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B & B owner pays $100K for shoreline clearcut; Preservation Trust drops lawsuit

A steep slope on the westside of Fidalgo Island, part of a nature preserve owned and managed by  San Juan Preservation Trust, is vulnerable to damage from seasonal water runoff after it was illegally clearcut by a neighboring property owner.  - Contributed photo/SJPT
A steep slope on the westside of Fidalgo Island, part of a nature preserve owned and managed by San Juan Preservation Trust, is vulnerable to damage from seasonal water runoff after it was illegally clearcut by a neighboring property owner.
— image credit: Contributed photo/SJPT

It’s not the first time that someone treated its protected land with disregard.

But on this occasion, and largely because of the extent of the transgression, the San Juan Preservation Trust came out swinging. As a result, the owner of an Anacortes bed-and-breakfast accused in a Skagit County court of clear-cutting a waterfront nature preserve agreed to pay the Preservation Trust $100,000 to settle the matter before it went to trial.

“It’s happened in the past--we call it ‘timber trespass’--and typically we’ve settled,” said Tim Seifert, executive director of the Lopez Island-based land conservation organization. “This time we decided we needed to make an example out of it and to let people know that we’re going to protect our land.”Geary Preserve

According to the Preservation Trust, the owner of the Ship House Inn presumably ordered the removal of all the trees from a one-quarter acre area of steep waterfront embankment to enhance the view from his lodging establishment. That area is part of the Trust-owned 1.25-mile John H. Geary Shoreline Preserve, a 38-acre collection of 22 contiguous parcels on the west side of Fidalgo Island, near the intersection of Marine Drive and Rosario Road.

The preserve was created and permanently conserved 22 years ago by a group of neighbors concerned over a prospective development along the neighborhood’s steep and scenic hillside.

“It’s not a huge swath of land but the entire bank was cleared of trees,” Seifert said. “The ironic thing is that we often work with neighbors when there’s something that we can do.”

The embankment was clearcut sometime during the winter. Seifert noted that no permits for tree removal were ever filed by the owner of the bed-and-breakfast, whose property sits directly above the area of the preserve that was denuded of trees.

The settlement, filed May 22 in Skagit County Superior Court, prompted the Preservation Trust to drop a pending lawsuit. Documents were filed with the court by the Trust June 5 noting that the agreed upon amount had been paid in full.

Seifert said the uprooting of trees and vegetation has destabilized an extremely steep embankment that was already prone to damage by seasonal water-runoff. The Trust intends to use money from the settlement to stabilize the bank, restore vegetation, educate neighbors about the waterfront preserve and implement strategies that might help avoid future violations.

Founded in 1979, the Preservation Trust, a non-profit, membership-based land trust manages more than 280 properties, 39 miles of shoreline, 21 miles of trails and 15,000 acres on 20 islands in the San Juans and neighboring areas.

“No one likes to seek legal remedy, but this community worked very hard to protect this shoreline,” said Keith Gerrard, president of the Preservation Trust board of trustees. “We have a responsibility to defend all of our nature preserves in perpetuity, and we won’t shy away from that commitment.”

 

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