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. 


 

SINGLETARY LAWSUIT WIN!!

In May, attorney Wyatt Golding filed a suit on behalf of Pilchuck Audubon Society (PAS), Skykomish Valley Environmental and Economic Alliance (SVENA), and Friends of Wild Sky (FOWS) against the WA Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the DNR Board, and Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz regarding the Singletary Timber Sale directly east of Wallace Falls State Park. PAS members may recall that we have been fighting this sale for several years, and earlier this year the Snohomish County Council voted to reconvey a small portion (approximately 21 acres) of the sale back to the County in order to protect a new hiking trail.

The DNR chose not to perform a new State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) analysis, in spite of the new sale boundaries and the fact that the sale now borders County parkland. Furthermore, the DNR designated the trees on the now County-administered land as "leave trees;" uncut trees required by Forest Practices regulations.

On 11 August, Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Millie Judge agreed that these actions were clearly illegal, and remanded the DNR to perform a new threshold determination considering the new parkland, without using its trees as mitigation.

This is wonderful news, and will probably prevent Singletary from being logged—or roads or bridges built to access it—this year. We do not yet know whether the DNR or the American Forest Resource Council or Sierra Pacific Industries (the company that bought the sale), who had intervened in the suit, will appeal the decision.

Many thanks to all who have contacted their elected representatives to help us with this fight! We are extremely gratified by this win, but our work is not finished. The remaining sale footprint will obliterate other trails planned for the area, and would not give a sufficient buffer for the one already built. We will continue to work with the County Council and other agencies to permanently protect this area. We also will continue to work with representatives of the DNR to facilitate a more environmentally sound and recreationally friendly timber management program for all of the State managed lands between Wallace Falls State Park, Morning Star Natural Resource Conservation Area, and the Wild Sky Wilderness.


 

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.
  •  
  • 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).
  •  
  • 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.
  •  
  • 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!
  •  
  • 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.
  •  
  • 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.
  •  
  • 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.
  •  
  • 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


 

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.