State lands chief, DNR sued over timber harvest

Herald staff

OLYMPIA — A lawsuit against Washington Lands Commissioner Jennifer Belcher and the Department of Natural Resources claims they are shortchanging schools of money from state-harvested lands.

The suit was filed Thursday in Thurston County Superior Court by the Fleck family of Forks and the Mary M. Knight School District in Mason and Grays Harbor counties.

Belcher, who is retiring in January after eight years in office, and the department she oversees are recalculating the state’s "sustainable yield," or how much timber should be harvested. The revenue from sale of trust timber goes to school construction and other programs.

The lawsuit accuses Belcher of intentionally lowering the amount of timber harvested, which the critics say would deprive schools of millions of dollars.

Doug Sutherland will replace Belcher in January. He was not available for comment.

  • Driver pleads guilty in crash death: He drank, took cocaine, drove his borrowed car too fast, caused a fatal accident on I-5 and ran away, jumping into Lake Union in a futile effort to elude police. On Wednesday, though, a contrite and remorseful Ruben Comacho Contreras, 27, pleaded guilty in King County Superior Court to vehicular homicide and hit-and-run driving. "I am very sorry, I am very remorseful," Contreras, 27, said in a statement read by Judge pro tem Ken Comstock. "I ask the forgiveness of the victim’s family." Comstock set sentencing for Jan. 26. The case arose from a crash on Nov. 5 in which a 1998 Lexus driven by Contreras rear-ended a 1981 Chevrolet Monte Carlo driven by Jonathan Davern, 23, who had recently gotten married and moved to the city from Vancouver, Wash. Davern’s car burst into flames, and witnesses said he never had a chance to get out. Contreras later admitted he had been drinking and was at a strip club with some friends before the crash. According to the court record, traces of cocaine and marijuana also were found in his blood.

  • Pair die in arson: Police were investigating the deaths of a man and woman found Thursday in a burning apartment. Firefighters found the bodies in a smoke-filled bedroom at about 2 a.m. They were taken to Grays Harbor Community Hospital, where they were pronounced dead. The name of the 25-year-old woman was not released, and the man was not identified. Autopsies were planned for todayf. The fire was determined to be arson, officials said.

  • Honoring Lewis and Clark: Maya Lin, who created the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, has accepted a commission for four projects to mark the 200th anniversary of the Lewis and Clark expedition through Washington state. "I guarantee, whatever she produces will be controversial; it will make you think," Mayor Royce Pollard said Wednesday. Lin is best known for "The Wall," dedicated in 1984 in Washington, D.C. It bears the names of the nation’s dead and missing military personnel in the Vietnam War. No sites have been chosen, but her Lewis and Clark projects will be near the confluences of the Clearwater and Snake rivers, the Snake and Columbia rivers, and the Columbia and Willamette rivers, and near the end of the trail at the mouth of the Columbia. The Columbia-Willamette memorial will be in Vancouver, said Edward Lynch, president of the city’s National Historic Reserve Trust board. No price has been set, nor has a contract been signed. Money is to be raised privately. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark led a trek to the Pacific Northwest and back between 1803 and 1806 at the request of President Thomas Jefferson.

    Talk to us

  • More in Local News

    Marysville firefighters respond to a 12-year-old boy who fell down a well Tuesday May 30, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Photo provided by Marysville Fire District)
    Marysville firefighters save boy who fell 20 feet into well

    The 12-year-old child held himself up by grabbing on to a plastic pipe while firefighters worked to save him.

    Highway 9 is set to be closed in both directions for a week as construction crews build a roundabout at the intersection with Vernon Road. (Washington State Department of Transportation)
    Weeklong closure coming to Highway 9 section in Lake Stevens

    Travelers should expect delays or find another way from Friday to Thursday between Highway 204 and Lundeen Parkway.

    Students arriving off the bus get in line to score some waffles during a free pancake and waffle breakfast at Lowell Elementary School on Friday, May 26, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
    800 free pancakes at Everett’s Lowell Elementary feed the masses

    The annual breakfast was started to connect the community and the school, as well as to get people to interact.

    Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring speaks at the groundbreaking event for the I-5/SR 529 Interchange project on Tuesday, May 23, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
    $123M project starting on Highway 529 interchange, I-5 HOV lane

    A reader wondered why the highway had a lane closure despite not seeing work done. Crews were waiting on the weather.

    Justin Bell was convicted earlier this month of first-degree assault for a December 2017 shooting outside a Value Village in Everett. (Caleb Hutton / Herald file)
    Court: Snohomish County jurors’ opaque masks didn’t taint verdict

    During the pandemic, Justin Bell, 32, went on trial for a shooting. Bell claims his right to an impartial jury was violated.

    Gary Fontes uprights a tree that fell over in front of The Fontes Manor — a miniature handmade bed and breakfast — on Friday, May 12, 2023, at his home near Silver Lake in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
    Everett’s mini-Frank Lloyd Wright builds neighborhood of extra tiny homes

    A tiny lighthouse, a spooky mansion and more: Gary Fontes’ miniature world of architectural wonders is one-twelfth the size of real life.

    Will Steffener
    Inslee appoints Steffener as Superior Court judge

    Attorney Will Steffener will replace Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Janice Ellis, who is retiring in June.

    Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Snohomish in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
    Report of downed hot air balloon turns up farmer’s tarp near Snohomish

    Two 911 callers believed they saw a hot air balloon crash, leading to a major search-and-rescue response. It was a false alarm.

    A few weeks before what could be her final professional UFC fight, Miranda Granger grimaces as she pushes a 45-pound plate up her driveway on Tuesday, July 12, 2022, in Lake Stevens, Washington. Her daughter Austin, age 11 months, is strapped to her back. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
    Daily Herald staff wins 5 honors at annual journalism competition

    The Herald got one first-place win and four runner-up spots in SPJ’s Northwest Excellence in Journalism contest.

    Most Read