Unbelievably, one of the most loved hiking destinations in Western Washington, Lake Serene and Bridal Veil Falls, is now closed for logging later this year on privately-owned land within the first mile of the trailhead, but there is still time to prevent that tragedy from taking place.
In the checkerboard that is local land ownership, the Lake Serene Trail begins in national forest, crosses a privately owned tract, and then reenters national forest for the remainder of its distance. The area to be logged is the privately owned portion. That parcel is not owned by a small landholder in need of income or escape from exorbitant taxes on standing timber — it is owned by Weyerhaeuser, one of the largest private holders of timberland in the United States. In comparison to Weyerhaeuser’s vast portfolio of timber tracts, this small arc of woodland around the Lake Serene Trail is but a pinecone dropped in the forest. While Weyerhaeuser may use its land as it sees fit, the greater public good in preserving this strip of forest outweighs its commercial interests. Over 45,000 hikers use the trail to visit Lake Serene and Bridal Veil Falls each year, which contributes not only to their own well-being, but also to that of the economies of the small communities in the Skykomish Valley below. Needless to say, repeated clear-cut timber harvesting (this will be the third and forth time portions of this forest have been razed) wrecks havoc on the plant and animal species that depend on the forest, especially in riparian habitat such as that along Bridal Veil Creek, which flows through Weyerhaeuser’s parcel. Logging by a privately owned commercial interest will prevent use of the surrounding publicly owned land, needlessly mar the landscape around one of the area’s most popular hiking trails, destroy delicate creekside habitat, and potentially damage local economies that depend on their adjacent wilderness resources.
Forterra, a regional organization that partners with local communities to ensure sustainable land conservation and stewardship, has offered to purchase the parcel from Weyerhaeuser and minimize the impact of logging, but must have the funds to do so by October 30, 2017. To help reach that goal, a local Seattle couple has pledged to match community donations up to $75,000 toward the purchase price. The rest is up to us!
To be clear, if Forterra succeeds in purchasing the land, it will permit logging of a portion of the parcel (less than half) prior to purchase to help offset the acquisition price, but will preserve the forest around the trail and, more importantly, the streamside habitat around Bridal Veil Creek. This is not inconsistent with Forterra‘s goal of forging sustainable solutions to land conservation. Better to save some of the forest — its key, most vital parts — than none at all. Forterra also pledges to ensure that the logged portion is replanted with greater and more natural plant diversity than currently exists after previous harvests. Finally, purchasing the property and ensuring that this popular trail remains unblemished supports Forterra‘s broader goal of creating, bit by bit, a “Great Northern Corridor” of sustainably managed and conserved forests, farms, and communities along the west slopes of the Cascades, including its specific focus on revitalization of the town of Skykomish and its surrounding scenic areas.
It would be a travesty to permit a place with “Serene” in its very name to be reduced to a clear-cut. To donate and learn more about how to save this community asset, go to Forterra‘s page at “Save the Lake Serene Trail.”
The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of any other person or entity named herein.