Forest Practices Committee

PAS Forest Practices Committee is a subcommittee of the Conservation Committee that began in the late 1980’s with the National Audubon Society’s “Adopt-A-Forest” program. We “adopted” the Darrington and Skykomish Ranger Districts in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, and have been monitoring logging and other activities there ever since. We meet with Forest Service representatives, visit sites of proposed timber sales, roads, wilderness areas etc., and provide written comments (and sometimes appeals) on these and other National Forest activities.

Over the years, we have had many victories, saving old growth forests from chainsaws, and establishing a friendly working relationship with the Forest Service—even though we don’t always agree!

Please leave a message for Kathy Johnson at 360-659-7252 or forest@pilchuckaudubon.org if you are interested in what we are doing and/or would like to join us. 


 

US Forest Service Plans Massive Timber Sale in South Fork Stillaguamish Watershed

 

March 2016 — The US Forest Service (FS) has issued a scoping letter for a 6,750-acre thinning project in a 65,000-acre planning area encompassing the entire South Fork Stillaguamish and Canyon Creek watersheds within their jurisdiction. The entire area is designated as Late Successional Reserve (LSR) under the NW Forest Plan (NFP), to "protect and enhance conditions of late-successional and old-growth forest ecosystems, which serve as habitat for late-successional and old-growth related species." The FS maintains that this logging will benefit the forest by promoting development of old-growth characteristics. This is an unproven and dubious claim that, even if true, would not outweigh the damage caused by road (and possibly bridge) construction and removal of trees. The FS also plans to log within Riparian Reserves, the stream buffers that were included in the NFP to protect riparian areas and water quality.

 

Our concerns include:

  • The unprecedented size of this proposal alone necessitates the preparation of a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). At 65,000 acres, with logging occurring on 6,750 acres, the cumulative impacts will be undeniably significant. Any effects will be magnified by the vast scope of the project.
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  • The entire area is designated as Late Successional Reserve (LSR) under the NFP. All vegetation manipulation treatments proposed for the forested areas of LSRs must “protect and enhance conditions of late-successional and old-growth forest ecosystems, which serve as habitat for late-successional and old-growth related species” (ROD, C-9).
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  • Designated Critical Habitat exists within the planning area for Northern Spotted Owls and Marbled Murrelets. This area provides some of the first large blocks of old growth forest encountered as Marbled Murrelets fly inland from salt water. Removal of trees, roadbuilding, and noise from heavy equipment and helicopter use will adversely affect these species. Openings created by logging will attract corvids, which prey on murrelet eggs.
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  • The South Fork Stillaguamish and Canyon Creek are home to numerous ESA-listed salmonids and resident fish species. Logging and roadbuilding, particularly over such a large area, will have adverse impacts on water quality and fish habitat by increasing sediment and elevating stream temperatures. Conducting these activities in Riparian Reserves will intensify these effects and prevent the attainment of Aquatic Conservation Strategy Objectives. The Everett Daily Herald recently published an article detailing the dramatic decline of Coho salmon in the Stillaguamish River; 2015 returns were less than 10 percent of the projected returns!
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  • Road construction will magnify the risk for landslides, sedimentation of streams, wildfire, noxious weed introduction, and human disturbance including toxic waste dumping, poaching, and other wildlife harassment.
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  • These watersheds are notorious for unstable slopes with their attendant landslide risk. The Gold Basin slide has prompted enough concern for the Forest Service to close indefinitely the very popular campground by the same name, located across the river from the ongoing slide. Creating additional "vegetative disturbance" and road construction in this area would be irresponsible, to say the least.
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  • This is a highly popular recreation destination. There are many well-used hiking trails both overlapping and having views of proposed thinning areas. Thousands of people per year drive the Mountain Loop Highway to enjoy the views of the surrounding forested slopes and to fish, hunt, birdwatch, hike, camp, backpack, and climb there. The economic importance of recreation and tourism to the communities of Granite Falls and Darrington is significant.
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  • Effects of removal of so many trees over such a wide area on carbon storage and climate change.

 

The scoping letter with maps is available at the Forest Service website S.F. Stillaguamish Vegetation Management Project: http://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=48837

 

While PAS will be submitting comments for the organization, you can help by sending comments outlining the above issues and your personal concerns to: comments-pacificnorthwest-mtbaker-snoqualmie-darrington@fs.fed.us. At the very least, emphasize the need for the FS to issue an EIS for this project! Comments are requested by April 4, but may be considered after this date (the sooner the better, but better late than never). We have requested an extension of this deadline, but at press time have not had a response.

 

For more information, contact Kathy Johnson, forest@pilchuckaudubon.org


 

Singletary Timber Sale and May Creek

 

May 2015 — PAS worked with representatives of other organizations (Friends of Wild Sky, Alpine Lakes Protection Society, North Cascades Conservation Council, Sierra Club, and Washington Wild) to stop the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) from clearcutting land adjacent to Wallace Falls State Park. This logging will obliterate a new trail that the DNR is building to connect with the popular Wallace Falls trail. Snohomish County had recently purchased land for a trailhead for this trail.

 

The County did try to preserve the forest in the immediate vicinity of the trail by offering to forego their receipts from this sale, while preserving the monies that would go to local municipalities. Unfortunately, it appears that this is not allowed under State law. Unless the DNR decides to withdraw the sale, which they have shown no indication of doing, the logging will occur. We had hoped that the this land would be included in the recent additions to the Morning Star Natural Resources Conservation Area, preserving it for recreation and wildlife habitat. Unfortunately this did not occur, so you can expect to see a large clear cut next to Wallace Falls in the near future.

 

Jan 2016 — A fledgling local citizens' group called Skykomish Valley Environmental and Economic Alliance (SVENA) has reinvigorated the effort to preserve the forest in this area, where the DNR plans to clearcut directly over a new trail that leads to a beautiful and expensive new footbridge across the Wallace River. Snohomish County had purchased land for a trailhead parking area for this trail, which would connect to and take some of the pressure off the overcrowded adjacent Wallace Falls trail. The partially constructed new trail currently passes through scenic, mature second growth forest, which is well on its way to providing habitat for old-growth dependent species such as Marbled murrelets and Northern spotted owls. Few hikers will choose to walk through a clearcut instead. The effects on recreation and scenic resources would adversely impact tourism, a major economic force in the communities of the Skykomish Valley.

 

We feel that the DNR’s State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) evaluation did not adequately address the environmental effects of the proposed logging on recreation and wildlife, as well as water quality and habitat. The requisite roads would have their own set of problems, including wetland habitat destruction, increased stream siltation, and introduction of invasive weeds.

 

In addition, several bridges over May Creek, a tributary of the Skykomish River, have been proposed to provide access to the Singletary sale as well as other DNR timber sales planned in the area. These bridges may embody violations of the federal Clean Water Act (CWA), as their construction would result in fill and sedimentation entering essential fish habitat and spawning areas, decreasing water quality, and adversely impacting local tourism. We feel that the WA DNR should apply for permits under the CWA Section 404 prior to bridge construction.  The CWA permits would likely provide more stringent and enforceable conditions that would take into account impacts to threatened and endangered species and migratory waterfowl.

 

A letter of intent to sue the WA DNR on this basis has been sent by the Washington Forest Law Center on behalf of PAS, FOWS and SVENA. We hope that the DNR will be willing to negotiate to find a mutually agreeable resolution that will protect the environment.

 

 


 

GRANITE FALLS MOTOCROSS TRACK DEFEATED!

September 2015

 

In March, the Snohomish County Council denied an appeal by the Mountain Loop Conservancy (MLC), Pilchuck Audubon Society (PAS), and North Cascades Conservation Council (NCCC) and upheld the County Hearing Examiner’s decision to allow construction of a motocross racetrack near Granite Falls.

 

Ginger Amundson, Marty Robinett, and the MLC then filed an appeal with King County Superior Court of the Snohomish County Council decision to allow the zoning change from Forestry to Forestry and Recreation and construction of the track.  PAS and the NCCC, which had been party to earlier appeals of the track, did not join this suit as it was primarily based on procedural issues rather than concerns regarding effects on marbled murrelets that we had raised previously.

 

On Aug. 25, King County Superior Court Judge Douglass North vacated earlier approvals the track had received from the Snohomish County Council and the hearing examiner.  Judge North said the county improperly rezoned the property where the track was to be built, and had failed to demonstrate any changed circumstances in the neighborhood to justify the new zoning.   Without the zoning change, the track cannot be built.  The proponent, Gary Strode, has stated that he will not appeal the decision.  Snohomish County has not yet indicated whether they will appeal.