Preserving Forestlands in the Teanaway River Valley
Middle Fork Teanaway River, photo courtesy of Karl Forsgaard
In the Teanaway River valley, WFLC is representing a coalition of conservation and recreation organizations who want the land to retain its designation as forestland of long-term commercial significance. Under the Growth Management Act, Kittitas County is conducting a Subarea Plan process to consider American Forest Land Company’s proposal to convert many acres of designated forestland into a remote, sprawling housing development.
In August 2009, Kittitas County launched a planning process for 55,000 acres of land in the Teanaway River valley. Under the Growth Management Act (GMA), Kittitas County’s Comprehensive Plan has designated most of this area as forestland of long-term commercial significance. However, the principal owner seeks a “zoning exchange” to change that designation on some of its land, so that the land could be converted to uses other than forestry. In particular, the owner has announced plans to construct a “fully contained community” with an undisclosed number of housing units, between the West and Middle Forks of the Teanaway.
Conservation organizations are opposing the proposed development, for several reasons:
- The area can continue to be managed for commercial forestry.
- Conversion to other uses would adversely affect the environment including fish and wildlife habitat. The Teanaway River is designated as critical habitat for the threatened bull trout and the threatened steelhead trout under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). The forest includes habitat for a wide range of species including the northern spotted owl, listed as a threatened species under the ESA, and the State has included it in a Spotted Owl Special Emphasis Area. The river valleys are elk calving areas, and the area includes a mule deer winter range.
- There are many economic and practical constraints on development of a “fully contained community” on this land, such as the limited water supply, limited public facilities and services, limited access, and oversupply of vacant housing in the surrounding area.
These private forestlands are south of the National Forest, familiar to those who have driven up the North, Middle or West Forks of the Teanaway. American Forest Holdings LLC (formerly known as U.S. Timberlands) owns 46,851 of the acres, managed by its affiliate AFLC. Eighty-five percent of the land managed by AFLC is designated forestland of long-term commercial significance, and was designated that way when U.S. Timberlands purchased the land in 1999.
AFLC is paying the County’s costs of conducting this new process for the Teanaway. Because the County is understaffed, it hired a consulting land-use planner to run the process (at AFLC expense).
The County’s process timeline includes several rounds of public meetings and hearings for the DEIS, EIS, Comp Plan Amendments and Development Regulations, expected to go through the end of 2011. The County website has space devoted to this Upper Teanaway Subarea Plan process at: http://www.co.kittitas.wa.us/cds/teanaway.asp
Public documents available on the County website include:
- Planning Process Flowchart
- Selected Resource Maps
- Our coalition’s September 29, 2009 comment letter
- Yakama Nation’s September 25, 2009 comment letter
- AFLC’s October 28, 2009 presentation
On behalf of a coalition of conservation and recreation organizations, WFLC is advocating for the land to retain its designation as forestland of long-term commercial significance. WFLC clients include Alpine Lakes Protection Society; American Rivers; Conservation Northwest; Kittitas Audubon Society; Kittitas County Conservation Coalition; Futurewise; The Mountaineers; North Cascades Conservation Council; RIDGE; Sierra Club; Washington Environmental Council; and Wild Fish Conservancy.
Read the October 3, 2010 Ellensburg Daily Record article, “AFLC seeks longer planning delay”
Read the October 3, 2009 Ellensburg Daily Record article, "Teanaway development plan could bring legal challenges"
Read the October 29, 2009 Ellensburg Daily Record article, "Teanaway plan draws heated opposition”
Read the November 5, 2009 Ellensburg Daily Record article, "Teanaway sub-area plans on hold”
Read the November 10, 2009 High Country News blog, “The case of the missing binders”
Read the November 14, 2009 Ellensburg Daily Record article, "Documents case given to prosecutor”
Read the May 28, 2010 Ellensburg Daily Record article, "Kittitas County prosecutor does not file charges in AFLC binders"
Read the September 9, 2010 Ellensburg Daily Record article, "Teanaway planning to start soon"