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Protecting the environment by providing legal services for forest cases of statewide significance.

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Issaquah Reporter: "Plot thickens on Squak"

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March 20, 2013 -- Logging permit withdrawn by landowner amid concerns for fish habitat protection.

By Linda Ball
Staff Writer

Kurt Erickson of Erickson Logging, Inc., has withdrawn his forest practices permit application, because as it is now it would be denied.

Representatives from the Department of Natural Resources, the Muckleshoot Tribe and the Department of Fish and Wildlife went out to look at the property March 14.

“One of the streams met the requirement for potential (fish) habitat,” said Jim Heuring, program coordinator with the DNR South Puget Sound Region. “We look at a stream — its gradient, and size. If it’s greater than 2-feet wide and less than 20 percent gradient then it’s identified as a fish-bearing stream.”

Erickson said he will apply again. Foresting consultant Paul Graves, who is working with Erickson said they will start over, because they will have to apply with appropriate fish buffers.

“As soon as we get this clarified, we have to re-flag the buffers,” Graves said.

Erickson is still willing to sell the 216 acres to King County if the county can come up with the money, thereby preserving the forested land.

Logan Harris with the King County department of natural resources said an application for $2 million has been submitted to the conservation futures citizens oversight committee. The committee is a citizen’s body which reviews applications for requests for money from the Conservation Futures fund.

The Conservation Futures tax levy funds are collected from property taxes levied throughout the county and its cities for the purchase and permanent protection of open space lands.

Harris said $1.5 million is being requested from the parks levy fund, with the other half million from conservation futures. The same committee decides on parks levy funds. The parks levy funding is up for renewal in August.

“How that vote comes out will have an impact on whether that funding is available,” Harris said.

Typically the committee makes its recommendations in June, with the King County Council making the ultimate decision in November.

But that may not be fast enough. If Erickson is successful in securing a permit a second time, he can begin to harvest timber 30 days after his permit is approved.

In addition to flooding concerns for residents at the base of the mountain, Cathy Brandt, who lives near the top of the mountain is advocating for the wildlife on the mountain. Squak Mountain serves as a corridor for several species of animals who use the mountain to cross from Tiger Mountain to Cougar Mountain.

“Even if people have the right to do something, you need to look at the long-term effects of land-use practices,” Brandt said.

She said the Issaquah Alps Trail Club hopes a large organization will step up and try to buy the property if, say, the community could match it dollar-for-dollar.

Also, the Issaquah Alps Trails Club and its grassroots citizen group, Save Squak, have secured pro-bono representation with The Washington Forest Law Center, a non-profit, public interest law firm dedicated to providing legal services to organizations that monitor and protect the Pacific Northwest’s private and state-owned forest lands.