SEATTLE – November 4, 1999 - In a joint announcement today, U.S. Senators Slade Gorton and Patty Murray, Plum Creek Timber Co., the United States Forest Service (USFS) and eight environmental organizations disclosed a landmark agreement to complete the I-90 Land Exchange in Central Washington.
The diverse group of stakeholders in the exchange agreed to a modified land package that resolves the issues that have surrounded the land exchange for many years.
"This agreement is tremendous news for all the people of Washington state," said Senator Gorton. "We've preserved both the special places of the central Cascades and the places special to the citizens of East Lewis County."
"I am pleased that we have a solid compromise that addresses the concerns of the people in Randle and Lewis County, while still protecting the integrity of the land exchange," commented Senator Murray. "Plum Creek, the Forest Service and environmental groups deserve a great deal of credit for continuing to work on this issue."
The group credited Senators Gorton and Murray with "leadership in passing legislation that made the exchange possible, and for bringing together the broad group to craft an exchange that benefits all interests."
The agreement will result in a swap of 31,900 acres of Plum Creek Timber Co. land in the Wenatchee and Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forests for 11,500 acres of USFS land in three national forests: Wenatchee, Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie, and the Gifford Pinchot.
The parties found three areas of agreement. First, they agreed to remove Watch Mountain and other old growth forest areas in Fossil Creek near Randle, Washington, and to remove from the exchange public lands in the Green River area, where Plum Creek scientists discovered threatened marbled murrelets.Second, the parties agreed on a process to allow the federal government to acquire approximately 18,000 additional acres of Plum Creek land previously slated for exchange into public ownership.
- Third, the parties agreed to forsake future litigation over either the land exchange or Plum Creek's future access across Forest Service lands to some of its Cascades property.
The stakeholders said the revised exchange protects large ecosystems that contain important habitat for fish and wildlife and also preserves recreational benefits for Washington citizens. The exchange has a net increase in public ownership of 8,000 acres of old growth forests and 20,000 acres of roadless lands. It also adds over 25 miles of popular hiking trails into public ownership as well as protecting some of the state's most scenic areas such as Silver Creek, Cooper River, Kelly Butte, and the West Fork of the Teanaway River.
Following are quotes from each participant, highlights of the agreement and contact information:
Plum Creek Executive Vice President Bill Brown:
"This has been a long and complicated process, and we congratulate all of the individuals and organizations that have made it possible. For 140 years, Plum Creek has been the steward of some truly stunning natural creations. We have taken good care of them, and today's agreement is the best way to put them into public ownership.
"Senators Gorton and Murray, along with Congressmen Doc Hastings and Norm Dicks, have shown tremendous foresight in supporting this exchange – it wouldn't have been possible without their efforts."
Charlie Raines, Director, The Sierra Club's Cascade Checkerboard Project:
"This agreement does a great job of protecting forests in the Cascades. The parties found common ground in protecting roadless areas, ancient forest, and salmon-bearing streams. Now we will work with our Congressional delegation to find the funds to finish this task."
Janine Blaeloch, Director, Western Land Exchange Project.
"No land trade has inspired more hands-on citizen involvement than the I-90 Land Exchange. The positive changes in this land trade are a tribute to the work of people who understand the importance of our public land."
Norm Winn, Conservation Chair of The Mountaineers:
"This agreement protects valuable recreation lands. It is truly remarkable such diverse interests were able to find agreement, and The Mountaineers appreciate the support of our U.S. Senators in making this happen."
Rick McGuire, President, Alpine Lakes Protection Society (ALPS):
"This is a greatly improved land exchange, protecting more old growth from the Alpine Lakes to Mt. St. Helens. Just as important, this agreement insures many special benefits, such as donations of land by Plum Creek, special protections in the Green River Watershed, and study of potential wilderness status near the Alpine Lakes."
David Atcheson, President, Pacific Crest Biodiversity Project:
"You could write a book about the last few months, and I bet someone will. In the end, the citizens of Randle, the environmental community, Plum Creek, and most importantly the land came out ahead. We are very encouraged."
Stephanie Matheny, Chair of Forest Subcommittee, Seattle Audubon Society:
"The protection of habitat has always been a high priority for Seattle Audubon. The solution has brought all of the parties together to save old-growth forest in Southwest Washington."
Mitch Friedman, Executive Director, Northwest Ecosystem Alliance:
"Plum Creek and conservationists recognized an opportunity to save irreplaceable natural treasures from our public lands and serve the community of Randle. If Plum Creek and environmentalists can come to agreement, then our delegation should be able to see the value in protecting Fossil and Watch and allocating funds to complete the Exchange."
David Jennings, Chair, Gifford Pinchot Task Force:
"This land exchange shows how fragmented and threatened our forest ecosystems have become. We have now identified biologically important lands both in the I-90 area and on the Gifford Pinchot that need to be brought into public ownership. Plum Creek is a willing seller. We hope Congress will help us with the Land and Water Conservation Fund financing."
Parties to the agreement and contacts are:
Alpine Lakes Protection Society Rick McGuire
Gifford Pinchot Task Force David Jennings
The Mountaineers Norm Winn
Northwest Ecosystem Alliance Mitch Friedman
Pacific Crest Biodiversity Project David Atcheson
Seattle Audubon Society Stephanie Matheny
(206) 860-2491, ext. 208
Sierra Club Charlie Raines
Western Land Exchange Project Janine Blaeloch
Plum Creek Timber Co. Bob Jirsa
US Forest Service Sonny O'Neal
Highlights of the Exchange:
With the completion of the I-90 land exchange, many critical areas of the central Cascades will achieve long-sought protection. Foremost among them are four roadless, old growth forested valleys near the Alpine Lakes Wilderness: Scatter Creek, Silver Creek, Domerie Creek, and the West Fork Teanaway River. These four valleys represent the largest remaining areas of privately owned ancient forests in Washington state, which will now be protected in public ownership.
The land exchange also creates a 15,000 acre wilderness study area bordering the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, where the Forest Service will examine additions to the wilderness and make recommendations to Congress within three years. Also designated in the exchange is the new 5,000 acre Kelly Butte Special Management Area, the first area of protected forest to be established in the Green River valley, source of Tacoma's drinking water. Plum Creek Timber Co. also will donate to the public several hundred acres of land at Mt. Margaret, near Snoqualmie Pass.
Another great benefit of the exchange will be to enhance biological connectivity between the North and South Cascades by increasing the amount of public land on both sides of Interstate 90. This will address the problems of fragmentation which have threatened to isolate wildlife populations, and will hopefully enhance the chances of species such as grizzly bears and wolves returning to the South Cascades.
The modifications to the exchange will keep in public ownership two areas of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in southwest Washington, which were initially planned for transfer to Plum Creek Timber Co. These areas are Watch Mountain, the scenic forested backdrop to the town of Randle in eastern Lewis County, and Fossil Creek, next to the Mt. St. Helens National Monument. Fossil Creek is home to an area of spectacular ancient forest over 450 years old, with towering hemlock and Douglas fir trees. It is home to many rare and endangered species, and a fertile hunting ground for scientists who continue to find new, previously unknown species.
In order to remove these areas from the land exchange, it was necessary to remove 18,200 acres of land which would have transferred from Plum Creek to public ownership. Plum Creek has offered options for public purchase of these lands and an additional 2,000 acres in southwest Washington that it acquired in the exchange, over the next few years. The conservation groups involved in the settlement of the exchange intend to seek Congressional Land and Water Conservation Funds, as well as private funds, to further protect lands in Washington's Cascades.
In its final form, the land exchange transfers 31,900 acres of land from Plum Creek to the Forest Service in the Wenatchee and Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forests. 11,500 acres of land will transfer from the Forest Service to Plum Creek in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie, Wenatchee, and Gifford Pinchot National Forests. The exchange will lead to a net increase of 8,000 acres of old growth forest and 20,000 acres of roadless lands in public ownership. The exchange also has important recreational benefits, including the transfer of over 25 miles of hiking trails to public ownership.