A partership between King County officials and The Trust for Public Land announced a conditional agreement Wednesday to purchase 216 acres of land on Squak Mountain near Issaquah.
The action would protect the land from clearcutting and preserve views from the Mountains-to-Sound Greenway along State Route 900 in eastern King County. Last Friday, May 3, The Washington State Department of Natural Resources had approved a permit to allow landowner Erickson Logging to clear cut Squak Mountain.
The land has long been used as a private forest camp at the edge of existing Squak Mountain State Park and the Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park.
A local preservation group, Save Squak, the Issaquah Alps Trail Club and others had been working for months to stop the clear-cutting.
Calling the agreement a "first step", the plan calls for The Trust for Public Land to buy the property in February 2014, convey a portion of it to King County when the County has initial funds for a first phase of purchase, and hold the rest of the land until the County secures and the County Council approves all remaining funds to acquire it as part of the King County Parks system.
"This is exactly the kind of project The Trust for Public Land exists to help with," said Mike Deller, Washington State Director. "Our mission is to help local people and organizations save places they love, keeping them open and cared for into the future."
"This welcome and well-timed agreement helps us save this valued forestland," said King County Executive Dow Constantine. "Thanks to The Trust for Public Land we can now work to acquire the property at a fair price, and secure the funding to preserve this land in perpetuity."
The Trust for Public Land’s initial agreement with the property owner calls for an independent appraisal and agreement on the final purchase price by June 21. During the appraisal process the property owner, who received a logging permit on May 2, has agreed to postpone logging.
King County will work to secure the funding necessary to take ownership of the land in the long term. Potential funding sources include Conservation Futures funds, and regional open space acquisition funds in the King County Parks levy, which is on the August ballot to replace the current levy that expires at the end of this year.
"I congratulate the Executive and The Trust for a partnership that will keep this land available to the public," said County Councilmember Reagan Dunn. "This stretch is both a valuable habitat area and a source of recreation for people from around the region."
"Public outcry about plans to clear cut forestlands on Squak Mountain meant swift action was necessary to preserve this cherished habitat and recreational area adjacent to prized county and state parks," said Councilmember Larry Phillips, Chair of the Transportation, Economy, and Environment Committee. "I thank The Trust for Public Land for partnering with us to preserve this property. It was partnerships like these between open space advocates, the community, and government that ensured the Issaquah Alps are preserved in their natural beauty and open to all rather than cleared and developed."
King County is interested in maintaining the land’s recreational opportunities and preserving its rich forest habitat which supports a variety of wildlife and birds, including black bear, cougar and possibly endangered Marbled Murrelets. The headwaters of May Creek, a 7-mile-long salmon stream that flows into Lake Washington, rise there.
Bringing this land into public ownership and preventing the planned logging means protecting the headwaters of salmon-bearing streams, and providing a potential public recreation access point to existing public open space properties and trails in the area – including Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park, the Cougar/Squak Corridor and Squak Mountain State Park.