White River Forest in southeast King County Private working forest pending permanent protection
King County and Hancock Timber Resource Group have reached agreement for the county to purchase a conservation easement that would permanently protect 43,000 acres of the White River Forest near Enumclaw. To purchase development rights to the property, County Executive Dow Constantine proposed legislation to authorize $8.1 million in existing funding from the County’s dedicated open space fund known as the Conservation Futures Fund, and in April 2013, the County Council unanimously adopted the proposal. King County anticipates that the easement purchase will occur in summer 2013.
The terms of the conservation easement will allow current and future owners the right to harvest timber sustainably, but restrict future development of the forestland. The easement will include passive recreation as an allowed use, including hiking, mountain biking, fishing, hunting and other recreational activities. These recreational activities will continue to be managed by the landowner, and any decisions about restrictions, open areas, etc. rest with the landowner.
“Preserving this land keeps this area a working forest, protects local jobs and guarantees that generations to come will benefit from this purchase,” said Councilmember Reagan Dunn, whose district includes the White River Forest parcel. “This conservation easement also helps to preserve land that is used by many county residents for a variety of recreational activities.”
Making up nearly one-fifth of the private commercial forest lands in King County, the White River Forest is an important part of the County’s timber resource industry. An analysis of countywide timber harvest data suggests that in 2010 the White River Forest yielded nearly 10 million board-feet with an estimated timber value of $3.5 million, supporting more than 350 forestry jobs.
The White River Forest is located along scenic Highway 410, which takes motorists to Crystal Mountain ski resort in the winter and over Chinook pass in the summer. The forest is a critical component to a large north-south wildlife habitat link that connects Mount Rainer National Park in the south to the upper Green and Cedar River watersheds that lie to the north. It is also an important east-west wildlife corridor, providing an uninterrupted link from the lowlands to the Cascade crest.
Species known to be present in the White River Forest include Northern Spotted Owls, elk, American black bears, as well as other more common birds and mammals living in the Cascade Mountains. The White River, which makes the southern boundary of the property pending protection, is an important salmon system, with healthy populations of chinook, coho, and steelhead, and one of the largest pink salmon runs in King County with more than 600,000 fish counted in 2011 (external link).
For more information about the White River Forest, please contact Michael Murphy, Project Program Manager, Water and Land Resources Division Open Space Acquisition.