Surprise logging operation in west Olympia has galvanized neighbors

No city permits were needed to begin logging 23+ acres on Cooper Point Road

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Olympia residents near 20th Avenue NW and Cooper Point Road were surprised this morning when they discovered that 20th Avenue was being shut down with no notice for a logging operation there.

This cutting is within Olympia's city limits, but due to the size of the property, the landowner was able to attain permits through the Washington State Department of Natural Resources. Neighbors are raising concerns over the Green Cove Creek headwaters and the high-pressure aquafer they say is being harmed, as well as the other impacts such logging and development would have on the land there.

A protest is underway by a group of neighbors that call themselves the Cooper Crest Forest Defenders. They discovered last Monday, June 20, that the property was set to be logged and soon began to research what could be done. After it was apparent that they could not stop the logging, they organized a protest. They sent out a message to bring some neighbors together to help protest the vulnerable land being logged. Cooper Crest Forest Defenders is organized by Charlotte Persons and Esther Kronenberg.

Housing development planned

According to Kronenberg, “The project proposed by Silvimantle LLC will cause significant adverse environmental damage to the Green Cove Basin Watershed.” Silvimantle intends to make the land available for housing development, but one of the loggers told The JOLT that such development won’t occur for at least 10 years, based on the type of logging permit the company was issued.

“There are ways to get around that” 10-year restriction, according to Persons.

Logging outside of Olympia’s jurisdiction

Sgt S. Parker of the Olympia Police Department was on hand this morning to give a comment, “I learned a little bit about logging during this process. One of the things is that if a parcel of woods is over 20 acres in size, the permits go through the Department of Natural Resources versus if it's under 20.” A concern she raised is over the creek being crossed out on the map as “it being indicated does not exist. The individual who issued the permit said that he knew that this would be highly scrutinized. He double-checked it and he worked with Fish and Wildlife, had them on-site, and went over the property and it does not exist.”

In an email sent to The JOLT, Esther Kronenberg wrote “The clear-cut will destroy a Legacy Forest within Olympia city limits of the Green Cove Creek Basin” She stated that the site is a critical area for aquifer recharge, protected salmon species, landslide dangers and contamination of groundwater which she states that this will add to the contamination of the area “which already exists across the street at the Sundberg Gravel Pit.”

In her email, she continued, “If you agree and are outraged by the loss of this pristine woodland that will damage the wellbeing of residents and the ecosystem for decades to come so that a few private individuals from outside the area can make a quick profit, please consider signing on. For now, we are asking for you to consider joining our appeal.”

The owner of the logging company MVR Timber Cutting, Inc., Monty Rask, said that the company has been hired to cut down the fir and cedar trees. “That’s all they want. Leaving all the maples unless it’s a (dangerous) tree, or if we break it up. We want it to look nice. We don't go in there and… not care about those maples… So we're gonna open up things to where we can get the big trees down without destroying the (canopy).”

According to Kronenberg, several years ago there was a plan to build a housing development on the property and when the city mapped it, they found that there was a list of probable landslides and that the creek itself is a seasonal tributary. At the protest this morning, she stated “You're supposed to look [for running water] between December and March. … Anyway, so they didn't find the tributary, because they looked for it in May… All of this drains into the Green Cove Creek right to that creek... So that is one of our concerns. One of many concerns. They marked it off the map as nonexistent.”

“The way the permit is [issued is] under the Forest Practices Act. And the proponent says that this is a Class III forest, and he doesn't have to pay any attention under that to any city findings of landslides of critical areas or anything else. That’s how it’s written, It's actually written and so we contend. We think it's actually what’s called Class IV. Class IV, like for … sensitive areas, and they have to pay attention to that.” Kronenberg continued. She explained that Olympia does not have a city ordinance in place explicitly against commercial logging within city limits that will supersede the Forest Practices Act, “Many cities in the state of Oregon [and] Washington do have that. We don't.” She went on that about this piece of land “It's clear it's going to be too late.”

The road that is close to the logging is also closed to create a buffer area with a 300-foot safety barrier when felling the trees. The road was closed without notice to the neighbors, according to several on the scene. Sgt Parker gave her view of the jurisdiction and her role in the safety barrier: “It's interesting in that when something goes through the Department of Natural Resources, what I'm learning is that things operate differently. And so when things would go through the city of Olympia, there would be different notifications. And that's what I'm familiar with. Being a city of Olympia employee is that process, and so I can appreciate the frustration.” The Department of Natural Resources can close roads with the proper permitting, and the permits were attained, according to Parker.

Comments

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  • BobJacobs

    Green Cove Creek is our highest-quality salmon spawning stream in Olympia. The city and county have adopted special regulations to protect it. But apparently not enough.

    This is so typical of environmental protection in this state. Lots of talk with little or no effective action.

    Bob Jacobs

    Tuesday, June 28 Report this

  • JJmama

    If the City of Olympia had not maintained a status which allows commercial logging within the city limits, this wouldn't be happening. An appeals attorney reviewing this permit said he doesn't know of another city that still does this. Some of us are trying so hard to establish good tree policy regulations for the local jurisdictions, trying to fight the state DNR clear-cutting of our legacy forests in Capital Forest and all around the County and beyond, trying to protect especially unique and large legacy trees, trying to fight the way our region's cities permit total clear-cuts on diverse forest habitat with over 100 year old trees---just to put up a few expensive single-family houses.

    It's as if these jurisdictions haven't just all agreed to a Thurston Climate Mitigation Plan, which they have....and are moving in the opposite direction of their carbon mitigation targets. It's as if local leaders seem to know nothing of the value of these kinds of tracts of trees....which protect and provide salmon habitat, are so important to stormwater absorption, create cool shade and neighborhood beauty and trails, and protect diverse species habitat.

    We have so far to go....

    Tuesday, June 28 Report this

  • sunshine39

    Thank you for providing this information. Without you providing in-depth articles, how is the public to know.

    Tuesday, June 28 Report this

  • MartyKenney

    So frustrating that the city of Olympia doesn’t take care of the natural ecosystems within their jurisdiction. I talked with the owner of the property while we watched 100 year old cedars get cut down in seconds, he told me that the city was not interested in preserving the land and turning it into a park. They have “higher priorities”. He purchased the land for $150k in 2020… why doesn’t the city have this kind of money?? Shame on you city council. Shame on you.

    Tuesday, June 28 Report this

  • JasonS

    The comment from JJmama is spot on. The Thurston Climate Mitigation Plan states several times the benefits of preserving existing tree canopies and even formalized it as Strategy A5/A6/A7 on page 95, where in their 'What We Heard' section they note this survey response: "“The number one priority needs to be preservation of wooded areas that contain our trees for carbon reduction.”

    It is staggeringly disappointing that the City Council has taken no real steps to effect the TCMP in this case. They've taken a lot of heat for failing to achieve much in terms of our homeless population but admittedly that is a complex and difficult issue to tackle; preventing existing stands of trees such as this one from being cut down should be an easy win, but they utterly failed. The job isn't to talk a good game while working on getting reelected, but rather to DO THE JOB. So many surveys and "action plans" but so very little action.

    Tuesday, June 28 Report this

  • robpen

    Sage and Danny, thank you for scrambling to pull together and share updated information on this destruction of our local environmental habitat. I am concerned that the DNR authorization was provided without an adequately thorough investigation of the potential impacts of this project. I hope the City of Olympia will consider addressing the disconnect you mentioned for having no input on major projects like this within the City limits. I respect DNR, but this is our city and we should have more opportunity for input.

    Dan Einstein, the well respected president and CEO of Olympia Coalition for Ecosystems Protection, provided the detailed assessment of the potential impacts below. I hope that your readers will read these and consider joining the appeal by e-mailing Charlotte Persons (cpeople2u@gmail.com) before COB Monday, June 27th as well as to consider e-mailing their comments to the three agencies related to this issue, noting “Re: Forest Practice Application #2422931 - Cooper Crest, Olympia WA”:

    -Pollution Control Hearings Board - pchb-shbappeals@eluho.wa.gov.

    -Office of the Attorney General, Natural Resources Division -

    serviceATG@atg.wa.gov

    -Department of Natural Resources, South Puget Sound Region -southpuget.region@dnr.wa.gov

    Dan Einstein’s Initial Assessment of Potential Clearcut Impacts:

    The clearcut would destroy a legacy forest within Olympia city limits in the Green Cove Creek Basin that borders the Cooper Crest Open Space and Green Cove Creek, and is close to The Evergreen State College's environmental preserve and old growth forest. The site is a critical area for aquifer recharge, provides habitat to threatened species, and stabilizes the slope to prevent landslides. The loss of this forest would create conditions that greatly exacerbate the possibility of flooding, fire, landslides, contamination of ground and surface waters, damage to road and culvert infrastructure, and destruction of fish habitat in the federally protected waters of the United States. The naked top of this highest hill in Olympia would be the site of the first slash burn in more than a decade and is to be replanted using chemical herbicides, seriously endangering water quality and salmonid health in the basin.

    Further downstream, the County is dealing with a collapsed culvert under Country Club Dr. NW situated on an extremely steep slope. The County is in the midst of restoring fish passage at this junction at the cost of millions of dollars to accommodate the more than 1000 salmon that made it to the culvert this past year in search of upstream habitat that they could not reach. At present, another big storm could potentially cause a landslide that would completely block the stream and/or damage the present bridge.

    Increased runoff from the logging of these 22 acres is inevitable and a direct threat downstream to the integrity of Green Cove Creek, to property and infrastructure, and to fish habitat, all of which the County is spending millions to enhance and protect just from the rainfall alone. Since this area has an extremely high pressure aquifer where water comes up out of the 320-foot high hill and flows in all directions, water is likely to come up and out faster when the ground is cut open by logging skidders.

    Tuesday, June 28 Report this

  • MartyKenney

    I can’t believe how tragic this is. Reading @Rob pens crucial comment about the implications of what *would* happen…. but the forest has already been killed. It’s dead. Animals lost their homes, water will erode the hillside. There is no “would” option anymore. This dude just gets to buy the land, and without ANY public opinion or ability to contest he destroys 120 years of pristine habitat. What? How is this possible? City council? County? Hillary Franz? Who is responsible for this?

    Tuesday, June 28 Report this

  • Scorpio69

    Should it come to a surprise that our own state departments, and elected officials turn a blind eye to the beauty of this state just to make themselves richer? They don't care about anyone but themselves, it's all privately owned corporations ( the entire state depts) isn't it time everyone wake up and pull together , and take back our country and our way of life? Do your own research on population control methods. Scaring the masses is the best way to control and force us to comply with their evil agendas. ( forcing you to put something in your body that is killing healthy men, women and children!!)

    Thursday, June 30 Report this

  • robpen

    Marty Kenny may be right that the clearcut of the 20 acres will proceed and we'll lose that habit. BUT, and this is a big but, if you want to avoid arm wresting, protesting, and feeling sad about all the clearcuts in the future, show up the DNR building TOMORROW at 8:30 for a protest outside and then provide comments at the meeting there. Meeting starts at 9:00, comment period starts at 10:10 (at least according to agenda).

    As I understand it, DNR is revisiting their guidelines on how they make decisions about logging versus protection for the first time since 2011 so it may set the stage for what happens over the coming decade. DNR/BNR is holding a meeting tomorrow at 9:00 where 2-minute comments will be accepted on-site and through Zoom. You can make comments only if you register for the meeting today. Some pretty succinct background and grounds for pushing for greater protection is at https://docs.google.com/do***ent/d/11CeabQBb6rXC7sPM1FQuuq_MiD-tyu7jsabiwrPAC0s/edit. I've alway been a fan of influencing codes and standards (as tedious, long, and frustrating a process as that can be) so you don't have to arm wrestle over one parcel at a time. I had other plans for tomorrow, but how often do you have the opportunity to change the future of our community for the next decade?

    Tuesday, July 5 Report this

  • Sabrina

    It’s going on here in NE Oly too, so awful to watch and hear the beauty taken away, not only that but important habitat, carbon capture, buffer for noise and storms, aquifer protection and rain capture. Nothing seems to stop it. Can hear them falling right now at 2313 S. Bay Rd. It’s really a shame.

    Tuesday, September 13 Report this