If you enjoy the content you find here, please consider donating to support our continued efforts to bring you the best news and opinion articles we can. We hope you like the recent update to NWCitizen, and look forward to bringing you more insight into local politics and issues in 2017.

Support NWCitizen Not Now

Stillman Creek: Real Possibility or Scare Tactic?

By On

This past winter, during torrential rains to the South of us, there were some very serious slides on Weyerhaeuser land in Lewis County adjacent to Stillman Creek (a tributary of the Chehalis River) that had been logged under a forest practice application (fpa) approved in late 2004. Images of these slides made the headlines, and the events leading up to the slides were the subject of a number of newspaper stories.

This event has correctly been used to point to the poor management the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) provides for private fpas. The DNR is bound by law to approve or reject fpas in 30 days, and the current DNR administration - led by Doug Sutherland - obviously turns a blind eye to egregious errors – some of which can have catastrophic consequences, as seen in this case.

However, is it proper for this event be used to promote the Lake Whatcom reconveyance proposal, as has been done by a number of proponents? What are the similarities? What are the differences? What matters here? I have investigated this over the past several months.

First, the similarities:
• In both cases we have watersheds where forest practices occur.
• Private forest practices were responsible for the Lewis County incident, and private forest practices do occur in the Lake Whatcom watershed.

However, there are significant differences:
• No private forest practices would be affected by the reconveyance proposal.
• The state (DNR) forest practices that would be affected are conducted to the highest standards of any DNR managed land. While these also involve fpas, the people involved in writing the fpas are all state employees; no “mercenary geologists” to sign off on a poor proposal in exchange for some palm grease. There are some good folks at some of the lower levels of the DNR where these fpas are developed – I feel fortunate to know some of them.

Let’s look at some specifics. The fpa in Stillman Creek (fpan 2910347) specified a single 106 acre clearcut immediately adjacent to Stillman Creek. The steepest slope to be cut was specified at 120% (steeper than 45 degrees), and the creek was given a maximum no-cut buffer width of 100 feet. This was a brutal cut – Weyerhaeuser had a geologist say everything was OK, but obviously it wasn’t. Adding insult to injury, Weyerhaeuser claimed a “small forest landowner” exemption from riparian buffer requirements in their application. This exemption is only supposed to apply if an owner has less than 20 acres within a given watershed - obviously this was not the case here.

Let’s compare this with a Lake Whatcom watershed DNR forest practice approved at close to the same time. The North Olsen fpa (fpan 2808057) was approved in late 2005 - 1 year after Weyerhaeuser’s - and specified 117 acres of clearcut spread over 3 units consisting of 2-35 acre units and one 47 acre unit. The steepest slope in any unit was 60%, and Olsen Creek – about the same size as Stillman Creek – was given a 184 foot no-cut buffer. If you go up there now and have a look you can clearly see the buffer considerably exceeds 184 feet in most areas. Just look up at the area from afar and you will see a far different view from the Stillman Creek photo above - however, if you look further up Stewart Mt you will see some private Crown and Sierra Pacific cuts that are also quite brutal.

Sure, forest practices can have some serious side effects, but are we really to believe that the Stillman Creek situation will occur in the Lake Whatcom watershed from current management of DNR land? I know what I think – let’s not scare folks into supporting a park. Instead, let’s support a park for a parks sake. That is the discussion we really need to have.

If we really want to stop Stillman Creek-like events from re-occurring in our state, we need to replace Doug Sutherland with Peter Goldmark this November.

About Tom Pratum

Closed Account • Member since Jan 21, 2008

Tom Pratum is a native Whatcom County resident, having arrived at St Josephs Hospital, and having attended Lowell, Fairhaven, and Sehome High Schools. He later obtained a PhD in Physical [...]

Comments by Readers

g.h. kirsch

Sep 18, 2008

It doesn’t appear that the two putting forward the comparison, Dan McShane and Rand Jack, care to discuss this publicly.

Read More...

Tom Pratum

Sep 18, 2008

I was trying not to mention names, but, now that you mention a couple, there are others. How about that guy at WWU who thinks everyone with concerns about this is a NIMBY? - oops, there is that term again…..

Read More...

g.h. kirsch

Sep 19, 2008

Isn’t it fortunate that no one knows them or how to let them know they should join the discussion?  Who brought up nimby?  Was that Wallin, McShane or Jack????

Read More...

Tom Pratum

Sep 19, 2008

It was the guy from WWU - I don’t want to use his name here because I feel like that is talking about people behind their backs - they either are not aware of our discussion here, or are ignoring it. Only one of the 3 names listed is a tenured faculty member at WWU.

Read More...

Hue Beattie

Sep 20, 2008

Tom is right , Peter Goldmark is the best way to improve D.N.R.If you missed him at Boundary Bay his speech is on line at Washington Outsiders -older posts.

Read More...