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52 acres of Freeland forest felled in logging operation
South Whidbey saw what may be its biggest clear-cut in years at a property just north of Freeland recently.
Totaling 52 acres, the unusually large harvest began this past October on forested property on the east side of Highway 525 between Chase Lake and Evergreen Lane, and wrapped up this month. State regulators say the logging was conducted legally and that the landowner, PBWA Properties — a limited liability company of which Peoples Bank is the only member — secured all the appropriate state permits before work began.
“It’s a larger harvest, but we felt [it] met our forest practice rules,” said Jeff May, district manager for the state Department of Natural Resources’s forest practice program in Snohomish, Skagit and Island counties.
PBWA Properties declined a request for an interview with The Record, but did issue a statement that the parcels have a designated forest land classification and are operated under a timber management plan as required by Island County.
“Part of the timber management plan requires thinning or logging of the trees so the trees and undergrowth don’t compete for light, water, and nutrients,” the statement said. “In order to remain in compliance with the timber management plan, PBWA Properties LLC engaged a forestry consultant to oversee the logging and reforestation of about 52 acres of the property.”
Once owned by Jack Sikma, the former Seattle SuperSonics basketball player who developed the Holmes Harbor Golf Course in 1994, the property is now for sale. Large advertising signs are visible along Highway 525.
The tract of undeveloped land is located just south of the Trillium property, which made headlines in 1988 when 740 acres of forest was harvested and sparked a preservation movement that would ultimately lead to public ownership of 654 acres in 2010.
At the forefront of that fight was Whidbey Environmental Action Network, commonly known as WEAN. Marianne Edain, an organization founder, said her largest concern with the recent harvest by PBWA Properties is that wetlands are located on the parcels. She maintains that state regulations are too loose and that local control is needed.
“We’re seeing serious damage because of DNR’s rules and Island County’s unwillingness to pick up the slack,” Edain said.
“Island County could and should take over forest management [on Whidbey Island],” she said.
Edain also noted that state law prohibits the logging of more than 40 acres at a time on any island located in Puget Sound, but that a provision allowed the 52-acre harvest to move forward.
According to May, the total harvest exceeded the 40-acre rule, but was consistent with state law as it was divided into two sections and separated by a buffer of trees.
“I believe it’s a 100-foot separation between the two units, which meets the letter of the law,” May said.
“I know our forester worked closely with them to maintain that buffer,” he added.
May also noted that while a wetland is located on the property, the harvest was done in accordance with and was consistent with state law.
May said this was a larger than normal operation, that harvests of this size only occur on the island every two to three years.
“Most are in the five, 10 or 15-acre variety, so this is a larger harvest for Whidbey,” he said.
According to PBWA Properties’ forestry permit, the site will be replanted with Douglas fir. May estimated it will be up to 40 years before it will be ready for harvest again.
He said he could not estimate the value of the timber harvested.