Popular hiking spots face clear-cutting

Two popular hiking spots may open to logging trucks and clear-cuts as early as this Spring. Conservation groups are rallying to prevent that.

SAMISH BAY, Wash. - Oyster Dome and Wallace State Park, both popular hiking spots, may open to logging and clear-cutting later this year despite rallying cries from conservation groups.

Three hiking friends recently used their film production business to push momentum to save the Oyster Dome area, one of their favorite trails.

RC Clark, Cole Cramer, and Tyler Whitmire created Endless Film Production after college. The short video is their way of giving a loud voice to the trail known for quiet.

"The Oyster Dome is one of the most beautiful views in the state. If there's anything we can do to prevent the logging of the area, we wanted to do what we could to make sure that didn't happen," Clark said.

Clark and his business partners recently learned that 125 acres in the Blanchard Forest area just south of the popular Skagit County trail is slated for timber sale this summer.

"Instead of walking among beautiful evergreen trees and plants and hearing birds, instead of seeing all that you're just going to be walking among stuff like this which can be beautiful but really isn't. You'd probably go somewhere else," Clark said.

It's the same rally cry further east, where Wallace Falls State Park faces logging of nearly 187 acres. It will be sold at a timber auction February 22. The minimum bid is $1.57 million.

"Wallace Falls State Park has more than 170,000 visitors year after year," said Inessa Pearce, who created an advocacy organization called SVENA two years ago to stop the logging. 

After dozens of meetings with leaders and community members, Pearce thought they'd found a compromise. Snohomish County voted to save 25 acres of the 189 acres that would be sold. Soon after, though, the Department of Natural Resources Board voted against it.

"It felt up and down. At times, I had big hopes and big plans. At times it's a complete disaster," Pearce said.

Pearce worries the clear cut won't just hurt the environment. She owns a small business that relies on recreation.

"Every single business in the valley benefits directly or indirectly from recreation," Pearce said.

But schools and other county departments benefit from timber sales. The state says it has to allow logging. The Wallace Falls logging will go toward Snohomish County services, like the state school levy, Valley General Hospital, Fire District 26 EMS, and the Sno-Isle Library system.

At the Oyster Dome, officials say they could log elsewhere.

In 2006, the Department of Natural Resources and local partners agreed to temporarily protect 1,600 acres in the forest for a future natural conservation area. However, DNR was required to seek legislative funding to purchase replacement forestland elsewhere in Skagit County. The legislature has already set aside $6.5 million but needs another $7.7 million to complete the deal. If the money is not secured by July, the timber sale will go through. About 40 percent of the sale would be within the 1600-acre temporary conservation area.

The Blanchard Forest sale will net about $1.8 million, but Clark and others say the land is worth more than money. They worry decision makers can't see the forest through the trees.

"The general consensus is, people aren't against logging, because that's necessary to fund the local community,” Clark said. “But it can be done in a place other than this place."

Copyright 2017 KING


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