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White River Forest Land Deal Would Protect 43,000 Acres East of Enumclaw

King County Executive Dow Constantine announced a preservation agreement Thursday.

A preservation agreement announced Thursday would permanently protect 43,000 acres of the White River Forest from development east of Enumclaw, King County Executive Dow Constantine said.

“This is the largest swath of unprotected forestland remaining in King County,” said Constantine. “With this agreement, we will dramatically extend our green wall against sprawl, and achieve the ambitious goal set a decade ago of protecting 200,000 acres of working forests countywide.”

The $11.1 million deal with Hancock Timber Resource Group would keep the land, which is open to public use with permits, privately owned with “the right to harvest timber sustainably.”

Beginning last year, Hancock required permits for recreational use of the land both for motorized and non-motorized access where prior to that only motorized access required permits. Prices for non-motorized access permits had initially been $75 a year for an individual, and a family permit covering the married couple and any children under age 19 and cost $150.

In 2013, Hancock announced those permit fees were reduced for $45 for an individual and $80 for a family.

Here’s the full text of the announcement:

King County Executive Dow Constantine today said he has reached an agreement to permanently protect the 43,000 acres of the White River Forest east of Enumclaw from development – an area roughly twice the size of the city of Bellevue.

“This is the largest swath of unprotected forestland remaining in King County,” said Executive Constantine. “With this agreement, we will dramatically extend our green wall against sprawl, and achieve the ambitious goal set a decade ago of protecting 200,000 acres of working forests countywide.”

Managed by the Hancock Timber Resource Group, the White River Forest is located along scenic Highway 410, which takes motorists to Crystal Mountain ski resort in the winter and over Chinook pass in the summer.

To purchase development rights to the property, the Executive today sent legislation to the County Council to authorize $8.1 million in existing funding from the County’s dedicated open space fund known as the Conservation Futures Fund. The Council last fall approved $3 million from Conservation Futures and from the King County Parks levy toward the total $11.1 million price. The land would remain in private ownership with the right to harvest timber sustainably.

Dan Christensen, CEO of Hancock Timber Resource Group, said the Company is committed to conservation efforts and managing forests sustainably.

“We are pleased to move one step closer to our common goal of protecting the impressive White River property as a working forest in perpetuity. We appreciate the commitment of Executive Constantine and King County in preserving the forest with its economic, social and environmental benefits for generations to come,” Christensen said. “With the conservation of the White River forest, the Hancock Timber Resource Group’s Sensitive Lands program would surpass more than 470,000 acres protected globally. A significant part of that work has been accomplished right here in King County and we greatly respect the County’s ongoing efforts to conserve vital working forests.”

“Protecting these lands will preserve resource jobs, open space, fish and wildlife habitat, and a significant view corridor for the people of King County,” said King County Councilmember Larry Phillips. “This is an important legacy to leave for future generations, building on the hundreds of thousands of acres of open space we’ve preserved in King County.  I am proud to continue the County Council’s work finalizing the funding package we began assembling last year toward this preservation effort.”

The White River Forest is a critical component to a large north-south wildlife habitat link that connects Mount Rainier National Park in the south to the upper Green and Cedar River watersheds that lie to the north. It is also an important east-west wildlife corridor, providing an uninterrupted link from the lowlands to the Cascade crest.

“This land protection deal ensures the White River valley remains a working forest that encompasses all the economic and conservation principles that are important to thriving forest lands,” said Councilmember Reagan Dunn. “This sale preserves not just a working forest and local jobs but also an area where county residents currently enjoy various outdoor recreation activities such as hiking, horseback riding, hunting and fishing.”

“Since the 43,000-acre forest would continue to act – forever into the future – as a ‘carbon sink’ by absorbing greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere and storing them in trees, preserving this forest helps the County address our climate change goals,” said Councilmember Joe McDermott.

Making up nearly one-fifth of the private commercial forest lands in King County, the White River Forest is an important part of the County’s timber resource industry. An analysis of countywide timber harvest data suggested that in 2010 the White River Forest yielded nearly 10 million board-feet with an estimated timber value of $3.5 million, supporting more than 350 jobs in forestry.

For more information, including maps of the White River Forest receiving protection, please visit www.kingcounty.gov/whiteriverforest.

Margaret Santjer March 21, 2013 at 08:16 PM
We're having technical difficulties uploading the maps to show the forest land in the deal. In the meantime, click the link at the bottom of the article to access the maps from King County.
Megatron March 21, 2013 at 08:18 PM
It all sounds good. However, this is right in step with U.N. Sustainable Development Agenda 21. Nice words like "Sustainability" and "Smart Growth." If you have never heard of it I suggest you read "Behind The Green Mask: U.N. Agenda 21."
lifelonglocal March 21, 2013 at 08:35 PM
I am questioning the part about " “This sale preserves not just a working forest and local jobs but also an area where county residents currently enjoy various outdoor recreation activities such as hiking, horseback riding, hunting and fishing.” ? Being from the area I would like to know what part of the White River is accesable to fish? along with when did Hancock open the land back up to hiking, horseback riding and hunting? Oh that's right. They didn't unless you want to purchase a very expensive permit each year. It sounds great on paper but it's not a great plan. Save the land but allow people to use it.
April Chan March 21, 2013 at 08:56 PM
Hi lifelonglocal - I totally get the frustration with the need to purchase another permit. Upon your comment, I went back to Hancock and checked about those permit prices and did find for 2013 they reduced the cost for non-motorized access for an annual pass for an individual and for a family to $45 and $80, respectively. I'm not sure how much this price reduction might influence whether folks will now buy a permit, but it's something.
joe bode March 21, 2013 at 09:09 PM
I don't get it. What the heck did we pay 11.1 million dollars for? They continue to own it make money from it and charge us to use it. We the people can control who they sell it to or how they use it through zoning or just denying all permits for development. Why do we have to pay for this? Can someone clarify? Preferably a land use lawyer. Chains61
April Chan March 21, 2013 at 09:25 PM
Hi Joe - Not a land use lawyer here, but what's happened here is that Hancock still owns the land. They purchased it in 2003 (http://www.bizjournals.com/seattle/stories/2003/03/03/focus3.html?page=all) and its still theirs to own and manage...and charge fees if they so choose. King County purchased the development rights to that land with the intent to conserve the resource and limit development. They did the same thing with the Snoqualmie Tree Farm in 2009 (http://www.ci.snoqualmie.wa.us/SustainableSnoqualmie/ConservationinSnoqualmie/SnoqualmieTreeFarm.aspx). Should Hancock one day sell that land, this agreement still holds for the new owner.
Thomas Spencer March 22, 2013 at 02:40 AM
Wow, I am glad someone is awake, save the sustainable & push Americans into city work camps.
Thomas Spencer March 22, 2013 at 02:56 AM
This answers a question I had a year and ahalf ago: "What was a United Nations truck doing in the Safeway parking lot and later on Hwy 410 by Greenwater?" Now I know, Agenda 21 the UN just did a global land grab right in my back yard.
joe bode March 22, 2013 at 02:41 PM
Thanks April I understand but I think they should have done this by law somehow.
dexterjibs March 23, 2013 at 04:45 AM
Unbelievable. All the buzzwords of sustainability, conservation, green, sprawl etc. This is straight from the U.N. and tax payers are paying for it. This country continues to shoot itself in the foot. Now it is the local level of government and private business doing it as well as the federal government. I won't hail this as something good.
April Chan March 26, 2013 at 10:01 PM
Agreed, Joe, and I'll admit the tone of this item made the deal seem final when in fact it's still going through county council review process. An ordinance authorizing the funding is expected in early May 2013. Thanks to Enumclaw City Councilman Darrell Dickson for pointing that out. There should be opportunity for public comment at the county level and it appears the city is aiming to weigh in as well.
dexterjibs March 27, 2013 at 06:07 AM
Going back to my high school history and college politcal science class; if I recall correctly, fascism is defined as private companies that are controlled by government through regulation. These private/public agreements that seem to be more prevalent are the quickest way to lost freedom. The right is concerned about government intrusion into our lives and the left is concerned about corporations intruding upon our lives. But what happens when government and corporations team up? Well, so far, I think the right is the only group that seems to be concerned about these public/private agreements.
Linda April 03, 2013 at 03:42 AM
This acquisition of development rights preserves timber jobs, preserves wildlife habitat, preserves views from our city, and preserves private property rights. What is not to like?
Karen Jensen April 04, 2013 at 01:12 AM
As a landowner they can do what they want with their land. If they don't want you on their land pay or not they can and will close it. What makes anyone think you can go on private property? Even with the county buying the development rights, it does not say we the people can use it.
Helen April 24, 2013 at 02:41 PM
Paranoid much?

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