View of Lake Blethen

Working in partnership with Forterra, a land conservancy nonprofit, Davis Wright Tremaine has enabled a longtime client to accomplish the sale of two environmentally significant land parcels, which will now be preserved in perpetuity.

The two parcels, comprising 376 acres, are located in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains and contain some of King County’s last unprotected old-growth forest as well as habitat for two endangered species. The land was held for decades by the Cugini family, whose private company has owned, logged, and milled timber for three generations. Crissa Cugini, of counsel at Davis Wright Tremaine and the granddaughter of company founder Alex Cugini (seen below), participated in the sale on the client side.

Grandpa CuginiPrevious attempts to transfer the land to the public or to conservation groups had been undone by regulations that significantly depressed the appraised value. "There’s nothing in the federal regulations that recognizes a value for conservation," says Davis Wright Tremaine partner Warren Koons, who has extensive experience with timberlands transactions and led this one.

Seeking a new approach, Koons turned to Forterra in 2013. DWT partner Jim Greenfield is a longtime Forterra board member. With his leadership, the firm and Forterra have jointly hosted several events on sustainable development. "They have a lot of innovative ideas and are one of the very few groups that can bridge the environmental and timber/development sides of the economy," says Koons. "They also have a strong understanding of the regulatory agencies."

Together, the team of Koons, Forterra, and the Cugini family developed some creative ways to structure the deal that allowed our client to be fairly compensated and preserved this extraordinary land under a conservation easement retained by Washington’s Department of Natural Resources.