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Goss Lake trees still lack full protection

"Last March, state Rep. Kelly Barlean (R-Langley) and hundreds of his tree-loving South Whidbey constituents were assured that 600 acres of Department of Natural Resources timberland near Goss Lake would never again be subject to the chainsaw.Barlean took the legislative lead in arranging to have the state pay to transfer the land to the Island County Parks Department by including the purchase price in last year's state capital budget amendment along with property at Coupeville's Rhododendron Park and DNR trust land at Elger Bay. Unfortunately for Barlean and his supporters, the state did not come up with enough money for all three purchases. The Rhododendron Park and Elger Bay land was transferred to Island County, but the Goss Lake land was not. Because of the oversight, the land remains subject to logging, which the DNR does from time to time on its forest lands to generate funds for state schools. When concerned area residents called Barlean's office two weeks ago to report that DNR vehicles and personnel were on the land, Barlean took a look back at the budget bill and discovered that the Goss Lake land was still in DNR hands. The reports unsettled Barlean.I don't trust these state agencies any farther than I can throw them, he said.For the next week, Barlean spent time checking with DNR to make certain no logging would occur on the property in the near future. He was assured that no cutting is planned. He also started the process to put the land on the top of the 2001-2003 Biennium Trust Transfer list, which will be voted on this year. The state will have to pay DNR about $6 million for the land in order to transfer it to Island County.Kirk Francis, a Langley resident who owns acreage adjoining the DNR land, said he discovered three weeks ago that the land deal might be off. After getting a tip from an Island County official, Francis began calling state legislators, including Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen and Rep. Barlean. Francis said 2,172 South Whidbey people signed a petition directed at the DNR requesting that the Goss Lake trees be left standing. Those signatures were presented to the DNR's Natural Resources Board last winter during a public hearing. Francis said the failure to protect the acreage would disappoint all those people.This certainly doesn't do much to decrease the citizens' cynicism toward government, he said. We're just aghast.The Biennium Trust Transfer list should come up for a vote before the state legislature by late spring. "

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