Help Save 5,000 Acres of Public Land Near Gold Bar from Heavy Logging

Preserve the Land Around Wallace Falls State Park and Make it a New Public Park Instead

The Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) plans to extensively log the 10,000-acre Reiter Foothills Forest (public land) near Gold Bar.

5,000 acres of the western, non-motorized half of this public forest (surrounding beloved Wallace Falls State Park) can still be preserved if the Snohomish County Council votes soon to turn it into a public park instead. Here's why it's important:

DNR's Logging Management Plan for Reiter Foothills Forest
Map of DNR logging management plan for Reiter Foothills

Management plan data courtesy of Department of Natural Resources - 2020

 Red Areas  = managed for 'Variable Retention Harvest', which leaves 8 trees per acre (removes 97% of trees). Variable Retention Harvest looks and feels like a clear cut.

 Light Green Areas  = managed for 'Variable Density Thinning', which removes 30% of trees.

 Purple Area  = Wallace Falls State Park, which receives over 225,000 visitors per year.

Here's what this looks like in terms of timber sales:

Here Are the Upcoming Timber Sales Near Gold Bar
Map of timber sales planned for Gold Bar by DNR

Timber sale data courtesy of Department of Natural Resources - 2020

 Yellow Border  = the approx. 5,000 acres we're trying to preserve as park.

 Red Areas  = managed for 'Variable Retention Harvest' (leaves 8 trees per acre).

 Light Green Areas  = managed for 'Variable Density Thinning' (removes 30% of trees).

 Purple Area  = Wallace Falls State Park, which receives over 225,000 visitors per year.

(Some timber sale names may change by the time the sales are finalized.)

Update on Current Timber Sales:

The Brushcrasher sale was sold in March 2020 and is currently being logged (Fall 2020).

The Variable Retention Harvest portion of Brushcrasher (shown in red) is the big new clear-cut you can see for miles when driving east on Highway 2.

The controversial Middle May sale is now scheduled for auction on November 30, 2020... but it can still be removed from the auction list.

The Snohomish County Council just needs to vote to tell DNR they want to turn the land into a park instead.

Close-up of Brushcrasher timber sale

Map of the Middle May Timber Sale
(Scheduled Auction Date: 11/30/20)
Map of Middle May timber sale near Gold Bar

Middle May timber sale data courtesy of Department of Natural Resources - 2020

 Purple Area  = Wallace Falls State Park near Gold Bar.

 Light Blue Borders  = Middle May timber sale areas (Variable Retention Harvest = removing 97% of trees).

 Yellow Stars  = 5 new logging truck bridges.

 Red Line  = 6 miles of new logging road.

Problems with the Middle May Sale and DNR's Logging Plan for Gold Bar
  1. 1
    Very few people seem to know about it. DNR says it has been discussed to death and the "in crowd" of timber companies, public logging revenue beneficiaries, and user groups who want logging roads all appear to be in the loop, but most regular citizens of the Sky Valley have no idea this is all set to happen.
  2. 2
    The Middle May sale would change Gold Bar forever and open up the entire hillside for more logging. It's the jewel in the crown - old, valuable trees and permission to build five bridges that finally provide access to the forest between May Creek and the Wallace River.
  3. 3
    The Middle May sale means even more clear-cuts next to Wallace Falls State Park. Variable Retention Harvest removes 97% of the trees. This, along with 5 logging bridges and 6 miles of logging roads, will impact the views (and property values) in Gold Bar for decades.
  4. 4
    The logging plan for Reiter Foothills would devastate a little-known ecological gem. The 5,000 acres we want to preserve contains trees over 100 years old, hidden waterfalls, and lookout points with sweeping views of the Sky Valley. It's a crucial hub that connects four key wild areas - Wallace Falls State Park, the Wild Sky Wilderness, the Morning Star Natural Resource Conservation Area, and Forks of the Sky State Park.
  5. 5
    DNR says logging roads will provide non-motorized recreation trails, but.... do hikers really want to hike on logging roads past piles of slash? There's already a good network of old trails in the 5,000 acres we want to preserve, and plenty of volunteers willing to help improve them and build more.
  6. 6
    DNR's management plan no longer meets the needs of the public. The running argument for the Middle May sale is "We've been discussing this for years, let's just get it done." But this logic is flawed. The world has changed drastically in just the last few years.  The rationalization "We've been discussing this for too long" only makes it even more clear that DNR's logging plan is behind the times and doesn't reflect what the majority of taxpayers need or want NOW.
  7. 7
    DNR's logging plan puts local waterways at risk due to runoff and erosion. Just look at how close the Brushcrasher and Moonbeam sale clear-cuts are to the North Wallace River and tributaries. Once a salmon-bearing waterway is harmed, the damage is done - no matter how much expensive mitigation follows.
Moonbeam and Brushcrasher timber sale clear cuts

Wondering How This All Works? (Whose Land Is It Anyway?)
 how the lands became public 

Most of Reiter Foothills Forest is Forest Board Land. Long ago these lands belonged to the County.

This is because in the early 1900's a lot of land was foreclosed upon by the County after the owners didn't pay their property taxes. Eventually the County asked the State to manage these Forest Board lands, which is what DNR now does.

 how timber sales happen 

Private timber companies buy the rights to log Forest Board lands through auctions of timber sales that have been approved by the Board of Natural Resources (BNR, the board that sets policy for DNR).

The revenue from these timber sales gets distributed several ways:  to DNR (usually 25%), and to the County, including local tax beneficiaries such as the school district where a sale is located. (It goes for construction and maintenance, not teacher salaries or equipment.)

 DNR's "Maximum Revenue" Philosophy 

Because of a lawsuit in the 1980's, DNR manages its public lands for maximum revenue.

In other words, if it can be legally logged, it will be logged.

 Reconveyance for a Public Park 

However... there's a Washington state law that says the County can ask for its land back without having to pay for the land, just the cost of the transfer - as long as the land is used for a public park. This transfer is called a "Reconveyance". (RCW 79.22.300.)

To get a reconveyance, at least three of the five Snohomish County Council Members need to vote in favor of a resolution to reconvey the land back to the County for a public park. If they do, DNR does not have the option to say no.

 Why the Middle May Timber Sale is Crucial 

Logging Middle May would cut the heart out of the proposed new 5,000-acre park and would open up the entire hillside for further planned logging.

Who's In Favor of the Middle May Sale?
  1. 1
    The Timber Industry.  Any "win" on the the part of the public is seen as a threat to timber companies who log public land.
  2. 2
    Timber Lobbies. Believe it or not, getting the Middle May auction date pushed back one month at the Sept. 1 BNR meeting was a big win for the public, and it set national alarm bells ringing via people like American Forest Resource Council lobbyist Matt Comiskey (who previously worked for DNR for years).
  3. 3
    DNR - or at least, many at DNR. BNR member Bill Peach had a "hot mic" moment during the Sept. 1 meeting during which he could be heard complaining about how long they'd been working on the sale, and saying "The greenies are pulling out all the stops!" On the other hand, BNR member Chris Reykdal (Superintendent of Public Schools) is the one who proposed the delayed auction date, and he has stated his support for a change in the weird "trees for schools" trade-off we have in Washington state. 
  4. 4
    The Tulalip Tribes. They have stated that they believe a park would disrupt wildlife habitat and wildlife corridors, and they therefore support the Middle May timber sale and "working forests".
  5. 5
    Sultan School District.  The school district stands to gain $500K to $1 million from the Middle May sale because it's a high ticket sale.  That is a lot of money. However, it's also a once-in-50-years windfall. There are more reliable ways to generate funds for schools. Think about it: The district has been receiving timber dollars for decades, and yet they're struggling for funds for a new roof - clear proof that the "timber for school construction dollars" model does NOT work. To put it into perspective, to match that same school timber revenue from the 5,000 acres every year would mean a Snohomish County tax of less than 3 dollars, per household... per YEAR.
Here's What to Do Now If You Don't Want 'This':
DNR logging plan for Reiter Foothills Middle May
Use the form below to quickly send a letter to Snohomish County Council telling them to preserve these unique 5,000 acres as a public park instead of having them logged.

If you filled out the form and opted for updates we'll keep you posted on how this effort progresses.

Thank you for supporting the beautiful Skykomish Valley!