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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

August 11, 2009 at 3:32 PM

Public lands: Blanchard Mountain deserves protection

Lands commissioner

should stop logging plan

We appreciate Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark’s thoughtful commentary on protecting Puget Sound [“We must raise the standards bar to protect Puget Sound,” Opinion, Aug. 10]. But we wonder why he fails to apply the same standard to the last great coastal forest remaining on the shores of Puget Sound.

Blanchard Mountain, in Skagit County, encompasses 5,000 acres of Departmetn of Natural Resources-managed forestland in a spectacular setting between two of the state’s fastest-growing urban areas. Much of Blanchard is roadless, and its naturally generated forest is well on the way to becoming old-growth.

It is exactly the kind of forest that scientists say we should be setting aside to sequester carbon as we tackle climate change.

It’s the only place on the entire rim of the Sound where threatened marbled murrelets nest in big trees close to saltwater. A wide variety of raptors migrate through the area. Most of the fish in its lakes and streams are listed as threatened or endangered.

Blanchard’s summit, at nearly 2,400 feet, is the highest in the Chuckanut Mountains. The area is dubbed the “Issaquah Alps by the Sea” and is the most heavily visited, year-round trails destination north of Seattle. Tens of thousands of hikers roam Blanchard’s 20-mile trail system annually, enjoying panoramic views of the San Juan Islands and three mountain ranges. The Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail, signed into law by President Obama in March, traverses through the heart of Blanchard Mountain — across areas the DNR, and apparently Commissioner Goldmark, are determined to log.

The DNR’s own studies agree the area should be protected for wildlife and recreation. Instead, the agency is defending plans to log two-thirds of the mountain and build miles of new logging roads — despite road failures as recent as last winter.

The Chuckanut Conservancy won a court ruling last year that required the agency to prepare an environmental-impact statement before carrying out its logging plan. Instead, the DNR has appealed the ruling and is spending scarce taxpayer dollars defending its controversial plan.

As a Skagitonian concerned about the future of both Puget Sound and Blanchard Mountain, I’m disappointed that the “conservation-minded” lands commissioner we thought we elected last fall has elected to defend the logging plan of his predecessor.

— Frank Eventoff, Chuckanut Conservancy, Bow

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