Hundreds of acres of old-growth forest land near the North and Middle Forks of the Snoqualmie River are now under the protection of Forterra, a Seattle-based land conservation organization, and the Washington Department of Natural Resources.
On Dec. 29, Forterra and the DNR finalized two deals with property owner Cugini Land and Timber to buy two properties totalling 376 acres of old-growth forest. Forterra worked with the DNR to purchase the 220-acre Blethen Lake property, located in the Upper Quartz Creek area of the Middle Fork, and the 156-acre Titicaed Creek property, in the North Fork Tolt River watershed.
Charlie Raines, director of forest conservation at Forterra, said the total cost of both properties, which were purchased by the DNR with grant funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was $1.2 million. An appraiser visited both sites to calculate the value of the timber. Forterra had been hoping to acquire these properties for more than a decade.
The two locations are home to some of the last old-growth forest in the state. Old-growth forest is a label applied to a forested area that has had minimal interference from humans over long periods of time; often they feature a unique habitat for animals. These properties are also home to two endangered species, the Northern Spotted Owl and Marbled Murrelet, Raines said.
“Blethen Lake is where we worked with the DNR, who not only provided the grant funding, but were able to include it in the Mount Si Natural Resource Area,” he said. “This is filling in some of those gaps to fill out the natural resource conservation area. It all ties together in a wonderful conservation effort over several decades.”
The purchase of these two properties was an important step forward for forest conservation in Washington, Raines said. These properties are home to endangered species, provide an almost untouched habitat for a full ecosystem of animals and are home to a wide range of old plant life, including 500-year old cedar trees.
Blethen Lake and Titicaed Creek are surrounded by other protected lands, further ensuring their protection.
“I think, what’s particularly important, is there are only a few parcels of old-growth forest on private land that are not protected,” Raines said. “These were two very significant parcels and we were pleased we were able to pull together and make this a reality.”
In a press release by Forterra, Robert Cugini, former owner of the two properties, thanked Forterra for their efforts to preserve and protect the property.
“The Cugini family is delighted to honor the memory of our grandparents and our father with this transfer of rare and pristine old growth timberlands and lovely Alpine lake,” Cugini said. “After more than 85 years of family history in the forest products industry, we are very appreciative of the priceless characteristics of these properties. The woods were our grandfather’s favorite place to spend time in nature and he would be pleased that these unique wilderness properties will be preserved in perpetuity.”
The two properties will now be managed separately by Forterra and the DNR. Blethen Lake will be managed by the DNR and is now part of the Mount Si Natural Resource Conservation Area. The DNR also holds a legal easement on Titicaed Creek that ensures Forterra will protect the habitat.
“Between DNR, the forest service and King County, we’ve done a terrific job up in the North Fork,” Raines said. “It feels good when you got everyone pulling in the same direction. It is really quite a challenge but that’s what makes this job rewarding.”