'Save Squak' -- Issaquah Alps Trails Club is Working with Local Residents to Prevent Clear Cut Logging of Land Adjoining King County's Cougar-Squak Mountain Recreational and Wildlife Corridor

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A Washington State DNR Forest Practices permit may soon be filed to allow clear cut logging of 216 acres of pristine forest on Issaquah's Squak Mountain, alongside the popular Cougar to Squak Mountain recreational and wildlife corridor in King County. The Issaquah Alps Trails Club is working with concerned citizens, conservation groups, and King County officials to evaluate possibilities for public acquisition and conversion of this land to open space.

Save Squak

Proposed Area for Clear Cut Logging in Issaquah Alps is located next to popular hiking area on Seattle's East Side, between King County's Wilderness Creek Trailhead and Squak Mountain State Park.

The Issaquah Alps Trails Club (IATC) has learned from local residents that a Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Forest Practices permit may soon be filed, allowing a logging company to potentially clear cut much of 216 acres of prime forest and wildlife habitat on Squak Mountain, which is located in Seattle’s eastside suburbs, in unincorporated Issaquah. Residents whose properties adjoin the proposed clearing have reported seeing bright pink tape on trees along thousands of feet of border with the property. Flagging using “Harvest Boundary” tape is a step required by DNR to mark areas to be logged.

The proposed area adjoins the Cougar-Squak Mountain corridor connecting approximately 5,000 acres of public parks and open spaces used for hiking, equestrian and other outdoor recreational activities on the two mountains as well as wildlife habitat and travel corridors. It provides a critical access to the south side of Squak Mountain State Park. It includes a headwater fork of May Creek. May Creek has been plagued for decades with increasing flooding caused by greater flows during storm events compounded by increased silt filling in the creek channel.

The logger is in the process of securing a state DNR permit for the logging. According to the IATC, area residents inquiring about the Washington State permit process for forest practices have learned that the protection of sensitive environmental areas required by King County regulations will not be required under the State DNR logging permit. It is also less likely that a State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) review would be required due to DNRs lesser regulations for land use under a State forest practices permit. The SEPA review looks at environmental impacts of projects and requires the submission of detailed mitigation plans prior to permit approval. Without the requirement for a SEPA review, however, the IATC understands there will be no public notification required and the State will approve the permit within 30 days of submission without any formal process for hearing public comment. Timber harvesting could then begin immediately.

The IATC has heard from numerous concerned area residents who worry not only about the aesthetics, noise, and road use concerns related to logging this portion of Squak Mountain’s pristine forest, but the after effects to natural plant and animal habitats which will be displaced or destroyed. Concerns have been widely raised to IATC about the likelihood of increased flooding on May Valley properties due to increased water flow and soil erosion following deforestation. Environmental concerns include the possibility of devastating effects to delicate salmon and fish habitats now under a King County restoration project in the May Creek Basin. May Creek is a tributary to Lake Washington, supporting salmon runs and draining the area to the north of Cedar River and west of Issaquah Creek, including parts of the cities of Renton and Newcastle.

In communications with IATC and concerned neighbors, the logger has indicated his first preference would be to sell the land to King County unlogged. However since it may take time for the County to raise funds for acquisition, the logger has indicated his willingness to discuss phasing acquisitions and/or modifying logging plans if he and the County are working on a longer-term acquisition plan. IATC believes that key areas of this acreage have not been logged since the 1920s. While the dense forests and wilderness on this acreage make the land attractive for timber sales, IATC recognizes that preserving this land for public use in the Cougar-Squak Mountain corridor is aligned with King County’s ongoing efforts to connect public trails and preserve dense forests and wilderness habitats and migration corridors for numerous native birds, fish and other wildlife. The close proximity to major urban populations also increases the public value of this property because of the recreational opportunities it would provide year round.

Over the last few weeks, numerous residents and interested citizens have contacted King County to request their help in acquiring this key property connecting Cougar and Squak mountains. As a result of these efforts, this statement was just released by King County:

King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks is in the process of determining its land acquisition priorities for grant funding that would be available in late 2013/early 2014. The property recently purchased by Kurt Erickson in the Cougar Squak area is one of the properties being evaluated for possible purchase. This property meets many of the County’s general park acquisition ranking criteria. Part of the County’s evaluation will be to assess possible strategies to purchase the property with or without it being logged, exploring the potential of restructuring forest management plans prior to selling and consideration of a phased acquisition. King County staff has already initiated discussions with Kurt Erickson and will be conducting a site visit with him in the near future to further assess the site to inform recommendations about a potential acquisition strategy. Final decision about the County’s acquisition priorities for this year will be made in early to mid-March.

Says David Kappler, President of IATC, “Many contacts have been made with all levels of county government and we are very pleased with the response King County has shown.” The IATC has encouraged the Mountains to Sound Greenway, Trust for Public Lands, and Forterra (formerly Cascade Land Conservancy) to evaluate this land for acquisition and work with King County, adjoining property owners, and the logger to help develop an acquisition plan that supports their analysis of the public value this land provides the region. The IATC is leading an effort to encourage all concerned individuals and entities to immediately contact public officials and conservation groups to highlight the urgent need for public acquisition of this land.

About Issaquah Alps Trails Club
The Issaquah Alps Trails Club (IATC) formed in 1979, is an Issaquah-based not-for-profit recreation and conservation group devoted to hiking, establishing and improving trails, and advocacy for open space protection in central King County. The original focus of IATC was directed towards Cougar, Squak and Tiger Mountains, also known as the “Issaquah Alps.” In 1990, the Issaquah Alps Trails Club organized the first ‘Mountains to Sound March’, a hike from Snoqualmie Pass to Elliott Bay in Seattle, to publicize the need to preserve a scenic greenbelt connecting Seattle to the Cascade Mountains. Following this march, the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust was founded by regional leaders. IATC leads over a hundred hikes a year in the Greenway and works on acquisitions and planning throughout the Greenway. However, the focus of IATC’s efforts remains directed towards conservation and the establishment of hiking trails in the “Issaquah Alps.”

The community has established a website and a Facebook page to provide additional information and organize community efforts to conserve this land for open space:

Media Contact
David Kappler, President
Issaquah Alps Trail Club
PO Box 351
Issaquah, WA 98027
425-392-3571 or 425-652-2753

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David Kappler, President
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