The group of mostly property owners from Lake Wenatchee housing developments and lakeshore homes met with Weyerhaeuser execs last week to forge a deal to buy a 206-acre piece on Nason Ridge and halt a proposal to clear-cut much of the land.

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LAKE WENATCHEE — A group of Lake Wenatchee residents concerned about clear-cutting on a highly visible ridge near here has begun negotiations with Weyerhaeuser to buy the land tagged for logging.

The group of mostly property owners from Lake Wenatchee housing developments and lakeshore homes met with Weyerhaeuser execs last week to forge a deal to buy the 206-acre piece on Nason Ridge and halt a proposal to clear-cut much of the land.

“It’s a case of buy it or lose it,” said Rob Shurtleff, co-editor of the website Lake Wenatchee Info and a coordinator of the community effort to end Weyerhaeuser’s plans for the clear-cut. In the last two weeks, Shurtleff, a 20-year part-time resident, helped gather more than 1,500 signatures on a petition opposing the logging plan.

The petition helped convince Weyerhaeuser to pause the launch of logging operations, said Shurtleff. Weyerhaeuser began last weekend to build logging access roads on the property but voluntarily halted all work Monday after purchase discussions got underway. The company did not confirm the pause.

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Weyerhaeuser also agreed — for the time being — to reopen the Nason Ridge Trail, which cuts across the proposed logging area.

“Support from residents and people who love the Lake Wenatchee area have driven the dialogue (to buy the property),” said Shurtleff. “Now, things are coming together fast.”

Weyerhaeuser acknowledged Tuesday that the company was open to purchase discussions but, depending on the outcome of those discussions, had plans to begin harvesting the parcel sometime later this fall or early next year.

The Chelan-Douglas Land Trust and other regional and national conservation groups have joined with the Lake Wenatchee group in the effort to obtain and manage the land. If a purchase deal is struck, the Land Trust would likely assume ownership of the property, adding it to 95 acres the nonprofit owns along nearby Nason Creek.

“We’re actively engaged in support of efforts to buy the property,” said Curt Soper, the Land Trust’s executive director. “But we’re early in this process, and we’re figuring out our role and the next steps we need to take.”

Community members rallied, said Shurtleff, when the state Department of Natural Resources began taking public comment on Weyerhaeuser’s pair of Forest Practices Applications (FPA) for the Nason Ridge property in June and July. The FPAs reviewed Weyerhaeuser’s proposal for a clear-cut of 161 acres and selective cutting on an adjacent 45 acres.

In their petition, community members emphasized that they were not opposed to logging — just the clear-cut of timber from the visible and, they argued, “steep, unstable slopes directly above dozens of homes.”

Community concerns over the clear-cut included a potential for avalanches and landslides, flooding from denuded slopes, worsening of water quality, increase of fuel loads for wildfires and the bare ridgetop seen by residents and the thousands of annual visitors to Lake Wenatchee State Park.

The group also expressed concern over logging along the Nason Ridge Trail, a scenic path used by hikers, motorcyclists, horseback riders, skiers and snowshoers.

On July 26, DNR approved the FPAs, stating that Weyerhaeuser met regulatory requirements for slope stability, stream protection, avalanche hazards, road construction, reforestation, fire hazards and wildlife and fish impacts. Under the FPAs, the company has three years to harvest the property. Aesthetics are not regulated under Forest Practice rules, the DNR said.

Approval of the Weyerhaeuser FPAs is followed by a 30-day appeal window.

“Representatives from the DNR — including department geologists — local citizens, tribal representatives and our internal foresters examined the (Nason Ridge) site,” said Anthony Chavez, government relations manager for Weyerhaeuser. “After extensive review, the site has been deemed safe to harvest.”

On the possibility of selling the property, Chavez said, “I can tell you that we are always evaluating our land and timber for the best value outcome. We will review any proposal through the lens of that analysis.”

He added, “However, in the meantime, we have three years under the FPA to harvest the unit. Our plan would be to harvest the unit later this fall or early next year, followed by replanting.”