Trust's deal to buy tree farm languishes
Snoqualmie, WA - 1/30/03 - Weyerhaeuser's 100,000-acre Snoqualmie Tree Farm is back on the market.
Proponents of a plan to buy it for $185 million, set aside some but keep most of it as a timber resource, failed to get the help they needed from Congress last year. And on Jan. 16, time ran out on their one-year sales agreement with the giant timber company.
According to Weyerhaeuser spokesman Frank Mendizabal, a group calling itself the Evergreen Forest Trust had a year to see if Congress would pass legislation needed to permit the trust's use of tax-exempt bonds for the purchase.
Congress didn't make it.
Doug Badger, chief of staff for Rep. Jennifer Dunn, a Bellevue Republican, said the House and the Senate got the job done separately but couldn't get together to finish it by the December break.
"It was included in the energy bill," Badger said, "but we couldn't get a final version."
Now, new legislation is expected.
The tree farm, part of timber baron Fredrick Weyerhaeuser's original Northwest holdings, stretches from Mount Si near North Bend to Mount Index in southern Snohomish County. It lies just east of Carnation and Duvall and runs east to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. It's typical of forests on the western Cascade slopes, including Douglas fir, hemlock, cedar, maple and other trees. Most of it is second-growth; some is third-growth.
It is a place that, one day, would be prime for housing developments such as Snoqualmie Ridge and Redmond Ridge, which have been taking shape in recent years on old Weyerhaeuser clear-cuts.
Current zoning, however, would allow no more than one home for every 80 acres on most of the property.
The trust's purchase would block any such development, would see that 20 percent of the land is preserved as is and keep the rest as a "working forest," logged as necessary to pay the purchase price.
Gene Duvernoy, a trust member who also is president of the Seattle-based Cascade Land Conservancy, expressed hope yesterday that the deal eventually be completed.
"Our issue is one of timing," he said. "This it not a matter of if, but when."
Weyerhaeuser's Mendizabal, however, said the timber company has had several nibbles and will set the hook on one of them if the trust can't bite.
"They had a year to see if they could find this funding and they have been unable to do that," Mendizabal said.
"So we are saying now that we're hopeful they can get the funding they need, and if they do we'll be happy to continue with the transaction.
"But in the meantime, the property remains for sale and we're considering other potential bidders or buyers."
P-I reporter Gordy Holt can be reached at 425-453-0324 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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