperative effort between citizen groups, all levels and departments within King County and The Trust for Public Land,” said David Kappler of the Issaquah Alps Trail Club, and a primary organizer of the Save Squak citizens group.

King County has been 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 seven-mile-long salmon stream that flows into Lake Washington, rise here.

A prominent natural feature visible from State Route 900 on the Mountains to Sound Greenway, this part of Squak Mountain has long been used as a private forest camp and is wedged between Squak Mountain State Park and King County’s Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland 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

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/.

King County Proposition No. 1 — Parks Levy PASSES

King County Proposition 1, the Parks Levy passed overwhelmingly with over 70% of the vote cast. The Parks Levy is key for saving the Squak Mountain parcels from clear cutting. It is one of the funding sources for King County to acquire the land from the Trust for Public Land which is facilitating the preservation by buying the land from Erickson Logging and holding onto it until King County can budget the necessary funds.

Many thanks to all the voters in King County who helped pass the Parks Levy. You not only helped Save Squak, but you have helped many other worthy projects focused on preserving park land for current and future generations.

Issaquah Press: “Agreement protects Squak from logging”

August 6, 2013, Issaquah Press: “Agreement protects Squak from logging”

Peter Clark of the Issaquah Press had a good article this week about the joint success of Trust for Public Land and King County in purchasing the Squak Mountain forest land from Erickson Logging.

Wyatt Golding at the Washington Forest Law Center, which was instrumental in providing pro bono legal services to the effort to stop the proposed logging, gave a shout-out to the Issaquah Alps Trail Club and Save Squak for the grassroots citizen effort:

“Issaquah Alps Trails Club and Save Squak made an enormous difference in this process by reviewing forestry applications and working with WFLC and the Department of Natural Resources to help ensure enforcement of state forestry laws,” Golding said. “Their members are people who live and work in the area immediately surrounding the forest. They used their local knowledge to explain the drastic environmental impacts that would result from logging. We believe those efforts ultimately helped to incentivize a sale.”

Click here to read the complete article in the Issaquah Press.

Please Vote “YES” for King County Proposition No. 1 — Parks Levy

The Squak Mountain forest parcels were saved from clear cutting because The Trust for Public Land has agreed to purchase the land and hold it for later purchase by King County. Funding for the King County purchase will come, in part, from a renewed parks levy.

The Park Levy is not a new tax but is a renewal of two expiring levies. Funds from the levy are used to:

  • Keep King County parks clean, open and safe
  • Complete missing links in the regional trail system
  • Pay for critical repairs and maintenance
  • Fund local city parks and Woodland Park Zoo

To ensure the Squak Mountain forest lands are acquired and preserved, King County must have adequate funds. Please cast a “Yes” vote for the Parks Levy, Proposition No. 1, in the August 6 primary. Don’t forget to mark and mail your ballots in before Tuesday. Thank you!

WHEN YOU VOTE, remember that King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn pledged his support to Save Squak early and publicly, in a February 19th speech given to the Issaquah City Council.

WHEN YOU VOTE, remember that King County Executive Dow Constantine signed the agreement with the Trust for Public Land and landowner/logger Kurt Erickson, agreeing to purchase the 216 acres of threatened land on Squak Mountain.

Save Squak endorses both Reagan Dunn and Dow Constantine in their bids for re-election and Save Squak lauds them for their conservation efforts here and throughout Greater Seattle.

Joint News Release from Issaquah Alps Trail Club, Save Squak & Washington Forest Law Center

July 25, 2013

“Save Squak” Deal Inked Between Logger and King County Park and Trust for Public Land. Founders of Squal Conservation Effort Push King County Voters to Fund Deal by Renewing August 6 King County Parks Levy.

We are pleased with the announcement that the Trust for Public Lands and King County signed a purchase and sale agreement with the owner on July 18th for 216 acres of forest land on Squak Mountain located in the Mountains to Sound Greenway view corridor along State Route 900 in King County’s unincorporated Issaquah. This agreement is the first official milestone in bringing this land, slated for a clear cut logging operation, into public ownership where it will be preserved as public forest, wildlife habitat, parks, recreation and open space. The 216 acres will be purchased for $5 million, with funding assistance provided to King County by the Trust for Public Lands. King County will use parks levy funds such as the King County Conservation Futures to secure this purchase. Renewal of the King County Parks levy on the August 6th primary ballot will be absolutely critical as a fundraising source to close this purchase and ensure monies are available to purchase other conservation land.

Issaquah Reporter: “Done deal — Trust for Public Land and Kurt Erickson come to terms on Squak Mountain.”

July 23, 2013, Issaquah Reporter: “Done deal | Trust for Public Land and Kurt Erickson come to terms on Squak Mountain.”

Issaquah Reporter’s Linda Ball reports the successful negotiations between Trust for Public Land and Erickson Logging to acquire the Squak Mountain forest lands for King County:

An agreement has been reached between logger Kurt Erickson and the Trust for Public Lands, for TPL to preserve 216 acres of forestland that Erickson owns, on Squak Mountain, following several months of negotiations between the parties.

King County Executive Dow Constantine and The Trust for Public Land (TPL) announced the agreement, signed July 18, to purchase the forestland for $5 million.

“This is forest that people have cherished for generations and which, thanks to the partnership of The Trust for Public Land, will no longer be threatened, forever to be enjoyed and appreciated,” Constantine said.

Erickson said he would have preferred to keep the property, but he said it was great to get this over with.

“I want people to know that I worked to cooperate,” Erickson said. “It was a big driving force to cooperate for everyone to be happy.”

He said he understood both sides of the issue. The residents of Squak Mountain wanted the property to remain as it is to avoid issues of flooding and erosion — but he said he views his work as a craft.

“TPL worked hard to get it right,” Erickson said.

Click here to read the entire article at the Issaquah Reporter.

 

SUCCESS! Issaquah Press: “Partnership reaches agreement to save Squak Mountain forestland”

July 22, 2013, Issaquah Press: “Partnership reaches agreement to save Squak Mountain forestland”

The Issaquah Press broke the long anticipated news that a deal is finally in place for King County to acquire and protect the vulnerable Squak Mountain forestland with the assistance of the Trust for Public Land:

An agreement has been finalized for permanent public ownership of 216 acres of forestland on Squak Mountain, following several months of negotiations with the landowner.

King County Executive Dow Constantine and The Trust for Public Land announced the agreement, signed July 18, to purchase the forestland for $5 million.

Click to read the complete article at the Issaquah Press.

Click to read the joint King County & Trust for Public Land news release.

 

 

Issaquah Reporter: “State disapproves of latest application to log Squak”

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.”

Click here to read the full article in The Issaquah Reporter.

BREAKING NEWS: DNR Denies Latest Erickson Logging Permit Application

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:

Mr. Kappler,

Application 2416123 was disapproved today for the following reason:

Forest Practices is  requiring the Marbled Murrelet form to be completed for this application.

Bruce McDonald
Forest Practice District Manager
South Puget Sound Region
Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR)
office (360) 802- 7009
cell      (206) 920-5908
bruce.mcdonald@dnr.wa.gov
www.dnr.wa.gov

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.

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