Surprise logging operation in West Olympia has galvanized neighbors

From the West Olympia News
By Sage Hamilton and Danny Stusser

No city permits were needed to begin logging 23+ acres on Cooper Point Road

Olympia residents near 20th Avenue NW and Cooper Point Road were surprised this morning when they discovered that 20th Avenue was being shut down with no notice for a logging operation there.

This cutting is within Olympia’s city limits, but due to the size of the property, the landowner was able to attain permits through the Washington State Department of Natural Resources. Neighbors are raising concerns over the Green Cove Creek headwaters and the high-pressure aquafer they say is being harmed, as well as the other impacts such logging and development would have on the land there.

A protest is underway by a group of neighbors that call themselves the Cooper Crest Forest Defenders. They discovered last Monday, June 20, that the property was set to be logged and soon began to research what could be done. After it was apparent that they could not stop the logging, they organized a protest. They sent out a message to bring some neighbors together to help protest the vulnerable land being logged. Cooper Crest Forest Defenders is organized by Charlotte Persons and Esther Kronenberg.

Housing development planned

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According to Kronenberg, “The project proposed by Silvimantle LLC will cause significant adverse environmental damage to the Green Cove Basin Watershed.” Silvimantle intends to make the land available for housing development, but one of the loggers told The JOLT that such development won’t occur for at least 10 years, based on the type of logging permit the company was issued.

“There are ways to get around that” 10-year restriction, according to Persons.

Logging outside of Olympia’s jurisdiction

Sgt S. Parker of the Olympia Police Department was on hand this morning to give a comment, “I learned a little bit about logging during this process. One of the things is that if a parcel of woods is over 20 acres in size, the permits go through the Department of Natural Resources versus if it’s under 20.” A concern she raised is over the creek being crossed out on the map as “it being indicated does not exist. The individual who issued the permit said that he knew that this would be highly scrutinized. He double-checked it and he worked with Fish and Wildlife, had them on-site, and went over the property and it does not exist.”

In an email sent to The JOLT, Esther Kronenberg wrote “The clear-cut will destroy a Legacy Forest within Olympia city limits of the Green Cove Creek Basin” She stated that the site is a critical area for aquifer recharge, protected salmon species, landslide dangers and contamination of groundwater which she states that this will add to the contamination of the area “which already exists across the street at the Sundberg Gravel Pit.”

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In her email, she continued, “If you agree and are outraged by the loss of this pristine woodland that will damage the wellbeing of residents and the ecosystem for decades to come so that a few private individuals from outside the area can make a quick profit, please consider signing on. For now, we are asking for you to consider joining our appeal.”

The owner of the logging company MVR Timber Cutting, Inc., Monty Rask, said that the company has been hired to cut down the fir and cedar trees. “That’s all they want. Leaving all the maples unless it’s a (dangerous) tree, or if we break it up. We want it to look nice. We don’t go in there and… not care about those maples… So we’re gonna open up things to where we can get the big trees down without destroying the (canopy).”

According to Kronenberg, several years ago there was a plan to build a housing development on the property and when the city mapped it, they found that there was a list of probable landslides and that the creek itself is a seasonal tributary. At the protest this morning, she stated “You’re supposed to look [for running water] between December and March. … Anyway, so they didn’t find the tributary, because they looked for it in May… All of this drains into the Green Cove Creek right to that creek… So that is one of our concerns. One of many concerns. They marked it off the map as nonexistent.”

“The way the permit is [issued is] under the Forest Practices Act. And the proponent says that this is a Class III forest, and he doesn’t have to pay any attention under that to any city findings of landslides of critical areas or anything else. That’s how it’s written, It’s actually written and so we contend. We think it’s actually what’s called Class IV. Class IV, like for … sensitive areas, and they have to pay attention to that.” Kronenberg continued. She explained that Olympia does not have a city ordinance in place explicitly against commercial logging within city limits that will supersede the Forest Practices Act, “Many cities in the state of Oregon [and] Washington do have that. We don’t.” She went on that about this piece of land “It’s clear it’s going to be too late.”

The road that is close to the logging is also closed to create a buffer area with a 300-foot safety barrier when felling the trees. The road was closed without notice to the neighbors, according to several on the scene. Sgt Parker gave her view of the jurisdiction and her role in the safety barrier: “It’s interesting in that when something goes through the Department of Natural Resources, what I’m learning is that things operate differently. And so when things would go through the city of Olympia, there would be different notifications. And that’s what I’m familiar with. Being a city of Olympia employee is that process, and so I can appreciate the frustration.” The Department of Natural Resources can close roads with the proper permitting, and the permits were attained, according to Parker.

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