The effort to prevent clear-cutting near a popular Snohomish County hiking spot is now headed to court.
Environmental and conservationist groups filed a lawsuit against the Department of Natural Resources on Tuesday. They're worried that 165 acres of forest that sit right next to Wallace Falls State Park will soon be logged.
In fact, the land is set to be sold at a timber auction on Wednesday morning.
"Some places just should not be logged," said Peter Goldman, director of the Washington Forest Law Center. "It's places that have very important wildlife habitats. Places that are very important for fish, endangered fish. Places that are really important to people."
Goldman believes Wallace Falls State Park is one of those places.
Goldman's also an environmental attorney who is representing the three organizations suing the Department of Natural Resources. Those organizations include The Pilchuck Audubon Society, Friends of the Wild Sky, and the Skykomish Valley Environmental and Economic Alliance.
"The lawsuit technically asks a judge to put a hold on all logging near the park until the state conducts an environmental review," said Goldman. "Because if it's clear-cut now, it won't be the same for 80 years. Take a look at what citizens want, and come back with a different plan."
DNR's Deputy Supervisor for State Uplands said that the department did look at what citizens want.
"In this instance, a great deal of work has gone into finding a solution around this timber sale that satisfies, to the best of our ability, DNR's trust mandate, the health of the habitat, and providing ample recreational opportunities in the area," wrote Angus Brodie. "I think it's important to note that 25 acres were removed from the sale to maintain trails around Wallace Falls Park. Those acres will not be logged."
The Department of Natural Resources also pointed out that the state constitution requires DNR to manage state-owned lands in a way that generates revenue for schools, hospitals, and other infrastructure needs. DNR meets that requirement by giving 75 percent of the money brought in from timber sales back to the county in which the land is located.
But those behind the lawsuit are critical of that policy, which dates back to 1889.
In the case of the timber sale adjacent to Wallace Falls State Park, they say the fact that Snohomish County took back control of 25 acres is proof that the county doesn't want the area to be logged, or the revenue from the timber sale.
"We had to go to court to try to put the brakes on a system that has failed us. This is happening because our system somehow believes it has to do this" said Goldman. "One cannot imagine a worse place to log than this. The natural beauty is part of the economy here."
The land adjacent to Wallace Falls State Park will be sold at auction 10 a.m. Wednesday morning at DNR's office in Sedro-Woolley. The sale allows the harvest of approximately 75-year-old trees, 72 percent of which are Douglas fir, from 165 acres of forest.
The minimum bid price, according to DNR, is $956,000. Twenty-five percent of that money goes back to the Department of Natural Resources. Seventy-five percent will go to Snohomish County and be used to support things like the state school levy, Valley General Hospital, Sno-Isle Library, Snohomish County roads, and Fire District 26 EMS.
But just because the sale is set for Wednesday does not mean that logging can start right away.
DNR says they still have to confirm the sale, which is standard protocol. In this case, due to the lawsuit filed on Tuesday, Brodie said no logging will occur until a judge weighs in and the issue is resolved in court.
"We respect the right of private citizens and non-governmental organizations to disagree with the Department of Natural Resources," said Brodie.
Goldman says their hope is that the judge will issue an injunction, putting any logging in the area near the park on hold until further environmental review is done.
"We care about this particular place," Goldman said. "We're not going to let it happen here."