Land transactions are critical steps in future for Washington forests

SEATTLE: Washington’s forests are iconic, revered and evolving. While our forests have always offered beauty, habitat and raw materials, how we manage and benefit from them has changed over time. The Nature Conservancy is in the center of innovative, science-based approaches that allow us to enjoy and enhance our forests’ aesthetic, environmental and economic value across the state.

Two recent land transactions involving two very different forests are important milestones in realizing this vision.

On the Washington coast, the Conservancy has purchased 2,300 acres of timberlands from Rayonier along the Queets River, adjacent to the Olympic National Park.

In the East Cascades, the Conservancy has purchased 3,511 acres of timberland from Plum Creek in the Manastash area west of Ellensburg, and transferred it to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to be managed as part of the L.T. Murray Wildlife Area.

“These transactions are critical pieces in our efforts to solve crucial issues in our state’s forests,” said Michael S. Stevens, Washington state director for The Nature Conservancy. “Using science and on-the-ground experience, we are working with a wide variety of partners to create sustainable management, assure resiliency and ensure the communities that depend on these lands are thriving.”

The Conservancy has demonstrated success on the Washington coast, working with partners including the Quinault Indian Nation and the Hoh River Trust to enhance habitat on key salmon rivers including the Clearwater and Quinault. The acquisition of new land comes as part of a partnership with Rayonier, and opens the door to a future full of salmon and timber.

“Rayonier has been part of the Washington community since 1926 when we first began operations near Mount Rainier,” said Lynn Wilson, Senior Vice President of Forest Resources at Rayonier. “We’ve been stewards of this land since the 1940s and are pleased that the Nature Conservancy and Rayonier’s conservation program team, led by its manager Callie DeHaven, have developed a partnership that will ensure that this land will remain an integral part of the forest landscape of the region in perpetuity.”

The Queets acquisition was made possible through generous private donors, including a $500,000 challenge grant from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation that inspired an additional $1 million in donations.

The challenges in Eastern Washington are quite different and there The Nature Conservancy has already done important work in restoration, fire prevention and preservation of clean water. This latest acquisition is the most recent in a decade-long project to weave together a checkerboard of public and private land in the east Cascades. Plum Creek has played an important role in keeping these important conservation lands intact while the Conservancy assembled financing so they can be brought into public ownership. Working with partners, including the Department of Fish and Wildlife and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the Conservancy has brought nearly 25,000 acres of private timberlands into public ownership managed under the Tapash Sustainable Forest Collaborative, securing public access and protecting this vital resource for our communities.

“Plum Creek recognizes the public benefits of this project and is pleased to participate in the partnership that achieved this important outcome,” said Jerry Sorenson, senior director of land management for Plum Creek.

“This project was a high priority for the state because it provides critical habitat both for protected species and game animals,” said Mike Livingston, Southcentral Region director for WDFW. “This diverse habitat supports threatened and endangered species such as spotted owls, bull trout and steelhead, as well as big-game such as mule deer and elk.”

The Manastash transfer was kick-started by private donors and ultimately funded by a grant through the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program as well as by federal funding to protect habitat for endangered species.

These projects on the Queets River and at Manastash are much more than just acquisitions. They represent an evolved and innovative approach to our state’s forests that assures clean water for agriculture, fish and people, creates local jobs, and nurtures communities for generations to come.

Contact information

Robin Stanton
The Nature Conservancy
(206) 436-6274

Russell Schweiss
(904) 357-9158

Kathy Budinick
Plum Creek
(206) 467-3620

Mike Livingston
Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife
(509) 457-9325