As an independent appraiser works to set a value on logger Kurt Erickson’s 216-acres on Squak Mountain, Erickson has applied for another permit to harvest timber on his land.
“I filed for the upper portion in case we don’t come to an agreement,” Erickson said.
The latest filing is for 96 acres of old forest near the top of his property. King County executive Dow Constantine and the Trust for Public Land signed a conditional agreement to purchase the property from Erickson to preserve it for public use. The purchase price will be based on an appraisal, which should be completed by June 21.
Erickson said he would still like to work out a deal with the county, but said he knows what land values are and that things are changing with the real estate market improving.
“I have to protect my investment,” he said.
The new permit application is for 96 acres. He filed it on behalf of a LLC he formed, which enabled him to file as a small forest landowner, one who owns less than 500 acres. He does have land in other areas. By filing under the new LLC, he can log otherwise protected old forest.
The Issaquah Alps Trails Club said in a press release that if this forest practices application is approved, it sets a precedent that would have statewide significance for the logging industry and environmental protection
“Forest owners could simply divide their land up into multiple corporations and claim status as small forest landowners to avoid environmental regulation. State law allows small forest landowners to log otherwise protected wildlife habitat, and also requires smaller buffers around fish-bearing streams,” the group said.
Matthew Randazzo, special assistant to the commissioner of public lands said they would thoroughly review the application including the small landowner filing status to ensure that the application complies with state forest practices laws and rules.
The result of the new application should be known in early June.
The trails club is launching a fundraising effort to encourage support for the King County Park Levy which will appear on the Aug. 6 primary ballot. In order for the county to buy the land from Erickson, it will need $1.5 million from the parks levy.
Of concern is that the upper portion of the property might be habitat for the marbled murrelet, an endangered species. The robin-sized seabirds forage in the ocean, but they nest in mature old-growth forests, which is found high on Squak Mountain.
Randazzo said it would take a complex survey to determine if such habitats are on Squak Mountain.
Erickson said he hopes this all works out to everyone’s satisfaction.