Argues that trees will lose commercial value if not cut
By Marcy Stamper
Okanogan County has taken legal action to ensure that a plan to log state land that burned in the Carlton Complex Fire is carried out this spring, so that trees are cut while they have commercial value. The county’s petition also says the logging would protect public safety and forest health.
The county filed the petition Monday (March 16) with the state Pollution Control Hearings Board (PCHB) to intervene in an appeal by two environmental groups and a local resident seeking to halt the Carlton Fire Salvage FIT sale. The environmentalists say the salvage logging proposed by the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) poses a risk of severe erosion and could harm water quality.
“The Board cannot allow the hypothetical claims of appellants to result in the issuance of a stay which for all intents and purposes will kill the sale and deprive the County of the benefits of this sale, including more than 16 miles of improved roads and access to public lands,” according to the county’s petition, which was filed by attorney Sandy Mackie with Perkins Coie, who handles land-use matters for the county.
If the area is not logged in the near future, the trees will become hosts for insects, posing a risk to healthy trees on state, federal and private lands, wrote County Commissioner Ray Campbell in a declaration accompanying the petition.
“If this salvage operation is stopped or held up at this time the damage to the local economy will be disastrous both now and long term,” wrote Campbell.
In a separate declaration, Okanogan County Engineer Josh Thomson said that he had personally inspected the road networks that will be improved as part of the timber sale.
Regardless of road conditions, people will use the roads to go hunting, mushroom picking, and to collect firewood, said Thomson. The damage to the roads from the fire has made access to the area “extremely hazardous for the public,” he wrote.
If the sale is stopped — and with it, the road repairs — the county will be faced “with the choice of spending scarce County funds to provide suitable means of access or closing access to hazardous roads and the public lands,” wrote Thomson.
The initial appeal of the salvage sale was filed in February by Kathleen (Maeyowa) Yockey, Conservation Northwest, and the Kettle Range Conservation Group. The appellants said areas near the proposed logging experienced major mudslides and flash floods last summer and that logging would increase these risks in the future.
The appellants also cited concerns that road construction and heavy machinery would further damage the soil and inhibit the natural growth of trees and vegetation.
The American Forest Resource Council, Vaagen Brothers Lumber and Hampton Resource also submitted motions for intervention in early March. Vaagen Brothers and Hampton Resource were the successful bidders for the timber and say they need the logs to supply their mills. Their purchase and sale agreements require the logs be delivered by the end of July, after which the some of the timber will lose commercial value, they say.
The resource council is a trade association for mill owners who depend on timber from state trust lands.
DNR’s plans call for logging 1,285 acres in the Texas Creek, Benson Creek, Chiliwist Creek and the Methow River watersheds.
The PCHB held one pre-hearing conference in late February. The next conference is scheduled for April 2.
The PCHB will conduct an administrative trial, which can take six to 12 months, according to attorney Peter Goldman of the Washington Forest Law Center, who is representing the appellants.