With Singletary off the table, Washington Department of Natural Resources staff and members of the Sky Valley community are trying to figure out next steps forward.

The state agency last fall began a review of the Reiter Foothills Forest Recreation Plan finalized in 2010. Its scope encompasses 10,000 acres of DNR managed land, which included the original 187-acre timber sale.

“Initial meetings were held over two days in late October,” according to DNR’s Northwest Region manager Jean Fike. Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz said the end goal is to balance the interests of stakeholders. The DNR sees the local gravitation toward increasing recreation opportunities, while jurisdictions still need the financial support from harvests.

Reiter Forest is part of the nearly 3 million acres of statewide trust land overseen by the DNR, according to the agency. Under state law the properties must produce income for schools and county services, among other beneficiaries, according to the plan. About $5.7 billion in revenue has been generated since 1970, which reduces the need for residents to pay more in taxes for institutions.

At the same time the recreation plan states long-term health of Reiter Forest’s ecosystems and providing safe and sustainable access needs to be a priority.

To arrive at the recreation area travelers must head east, past Gold Bar on U.S. Highway 2. About one mile after taking a left-hand turn, staying right at a forked intersection, and taking another left down Deer Flats Road, with marked parking spots about three miles down.

About 65 percent of the forest’s visitors come from within 50 miles, according to the plan. Many residents use it all year, and others living in and around Seattle regularly make the trip. It’s estimated that between 30,000-40,000 people head into its wilderness annually.

DNR has recorded nearly 50 miles of user-built trails in the recreation area. Not all of the routes were designed for the level and amount of activity that occurs on them. The agency has noted some environmental and resource damage has resulted.

The recreation plan was designed in part to help manage sustainable activity. Franz said there is also invaluable habitat and species to protect, including the marbled murrelet listed under the federal Endangered Species Act.

The review was initiated following a ruling by Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Millie Judge in August. She upheld an appeal of the Singletary timber sale by three environmental groups. She also required the DNR conduct another State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) study of the section, sans 25 acres the Snohomish County Council decided to reconvey a few months earlier.

Shortly beforehand, Franz had worked with District 5 Councilmember Sam Low to determine a section of land to remove from the sale, so buffers would remain along existing and proposed trails that also traverse the adjacent Wallace State Falls Park system.

Friends of the Wild Sky, the Pilchuck Audubon Society and the Skykomish Environmental and Economic Alliance, sued DNR last year in hopes of putting a halt to the sale altogether. They believed the risk to the outdoor industry was too high. They believed the state would view it as an opportunity to rethink how harvests are conducted.

Others felt jobs were at stake. Sierra Pacific Industries, the second-largest lumber producer in the U.S., won rights to log by submitting the highest bid at more than $1.32 million last spring. The California-based business operates a mill in Burlington, which employs about 200 people, plus other facilities in Washington.

Some Sky Valley residents believed critical funds were lost when the sale was finally set aside this fall. The Sultan School District was scheduled to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars that was to be used for capital projects, many of which had been put off for years.

Snohomish County Roads and the state school levy general fund would have also taken larger portions of the sale revenue, and smaller portions would have gone to Fire District 26 EMS, the Sno-Isle Library system, Valley General Hospital and local taxing districts.

Franz hopes the results of the review will be agreed upon by the broader community and the needs of the county and beneficiaries will be met. Reiter Foothills Focus Group meetings are held from 7-9 p.m. every fourth Wednesday of the month at the East Public Meeting Room in the Snohomish County Building, 3000 Rockefeller Ave., in Everett.