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WFLC and Friends of Mineral Lake Win Battle Against Forestland Conversion in Lewis County

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 Mineral Lake

On July 6, 2012, Judge McPhee of Thurston County Superior Court ruled in favor of WFLC client Friends of Mineral Lake in a case to stop conversion of forestlands in Lewis County.

COURT INFORMATION: Thurston County Superior Court No. 11-2-02089-1

CLIENT/RESPONDENTS:  Friends of Mineral Lake

PETITIONERS:  Lewis County and Forecastle Timber Company, LLC

LEGAL ISSUE: Growth Management Act - Amendment to Lewis County's development regulations that allowed conversion of forestland to home sites was inconsistent with the County's Comprehensive Plan.

STATUS:  On July 6, 2012, Judge McPhee upheld the Growth Management Hearings Board's decision. Read the Friends of Mineral Lake’s superior court brief.

Case Details

Forecastle Timber Company is attempting to convert over 800 acres of ecologically valuable forestlands along Mineral Lake to vacation homes. The land is a steeply-sloped forested area surrounded by water—it is situated between Mineral Lake, the Nisqually River, and Mineral Creek.

The forestland provides habitat for many species of wildlife, including threatened Northern Spotted Owls, and also provides erosion control that sustains clean water. In fact, the lake’s clear waters are home to some of the biggest rainbow trout in the Northwest. Conversion of forestland necessitates extensive road systems, shoreline development, and the placement of impermeable surfaces like driveways that lead to increased sediment runoff that will harm the purity of the lake.

Lewis County recognized the importance of retaining these lands for forestry in 1996 and designated them as “Forest Lands of Long-term Commercial Significance.” Yet now the County is attempting to change the forestlands’ status to allow four times as much development.

Friends of Mineral Lake is a group of local citizens fighting to preserve the economic, ecological, and cultural value of logging in their small town. Organizer Ron Nilson has lived his entire 67 years along the lake and has steadfastly resisted the efforts of timber companies to convert surrounding forestlands.

Judge McPhee’s ruling affirmed the Western Washington Growth Management Hearings Board’s August 31, 2011 decision, which found that the County had applied a new interpretation of the development regulations to Forecastle’s land. Application of this new interpretation treated different lands differently under the same laws, and therefore violated the internal consistency requirement of the Growth Management Act. This inconsistency renders the County’s Comprehensive Plan out of compliance with the Act.

Compliance with the Growth Management Hearings Board’s Decision

On May 11, 2012, Lewis County submitted a Report on Compliance to the Board detailing actions taken to comply with the Board’s August 31, 2011 decision. Friends of Mineral Lake filed a response to the Report, arguing that neither of the actions taken by Lewis County remedied the Board’s finding of noncompliance with the Growth Management Act. The Board agreed and issued an Order on September 6 remanding the case to the County for compliance. The County’s compliance report is due March 19, 2013.

Friends of Mineral Lake and WFLC will continue to fight the Forecastle development at the Board and in the courts if necessary.


Door to Vacation Homes on Mineral Lake Blocked, for Now,” The Chronicle, January 10, 2012

Thurston County Upholds Mineral Lake Growth Management Decision,” The Chronicle, July 24, 2012