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Compensation Coming for Cooper Crest Clearcut

The restoration of Cooper Crest, the “ghostly forest” remaining after a clearcut, may finally be getting some help from the City of Olympia.  On October 24, 2023, Judge Thomas McPhee, acting as arbitrator, granted the City treble damages against Silvimantle, LLC for illegally harvesting trees from the City’s Cooper Crest property during its logging operation which devastated more than 25 acres of legacy forest on Olympia’s westside in the summer of 2022.

The damages were awarded for timber trespass of 1.29 acres of forest misidentified by Silvimantle’s surveyor and for trees cut along the City’s right-of-way.

An appraiser hired by the City determined that the total value of the timber was $31,146, which included 30 trees with a diameter 24” or more.  The City estimated total costs, including site clean-up, reforestation, and staff time to be $72,376, which when trebled amounts to $217,130.  The City is in the process of negotiating a settlement agreement that should be completed within a few months.

Cooper Crest Restoration Goes Forward

In May 2023, OlyEcosystems and the city of Olympia entered into a conservation easement on the property for the purpose of restoration over the next 10 years, after which negotiations could take place for other public interest uses.  OlyEcosystems estimates expenses of $745,662 over the ten-year period to restore the property it owns adjacent to the trespassed city-owned acre.  Much work has already been done with the help of many volunteers.  The starting list of plantings included 4,200 Douglas fir, 2,000 Western Red Cedar, 500 Shore Pine, 100 each of Grand Fir, Sitka Spruce and Western Hemlock.  It has also planted 100 Coastal Redwoods donated by PropagationNation, a nonprofit working to bring redwoods and sequoias to the Northwest.

Marshall Middle School, through its Citizen Science Institute (CSI) classes, also provided plantings from their native plant nursery which were planted on January 13, 2023, Martin Luther King Day.  These included more than 850 native plants, including salmon, thimble, snow and twin berries, oregon grape, nootka rose, hazelnuts, red flowering currant and cascara.  CSI is an Olympia school district-wide magnet alternative program whose mission is “develop youth leadership in science through field-based science investigations and civic literacy through action projects.”   The students at Marshall are actively involved in a restoration of their campus with goals to protect the water resources, improve the soils and sequester carbon in  the Green Cove Watershed which is shared with Capital High School, 3 elementary schools and TESC.

The restoration project first phase was funded by Thurston County and CSI is seeking funding for its second phase.

Will the Awarded Damages Be Used to Restore Cooper Crest?

Residents who want to assure the awarded damages are used to restore the Cooper Crest property can write to the Parks Department and City Council, urging the money be designated for this purpose.  You can address your messages to: Laura Keehan, and

To help support the restoration, please visit

To read more on what happened at Cooper Crest and legislative efforts to regulate urban forestry, click Can a Clearcut Happen Again?

Can a Clearcut Happen Again?

As previously reported in WIP (A clearcut case for community rights), attempts by community members to appeal DNR’s approval of the clearcut in 2022 were quickly shot down by the conflicts of interest and administrative morass of procedures established by the state through its Forest Practices Board and the Pollution Control Hearings Board, which dismissed the appeal before any hearing was even held.

To prevent such a clearcut from reoccurring, former State Senator Karen Fraser and City Council member Clark Gilman have put forward proposals to change the statutes and city policies governing timber harvests.   HB 1689, introduced on January 31, 2023, would have allowed cities to adopt an ordinance to regulate all forest practices within city limits, though it required those regulations provide substantially equivalent standards as DNR.  That bill did not get a public hearing, neither in the last or the current legislative session.

Karen Fraser’s proposed changes went further, mandating that city environmental standards be complied with if they are more protective than DNR’s.  Presently, land inside an urban growth area (UGA) converting to urban development is required to meet local critical area ordinances, but land that is not converting, like Cooper Crest, falls under DNR Forest Practice regulations.   To prevent another clearcut, the same regulations should apply to all forest practices inside UGAs, whether or not they are converting to urban development.

Other proposed changes targeted what did not happen during the Cooper Crest appeal, such as giving a 90-day notice of an impending harvest to the city and adjacent property owners, not allowing logging until AFTER appeals had been complete, prohibiting DNR or the PCHB from dismissing an appeals because the timber had already been harvested, and prohibiting PCHB from assigning appeals hearings to staff who had formerly worked for DNR.  She suggested establishing an internal administrative appeals process, instead of the expensive proposition of appealing to the PCHB, and authorizing cities to impose sanctions for violations of city policies and to require some “community compatibility” conditions, like leaving a buffer of trees along roads.

As of this date, nothing has changed in DNR policy, and so yes, it could happen again.

Council member Gilman plans to resume efforts with DNR policy staff when the legislature adjourns.

One Comment

  1. Bob Jacobs March 12, 2024

    Thanks for the good work on this issue. The Cooper Crest clearcut was a tragedy that illustrated the lack of appropriate regulation which occurs in so many parts of our economy.

    Bob Jacobs

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