Forest near Langley threatened by logging

"A bill that could spare a recreational forest area near Langley from the chainsaw was introduced in the State Legislature Tuesday by Rep. Kelly Barlean, R-Langley.At issue is 600 acres of forest land owned by the state Department of Natural Resources, located between Lone Lake Road and Saratoga Road. It is referred to as Goss Lake/Section 32 of DNR land in Island County.The land was tentatively listed as protected in the 1997-99 Trust Land Transfer Program, but never acquired the funding to assure long-term protection. The DNR uses this program for land it owns in growing residential areas, and allows its use for recreation rather than timber harvest.However, Kirk Francis, who owns land adjoining the DNR property, said he learned that it was removed from the Trust Land Transfer Program. His curiosity was piqued when he saw foresters marking trees for cutting.Francis said he was told the towering fir trees would be harvested this summer. The exact extent of the planned cut was unavailable at press time.The DNR land is used frequently by day hikers and other recreationalists, who are also allowed to use the land owned by Francis as well as adjoining land owned by the family of Congressman Jack Metcalf.Barlean said the bill he introduced Tuesday “would keep Goss Lake as a top priority in the Trust Land Transfer Program.”In a letter to Jennifer Belcher, Commissioner of Public Lands, Barlean asks that the DNR “refrain from harvesting the timber on this land until this legislation is resolved.” His bill would transfer the 600 acres to Island County “for recreational and open space purposes.” Francis is leading an effort to rally Whidbey Island residents to the cause of saving the forest. He said he has contacted Rep. Dave Anderson and Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen as well as Barlean.The 1997 listing of the Goss Lake section in the Trust Land Transfer Program did not in itself protect the land from the chainsaw. The DNR needed funding from the Legislature to purchase alternative forest land, thereby allowing it to be removed from timber lands that support the state school construction program. That funding was never achieved.In 1997, the value of the timber on the Goss Lake parcel land was estimated at $2.6 million.Debi VanBuren, the DNR’s project manager for the Trust Land Transfer Program, said Tuesday the Goss Lake unit today is “being managed as trust land,” meaning it could be harvested.The Goss Lake unit lost its Transfer Program status beginning with the list compiled for the 2000-2001 budget cycle, according to VanBuren. It was included on the initial list of 185 properties, but failed to make the cut to 50. Ultimately, the 1999 Legislature provided funding to protect just 17 parcels, among them an area next to Rhododendron Park on Central Whidbey.VanBuren hadn’t seen Barlean’s bill yet, but described it as “specific and special legislation for that particular piece of property.” Eventually, Belcher will have to decide whether the DNR supports the bill, she said."

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