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King County Council votes to protect forestland near Enumclaw from development

Editor's note: The following is a release from the King County Council.

The Metropolitan King County Council gave its unanimous approval to keeping a parcel that is twice the size of the Bellevue from development with the adoption of an agreement to purchase a conservation easement for the White River Forest east of Enumclaw.

“Permanent preservation of the White River Forest will add to the hundreds of thousands of acres of open space we have protected in King County, providing tremendous conservation value for our green heritage and the natural beauty and habitat of our region,” said Councilmember Larry Phillips, chair of the Council’s Transportation, Economy and Environment Committee. “As the region continues to draw increased numbers of people and jobs, preserving these forested acres will prove invaluable for our ecosystem, economy, and quality of life.”

“Preserving this land keeps this area a working forest, protects local jobs and guarantees that generations to come will benefit from this purchase,” said Councilmember Reagan Dunn, whose district includes the White River Forest parcel. “This conservation easement also helps to preserve land that is used by many county residents for a variety of recreational activities.”

Managed by the Hancock Timber Resource Group, the White River Forest is located along scenic Highway 410, which takes motorists to Crystal Mountain ski resort in the winter and over Chinook pass in the summer. The White River Forest is a critical component to a large north-south wildlife habitat link that connects Mount Rainier National Park in the south to the upper Green and Cedar River watersheds that lie to the north. It is also an important east-west wildlife corridor, providing an uninterrupted link from the lowlands to the Cascade crest.

“Protecting the White River Forest is a great example of how environmental stewardship and development can peacefully coexist,” said Council Vice Chair Jane Hague.

“This is an exciting day for King County residents. Today’s vote ensures open space for generations to come, protects vital wildlife habitat, and helps to preserve local jobs,” said Councilmember Joe McDermott, chair of the Budget & Fiscal Management Committee. “This is another example of the County’s efforts to prevent sprawl and help to keep our rural lands rural.

The legislation adopted by the Council approves a proposal from County Executive Dow Constantine to authorize $8.1 million in existing funding from the County’s dedicated open space fund known as the Conservation Futures Fund. The Council last fall approved $3 million from Conservation Futures and from the King County Parks levy toward the total $11.1 million price.

“I thank the Council for approving funding to permanently protect the White River Forest, creating a green wall against sprawl and achieving our goal of protecting 200,000 acres of working forestland in eastern King County,” said Constantine.

Making up nearly one-fifth of the private commercial forest lands in King County, the White River Forest is an important part of the County’s timber resource industry. An analysis of countywide timber harvest data suggested that in 2010 the White River Forest yielded nearly 10 million board-feet with an estimated timber value of $3.5 million, supporting more than 350 jobs in forestry. The adopted ordinance ensures that the land would remain in private ownership with the right to harvest timber sustainably.

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