Proposed timber sale near Oso mudslide canceled
The state Department of Natural Resources has canceled a timber sale near the Oso landslide. The state wants to further assess the proposed sale to ensure there are no risks to nearby homes.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Washington state officials canceled a timber sale five miles from the Oso mudslide Friday, saying they want to take a second look at the plan to ensure there are no risks to the public.
The proposed sale, mentioned in a Seattle Times story this week, had been moving forward despite objections from environmentalists concerned about the area’s steep slopes. State officials said in environmental documents that a timber company would harvest the land with the aid of helicopters.
Several homes sit within 500 feet of the proposed clear-cut’s downhill edge, five miles southwest of the March 22 mudslide that buried a neighborhood and killed more than three dozen people.
The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) had scheduled the timber sale — covering more than 180 acres of state land — for next week, but said Friday it was delaying those plans indefinitely.
“In light of what the communities surrounding Oso have endured, I’ve directed department staff to review all the information on this nearby timber sale before moving forward,” Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark said in a statement. “Though we conducted thorough assessments of this proposed sale, it is prudent for us to take another look and reconfirm that this sale is properly configured.”
DNR said in recent documents that geologists have examined the site three times since 2011. A review of the proposed area in November and December led the agency to eliminate about 4 acres from the sale.
A state map of natural hazards suggests the southern portion of the proposed timber sale includes a potential landslide deposit. However, that data isn’t backed by more detailed information that is associated with some other landslide areas in the state, such as the hill where the Oso landslide occurred.
Kyle Blum, the deputy supervisor for state lands, said in an interview Friday that the map showing the landslide deposit is outdated and geologists who have thoroughly assessed the land have access to more modern information. They have concluded there is no evidence of a landslide in the area, Blum said.
Peter Goldman of the Washington Forest Law Center has been opposing the proposed sale in recent months. He said it’s possible there isn’t any landslide in the area, but he still has broader concerns about the state allowing logging on such steep slopes.
Goldman said the state seemed to be focused on maximizing the cut instead of on the potential risks.
“Because people live below, it requires a precautionary approach,” Goldman said.
Blum had told Goldman earlier in the week that the auction was moving ahead, but Blum said the decision was made Friday to temporarily abandon those plans — in part because of the homes in the vicinity. He said the state is also examining other timber sales in the area to see whether they should be delayed.
Scientists are still examining the causes of the Oso mudslide, but some geologists have said the impact of logging can’t be ruled out.
In 2004, a timber company clear-cut about 7.5 acres above the landslide area and may have strayed into a zone that was protected by the state out of concern that tree removal would increase groundwater into the unstable slope. Scientists have said that the groundwater impacts of a clear-cut can linger for many years.
Mike Baker: 206-464-2729 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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