We had a very informative and entertaining walk through much of the property with a Whidbey Island consultant who specialized in land evaluation, forestry, slopes, and pre-building site inspections. We learned a lot.
He had a policy of not providing a written report, which was a bit unexpected. But, he warned me about that in advance. He said the liability for a written report was too high, and he wanted me to walk with him and write notes as we went. I would have taken notes anyhow and it was fine.
He had a holistic view of the land and forest, which I really appreciated. That was one of the prime reasons I hired him. He is a self-described highly opinionated and sometimes undiplomatic environmentalist, and that’s what I wanted. Not someone who would dismiss proper ecological and habitat enhancing plans as fluff.
In fact, he was very energized with meeting us and said that we were exactly the kinds of clients that he really wants but rarely gets. He usually gets contacted by people who have stripped a site bare and want to mitigate the bad effects or put in half solutions to “restore” what they did. One developer called and asked if he could come up with a plan to implement a forest restoration plan where nothing grew more than 6 inches high, for instance.
So, we were a breath of fresh air for him. While my wife went to a gardening class, he and I hung out together for a couple hours offsite and it was a hoot. We checked out this ramshackle old barn where it’s an ever-changing yard sale of cheap stuff for sale, including some good but sporadic deals inside. Then when he heard about our interests in sustainable building, we visited a friendly landscape designer who is working on a unique guest cabin plus small home with both passive and active solar combined. Nearby was also a cool couple who had a great garden, chicken runs for animal-powered weed control, goats for milk and cheese, and a unique shed made of demonstration walls using cob, light straw clay, earth bag, and a couple other construction techniques. Then he took me to his own home, a laboriously restored shack that now feels great with lots of old world character in the added wrap-around porch and many details. Views looked out across his 5.5 acres to Saratoga Passage and the Cascades. The view was really special from his 35 foot tall metal lookout tower.
He said that our forest was one of the most impressive examples of healthy trees and native understory that he had seen on the entire island! He even pointed out some trees which he estimated were true old growth, including a few Douglas fir and Pacific ewe that may be over 300 years old. Because of the lack of stumps on the property, he wondered if the property had been farmland in the 1800s. The majority of older trees looked to be about 80-100+ years old.
Before heading out from the several hour land and forest inspection, he did provide feedback on the illegally clear cut hillside in the northwest corner of our property. He recommended emphasizing the following points, which I did in a letter this evening to the listing agent, seller, and their attorney, complete with a new set of even more detailed photographs documenting the damage done.
1) Importance of moving quickly before trespassers remove further evidence.
2) Importance of filing a violation with the county immediately.
3) The removed trees likely qualified as landscaping trees instead of simple timber trees; this very significantly increased their damages valuation.
4) Criminal trespassing actions such as that would result in triple damages.
5) Professional forester should create survey of all felled trees and stumps to estimate type, value, damages, etc.
6) Felled trees and debris should be removed, but properly balanced with leaving some for regeneration and soil retention.
7) The site and damaged soil layer was now susceptible to erosion.
8) Site restoration and re-planting was needed.
9) Previously protected interior trees are now more susceptible to blow down and damage.
10) Hillside was very susceptible to invasive species now.
11) Slope stability was reduced.
12) Hillside excavation reduced slope stability and increased erosion issues.
Hopefully the seller, listing agent, and their attorney will make more progress this coming week than the past week. I did a lot more work on this than they did, which was a bit discouraging. The seller had not yet been to the property (work, sick, ferry issues, etc.), the attorney had been very busy elsewhere, and the listing agent was very nice and trying hard but did not seem to have a full grasp of everything that was going on at the property. So, I continue to orchestrate this little part of the world…