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You are here: Home Corvid Crier Stories 2018-03 Eastside Audubon Helping to Save Cougar Mountain

Eastside Audubon Helping to Save Cougar Mountain

Development is once again threatening Cougar Mountain in Issaquah.  The Bergsma Property is a 46-acre property is currently covered by forest. The current proposal is to construct 57 homes on this site, even though the project fronts Newport Way NW and sits on a significant slope that would have a risk of landslide. Construction will require the export of approximately 84,000 cubic yards of material for the final site grading and to achieve proper slopes for drainage which will need to be transported on already congested roads, contributing to poor air quality and increased greenhouse emissions. 


In addition, the site is surrounded by King County land and the Harvey Manning park in the Talus development. Development of the site will impede access from public transportation users at the Issaquah transit center. Trails in the area also connect between those sites, allowing for recreational access. According to Save Cougar Mountain, “The Bergsma Development will cause significant adverse environmental impacts in several key areas, including soil/slope stability, destruction of streams and wetlands, and permanent alterations to the aesthetic and recreational values of the area.” The group also finds that proposed mitigation measures are not adequate. 


Eastside Audubon Society (EAS) has provided written comments, as well as spoken before the Issaquah City Council to discuss our interest in this issue.   EAS became involved in Cougar Mountain back November 2015 when we began an avian survey at the request of neighbors to proposed development.  From November of 2015 to September 2016, EAS volunteers surveyed in an area around the Harvey Manning Park at Talus. 


During this survey, the EAS team followed a loop trail from the north side of Harvey Manning Park along the Precipice Bottom Trail, connecting south to the Big Tree Ridge Trail, turning east along the Military Ridge Trail, then returning to the west side of the park. The pathway consisted of 1.5 miles of trail. 


Experienced team members noted all birds seen or heard as they walked along the chosen trails. A total of 10 walks were conducted over the 11-month period. Conducting the survey over the span of eleven months allowed team members to catch visiting birds during both the spring and fall migration periods, as well as birds breeding in the area. 

Over this period, the team found 43 species of birds, of which 15 were year-round residents, 14 were migrants, and 14 visited or flew over the area during the surveys. A total of 22 species were seen in the area in just one day in May during the breeding season. Breeding birds were confirmed by presence of breeding pairs, males singing on territory, adults feeding young, active nests, and nesting behavior. Breeding birds consisted of both resident and migratory species. Nesting birds used the forest from the ground, to the understory, to the canopy. 


13 species were thought to be breeding in the area, including Hairy Woodpecker, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Black-capped Chickadee, Pacific Wren, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Brown Creeper, Golden-crowned Kinglet, American Robin, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler, Dark-eyed Junco, and Spotted Towhee. 

Migrants found at the site who may have used the area as a stopover include Olive-sided Flycatcher, Western Wood-Pewee, Violet-green Swallow, Warbling Vireo, Swainson’s Thrush, Orange-crowned Warbler, Western Tanager, Black-headed Grosbeak, and Purple Finch.  Most were seen in the Spring because migration patterns in the fall require a different route to locate habitat for foraging. 


Of King County regulated wildlife species, the Bald Eagle, was seen flying near the park in April and July. 


Due to the difficulty in seeing and hearing birds in the forest, the team considers the results of this survey to be an undercount of the numbers of birds in the area. The flora of the area consisted of big leaf maple, western red cedar, western hemlock, and Douglas fir, with native shrubs used to landscape the park. Nearby areas are similar, although not identical in tree mix, yet the team also believes that these birds likely reflect nearby populations. The team is also confident that the resident and migrating bird species which use the area for breeding and as a rest stop have been successfully counted. 


EAS found three items of note here that contradicted the suppositions recently reported in the Revised Mitigated Determination of Non-Significance for the Bergsma Property.  First, birds in the area are using more than the canopy for nesting behavior. Thus, protection of only the forest canopy will impact numbers of birds.  Residential areas are notoriously lacking in understory trees and undisturbed forest floors.  Furthermore, the area is used by a substantial number of migratory birds, especially during the Spring migration. In addition, bald eagles are frequently seen flying over and near the area. 

EAS hopes that the City of Issaquah will consider the community of support against this development and for protection of the area for future generations.  In addition, EAS supports Save Cougar Mountain’s call for a full Environmental Impact Statement that will fully evaluate all areas of concern including impacts to waterways, wildlife, recreation, traffic, air quality, and landslide potential.


As stated by Save Cougar Mountain “Cougar Mountain is part of the “Issaquah Alps,” serving as a gateway to the Cascade Mountains. The forested slopes of Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park are a forested oasis surrounded by increasing urban development. The wetlands and streams of Cougar Mountain — including those located in the project area — feed salmon-bearing streams. The serene forests of Cougar Mountain provide residents of Issaquah and other neighboring cities unparalleled recreational opportunities that are otherwise not available in the increasingly densely-populated urban area.” 


site map cougar mtn

Photo: Cougar Mountain Site Map

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The mission of Eastside Audubon is to protect, preserve and enhance natural ecosystems and our communities for the benefit of birds, other wildlife and people.