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New Lawsuits Filed in Snohomish County

Recent timber sales approved by DNR in Snohomish County would clearcut large portions of the Pilchuck River valley, and fragment and destroy much of the Stimson Hill Legacy Forest, which is home to some of the last remaining patches of old growth in the North Puget Sound lowlands.

The fate of close to 200 acres of rare, mature and old growth forests in Snohomish County hangs in the balance as DNR, under the leadership of Commissioner Hilary Franz, prepares to hand them over to commercial logging companies to be clearcut.


On June 12, 2024, the Legacy Forest Defense Coalition filed a lawsuit against Hilary Franz and DNR to stop the Bologna timber sale, located in the Upper Pilchuck River watershed. An investigation conducted by the Legacy Forest Defense Coalition found that the timber sale would include the logging of up to 12 acres of mature trees within the channel migration zone of the Pilchuck River, a clear violation of the Forest Practices Act.

This misguided timber sale would also clearcut 25 acres of rare legacy forests overlooking the Pilchuck River valley, including dozens of trees close to 100 years old and 200 feet tall. The timber sale is located in the Upper Pilchuck Legacy Forest, which spans 500 acres, and represents one of the larger lowland legacy forests in Snohomish County.

Pilchuck River Valley

(timber sale boundaries shown in white)

Understanding the Value of this Unique and Special Place


Drive south from the town of Granite Falls along Menzel Lake Road, park at the Scherrer Road trailhead, walk about a mile and a half up the trail, and you will see a breathtaking view of the Pilchuck River valley to your right.  Another mile upstream, on the hillside across the valley, you will find one of the last remaining century-old, lowland forests on the west side of Snohomish County. This is the Upper Pilchuck Legacy Forest. This forest is composed of a diverse mosaic of open stands populated by ancient standing dead snags, carpets of moss, cottonwood trees, patches of huckleberry and sword fern, and 100-year-old spruce, fir and cedar trees that tower close to 200 feet above the forest floor.  Traveling through this legacy forest is truly a journey of discovery.


This forest was selectively logged, probably sometime in the 1920’s, and left to grow back on its own.  As a result, much of the original vegetation, understory trees, standing snags, and downed trees were preserved.  Because this forest has never been sprayed with herbicides, and was allowed to regenerate naturally, it closely resembles the natural and old growth forests that once dominated the Puget Sound lowlands.


On July 2nd, 2024, the North Cascades Conservation Council joined forces with the Legacy Forest Defense Coalition to file a second lawsuit against DNR in Snohomish County, to stop the Stilly Revisited Timber Sale. This timber sale, located in the Stimson Hill Legacy Forest, was featured in a previous edition of this newsletter.


The Stimson Hill legacy forest, located in the hills overlooking the North Fork Stillaguamish River, contains one of the few remaining stands of old growth forest in the Puget Sound lowlands, including Douglas fir trees that are up to 400 years old.  An old growth assessment conducted by DNR found that much of this area has never been logged, and is populated by scattered old growth trees that pre-date 1850.  Other parts of the legacy forest were “high graded” in the early 1900s, which means that they were selectively logged, leaving that many of the smaller trees behind.  DNR core samples reveal that many of these younger trees, which include hemlock, cedar, and silver fir, are now between 130 to 165 years old.

NF Stillaguamish River Valley

(as seen from edge of Stilly Revisited timber sale)

DNR Ignoring the Risks of Another Landslide


On March 22, 2014, the Oso landslide sent a torrent of mud and debris into the Stillaguamish River valley, killing 43 people and destroying 49 homes. DNR paid $50 million to settle resulting lawsuits, which alleged that actions on state land and nearby logging caused an increase in runoff above the slide that led to the tragedy. The Stilly Revisited Timber Sale, is located only two miles from the Oso landslide, on the same side of the river, and on both higher and steeper ground. A major landslide here could send an even larger torrent of mud and debris into the river valley, potentially damming the river, flooding and/or burying a portion of the valley, and threatening lives and properties located adjacent to and across the river.


Logging on or near hillslopes can contribute to their collapse by reducing root reinforcement, and allowing more precipitation to enter the ground, increasing the weight of the overlying soil.  Evidence suggests that logging may have been a contributing factor in the Oso landslide in 2014. Yet DNR does not even mention the Oso landslide in the Geologists Report, SEPA checklist, or Forest Practices Application for the Stilly Revisited Timber Sale, or give any consideration of the similarities between the two sites, or the role that timber harvest played in causing the landslide near Oso.


State landslide inventory data suggests that the Stilly Revisited timber sale sits right on top of a historic landslide deposit, and slopes of up to 175% were reported by DNR within the vicinity of the timber sale. DNR geologist Greg Morrow found that “without subsurface information, it is not possible to infer groundwater infiltration pathways and flow directions through bedrock [and]... it is not possible to fully define the geologic conditions of the site.” The geologist's report concluded that “it is not possible to predict slope movement with certainty with the available scientific knowledge.” DNR’s failure to consider the risk of another catastrophic landslide shows a reckless disregard for the life and safety of residents of the Stillaguamish River valley and their homes.


The Legacy Forest Defense Coalition has hired a professional geologist to evaluate the risk of a future landslide within the vicinity of the Stilly Revisited timber sale. His report will be posted to our website later this month.

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7 days ago

Hilary Franz is the head of our WA DNR! She is running to fill Derek Kilmers seat in Congress for the 6th Congressionnal District! She seemed to be a hypocrite in her handling of the clear-cutting of our Sherwood Forest in NM as she approved the logging to begin even though this groups’ litigation had not yet made it through the courts! She claimed to support climate change and salmon streams but ignored both as she chose money for her DNR and her Board members’ universities over those important issues! Derek has endorsed her and has said she did him a big favor by proving Forest worker jobs!

Emily Randall, of the WA State Legislature is also a Democrat runnng…

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