Approximately 68 acres of forested land on Samish Hill (east of 40th St) are slated for timber harvesting with follow-up plans to replant the logged areas with new tree seedlings within 1-year of harvesting. This area is within the Samish Neighborhood that stretches from Consolidation Ave at the north end to Lake Padden at the south end, and is bounded east and west by the city limits and I-5 respectively. Most of Samish Neighborhood is zoned residential single, presumably the largest area of undeveloped residential property in the city.
So it is interesting that activities are currently taking place on forested parcels of land in the Samish neighborhood that lie within the Bellingham City Limits and the designated urban growth boundary. This proposed and approved logging area lies adjacent to (east of) the Wildwood Hills and Whitewater subdivisions. A Class III Forest Practices Application /Notification (1 below) was approved by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources on December 16, 2018. This approved application allows for the harvesting of 95% of the trees on a 68.3-acre parcel (essentially a “clear-cut”) with requisite reforestation of the logged areas with various tree species (fir, cedar, hemlock, etc.); reforestation planting is tentatively scheduled for March 2020.
Samish Heights, Inc., a private owner group, was involved in creation of the Whitewater subdivision and recently filed the above-mentioned application for a 10-Year Forest Management Plan. This classification and approval allows for various forest activities to take place but requires adherence to a 10-Year moratorium on conversion of this land to any use other than Commercial Forest Product Operations. Related work began in December 2018 with the building of a 2,000-foot long gravel-topped access road to facilitate this project. Once this logging access road is fully graveled, logging activities are expected to begin and continue for approximately four (4) weeks.
This current logging project follows a related Timber Thinning Project (same property owners & logging company) that took place in the Fall of 2017. The approximately 33 acres of timber that were harvested at that time were done so under the jurisdiction of a Class IV Forest Practices Application/Notification involving conversion from forestry to non-forestry use. The 110-acre parcel of land that was involved in 2017 includes the current 68.3-acre Class III project.
Importantly, as part of the recently approved application, the property owner (Samish Heights, Inc.) states:
”I am the legal owner of the above listed parcel(s) and by way of this statement; I am opting out of the requirements of a Class IV-General Forest Practice Application within an urban growth area. I assure the local government and the State of Washington, that by opting out, I intend NOT TO CONVERT TO A USE OTHER THAN COMMERCIAL PRODUCT OPERATIONS FOR A TEN YEAR PERIOD from the date of approval of the application or notification for the parcel(s) listed above; and I will manage the forest land in accordance with the accompanying forest management plan.”
These statements appear to indicate that the governing application (at least for the present or until any other application is submitted and approved) is indeed the Class III plan. As such, it places a moratorium on other land uses – essentially excluding the development of any residential home sites for the near term.
Per discussions with Washington State Department of Natural Resources staff, this Forest Practices Approval/Notification - Class III is the current governing document. If the property owner chooses to make a future change to the governance of this property, the owner can file a different Forest Practices Application/Notification which – upon approval - can then become the governing document. This dynamic process of governing classification and land-use deserves continued vigilance on the part of interested residents of the Samish neighborhood as well as other Bellingham residents.
Simply put, this particular area within the Bellingham Urban Growth Boundary appears as though it may continue to be primarily inhabited by a variety of 4-legged native forest animals for the foreseeable future. Future changes, however, could alter the make-up some of these last remaining forested tracts of unbuilt land on Samish Hill. Already there are preliminary actions by a different private developer with land at the north end of the Samish Neighborhood to formally request a final abandonment of the San Juan Boulevard connector between Yew St. and Samish Way (east-west) allowing for development of hundreds of lots while reconfiguring the path of Governor Rd. (north-south). Much more to come with respect to Samish Hill. Stay tuned.