CLE ELUM, Wash. – The State of Washington this week closed on its largest land deal in 45 years. It has established what it calls the state’s first Community Forest and will soon be seeking citizen input in how it should be managed.
The deal between the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife and the non-profit conservation organization Forterra, transfers 50,272 acres to the state from American Forest Holdings, LLC. Forterra, a Washington non-profit organization involved with land stewardship, worked for 10 years to negotiate the purchase and structure of the sale, according to the DNR.
The land follows much of the Teanaway River, including much of the north and west forks.
The area, which has long had public access, will become even more open under state ownership. But DNR says it won’t be managed like other state forest land or state trust land focused on raising revenue. As a community forest, DNR will be seeking input from user groups, local residents who have property adjacent to the forest, tribes, environmental organizations and others.
The Legislature appropriated $87 million for the purchase in the 2013-2015 State Capital Budget. DNR added to that amount with a $10 million loan from its Real Property Replacement Account.
The scenic area within sight of Mt. Stuart and adjacent to the Wenatchee National Forest is expected to support local economies and public recreation.