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Mined for Return on Investment, Now Reclaimed for Conservation: Can Cooper Crest Forest Return to a Healthy State?

By Sage Hamilton

In June, the neighbors near the 20e Avenue NW and Cooper Point Road were surprised by a logging operation for which they had received no significant notice. Many trees in a beautiful wooded area were being cut down and few answers were found at the time.

The 25 acres of the Green Cove Creek watershed is also the site of a high pressure aquafer and aquifer recharge site. Last week, conservation group Olympia Coalition for Ecosystems Preservation (OlyEcosystems) acquired the land. In its Facebook review of the acquisition, “A forested wetland on Olympia’s highest hill is no more. Over 25 acres… were clearcut in July 2022.”

The post says: “Clear logging destroys the ecological integrity of an area in several ways. Our forests provide abundant, pure water, a stable climate, wildlife habitat and clean air. This area includes the headwaters of an arm of Green Cove Creek, which is the best potential recovery habitat for Olympia salmon.

“We felt compelled to do something. [It is] a really, really important watershed. It’s our best bet for salmon habitat restoration, and someone had to step in, so we stepped in, and I’m grateful to the Bowen Conservancy for supporting us. There is a lot of hard work ahead of us,” said Daniel Einstein of OlyEcosystems.

Investment property to logging to break even

To recoup their investment in the property, Marty Wicklund of Silvimantle LLC said that by mining and selling, they could get it all back. “We cut Douglas fir, western red cedar, some red alder and some maple. We had left the vast majority of maple trees on the property and anything that was not marketable or security related.

Too expensive to develop

Wicklund said: “I doubt any developer is going to buy it…a developer came to us and was interested in pursuing it about six months ago, and they hired an engineering company to do an analysis of all the capital improvements that the city of Olympia was demanding. And that figure was over $9 million to develop the property with all the upgrades, and they couldn’t justify the cost.

In the field of investment

Wicklund said: “We are in the business to invest in properties. And frankly, when we looked at the property, we thought it was an incredibly beautiful property. Our initial goal, which was last year, was to sell it either to a land trust or to the city of Olympia for parks. It is a stand of 95 year old trees. This should be recorded and kept in the city. Every person I’ve taken there, whether it’s a surveyor, a wetland biologist, or a logger, they’ve all been through it all. Say, ‘God, I can’t believe nobody bought this.’ Why isn’t the land trust?

“Ultimately, we ran out of time for our investors in general. We have four of them and they were all saying, “Hey, we need to get our money back. The law of markets [is] very strong. And we have to move on, Wicklund said.

Trees vs Security

“I would have liked to leave more trees in the units; however, the Washington Department of Labor and Industries (LNI) frowns on this, and if we leave too many trees while we harvest, they may give a tie to the logger, our landowner. So you have to be careful when we try to leave trees, little pockets here and there,” Wicklund explained.

According to Wicklund, LNI considers it too dangerous for operators to be on a property with trees and have the possibility of hitting them due to the possibility of the trees falling on the operator. “It’s a situation where they make the call. The owner is sometimes very frustrated because you would like to leave more trees on the property. They will get a warning once and then they will start issuing fines,” he explained.

“On this property, especially the north parcel, there was a relatively large amount of dead trees, mostly standing cedars, and they call these ‘snakes’ in our vernacular, and LNI is particularly concerned about the snakes because they can fall off very easily. So they rarely allow you to leave the snake. It’s all about safety.

Conservation and replanting

Einstein said they signed a purchase and sale agreement. He continues: “We made the purchase. [It] was registered with Thurston County. He noted that the data should appear in a week or two, regardless of how long it takes for the evaluator’s office to process it.

The money to make the purchase arrived quickly, according to Einstein. “We kind of caught lightning in a bottle. We have previously worked with the Angela J. Bowen Conservancy Foundation. It is the foundation created from the estate of Dr. Angela Bowen. We were able to successfully seek financing from them to execute the purchase and sale.

Not all funded

“It’s a tragedy, it’s all a tragedy, but if we had had a few more weeks, we probably would have missed $150,000 to be able to buy the property intact. It all happened so fast,” Einstein laments. “Did we have more time? I think we could have [partner with the city and possibly others] to raise funds. »

According to Einstein, the Bowen Foundation provided the funds for this purchase. The price the property sold for was $250,000, Einstein said. They had been quoted at a higher price before the trees were cut down, and the price was reduced considerably afterwards.

Speaking of the company they bought the property from, Einstein said, “I think they took out of the property what they wanted to get. And they could have had more. They recognized the controversy that had arisen and wanted to work with us.

“Of course, for us financially, this is just the beginning. [Over the years], we’re going to have to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in this property to make it nearly perfect,” Einstein said. He continues: “This is funding that we currently do not have. We have funds to help with critical erosion and get us through the winter.

Forestry practices allow the property to be subject to states that they must have 350 trees per acre, Einstein reported. “We have to recover these trees [planted] in December at the latest because… the more time the trees have in the humidity, the better they are doing and the better they will withstand the summer drought that will come in 2023.”

Site control

“We have to do a lot of erosion control. There’s probably 30 heaps of slash we need to do [for erosion control]. There are steep slopes on the property that concern us. We are concerned about road erosion,” says Einstein.

Streams and aquafer

“There are springs and seeps all over the property, and the northern four or five acres are wetlands. There’s standing water there now. The creek that was… controversially wiped off the map here was a seasonal creek,” Einstein recounted.

Along with cool, moist areas, the forests retain water and continue to supply groundwater to Green Cove Creek, Einstein says. He says the creek “has a population of fish during the summer months. Instream flow is something that concerns people who are interested in fish habitat. There must be some base flow throughout the year to support salmon development during the summer months.

Uncertainty

“I don’t think anyone really knows what’s going to happen over the winter,” he says. “We will use best practices and we will limit erosion. On this site, there are not only surface flows. It is an aquifer recharge zone. And water will move across the site much faster than it has in the past.

Land closed to the public – for now

For now, there will be no walking in this forest; Einstein says, “It’s just not safe. Yeah, so we’re, you know, we’re encouraging people to stay away. We’ll do is meet the [Olympia] Department of Parks next week to discuss public access. We don’t want the public to be there until they’re sure they’re there. »

As it is clear that people will want to walk there, at some point it will be possible to put a path back on the property, Einstein shared. “With the idea that if there is going to be public access, and it’s uncontrollable, it’s better to channel [that] in a positive way.”

“I think there’s a lot of opportunity to involve local universities and to involve the public in research and restoration,” Einstein continued, “there’s an opportunity to really shine a light on the watershed green of Cove Creek as a result of this situation. It’s going to take time and people are going to have to be patient.”


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