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Group is seeking all WSU forest documents

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By Teresa Herriman

The Courier-Herald

Friends of the Washington State Demonstration Forest/4-H Challenge Program have requested all documentation pertaining to the possible closure of the program and loss of the forest located in the heart of Bonney Lake.

The group is hoping to prevent the university from releasing the property back to Weyerhaeuser.

Last week, WSU provided documents from 69 of the 70 WSU officials targeted by Ilana Guttmann, leader of the Demonstration Forest friends. By invoking the Freedom of Information Act, Guttmann forced WSU officials to provide access to specific documents pertaining to divestment plans for the Demonstration Forest.

"Representatives of WSU, Weyerhaeuser Timber Company and the city of Bonney Lake have not been entirely forthcoming with information regarding their intentions for the land and the programs it houses," Guttmann said.

Thursday, Guttmann and others gathered at the WSU Extension facility in Puyallup to view nearly 1,500 documents.

Guttmann and her group claims to have found evidence the school plans to return the land to Weyerhaeuser in exchange for a donation to the university.

"We cannot wait until after the deal has been done to protect the Bonney Lake Demonstration Forest and Challenge Course," she said.

Rumors that Washington State University is planning to return the Demonstration Forest in Bonney Lake to Weyerhaeuser have been circulating since the university began conducting evaluations on all its properties and programs, including the demonstration forest more than a year ago. At that time, the Bonney Lake City Council was concerned enough to pass a resolution to contact the university. Mayor Bob Young wrote a letter of support for the Demonstration Forest a year ago last summer.

The 150-acre Demonstration Forest is bordered by state Route 410 on the north, 214th Street on the east and South Prairie Road. Weyerhaeuser donated the land to WSU in 1942 with the stipulation the forest would be used as a living classroom for youth-oriented education programs. If the university no longer wishes to use the land for those purposes , the property will revert back to the timber company.

Currently the forest is managed by the WSU Cooperative Extension program, serving as part of the university's land-grant and research mission. The site has four areas of use: a Challenge Program, environmental education programs, state 4-H activities and local community recreation.

Although WSU manages the program, fees paid by organizations that participate in the Challenge Program keep the forest self-sustaining.

The 4-H Challenge program serves approximately 6,000 participants a year on site and another 2,000 off-site, making the Bonney Lake program the largest in the Northwest.

According to Brian Brandt, program director for the Demonstration Forest, as the last remaining stand of forest in the area, it is probably the most valuable piece of undeveloped property WSU owns. Its location, in the middle of a booming commercial area, makes the forest a desirable piece of property for developers.

Copies of the documents relating to the property were not received by press deadline.

Teresa Herriman can be reached at therriman@courierherald.com.

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