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Snoqualmie Tree Farm purchase still waiting on bill's passage

SNOQUALMIE - Supporters of a bill that would pave the way for the purchase of 99,000 acres of the Snoqualmie Tree Farm are continuing their push to reach the congressional floor by year's end.

The Community Forestry and Agriculture Conservation Act would change current law to allow organizations, like the Evergreen Forest Trust, to harvest resources, such as timber, from lands to be preserved. In allowing groups to do so, supporters say the bill will create a conservation model to be followed for years to come.

In the case of the Snoqualmie Tree Farm, passage of the bill would find the organization utilizing timber sales to pay off $185 million in tax-exempt revenue bonds for its purchase.

Without the change in law, the proposed purchase-and-sale agreement between Evergreen Forest Trust and the farm's current owner, Weyerhaeuser Co., will not be finalized.

The Senate Finance Committee approved the Charity Aid Recovery and Empowerment Act of 2002 earlier this year, of which the Community Forestry and Agriculture Conservation Act is part.

The bill, originally introduced in 1998 to the House of Representatives by U.S. Rep. Jennifer Dunn, who serves the 8th District, in 1998, with Sen. Patty Murray introducing the bill to the Senate in 2001, is currently sitting in a congressional committee.

Dunn's communications director, Jen Burita, said her boss is working diligently to find a vehicle to get the bill to the floor before year's end.

In July, Dunn told a group of constituents in North Bend that she was hopeful the bill would be passed by the end of the year.

Despite a two-week congressional break for the election season, Burita said Dunn still holds confidence her self-imposed deadline can be met. If that deadline is missed, Burita said Dunn will continue to push for passage in the new year.

The Senate will reconvene its regular schedule on Nov. 12.

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