A Great Deal for Wildlife
By Doug Marsh, Washington State Resource Team Member, and
Rance Block, Initiative Program Director-East Cascades
On June 7, Elk Foundation members and volunteers joined fellow Washingtonians at Walter Flat on Naneum Creek north of Ellensburg to celebrate a successful land exchange between the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Western Pacific Timber.
Following two years of negotiations, the DNR traded 20,970 acres of state lands scattered in small parcels across 15 counties, for 82,548 acres of Western Pacific Timber lands commingled in a checkerboard pattern with DNR lands between Yakima and Wenatchee. Both are valued at $56.5 million. Washington’s Board of Natural Resources unanimously approved the exchange on November 6, 2007.
“The exchange put us back in control of managing our lands,” says DNR assistant regional manager George Shelton. “We basically had to block it up or get out.”
Along with RMEF staff and volunteers, Shelton and his staff put countless weeks of work into making the exchange possible. Shelton says RMEF and sportsmen’s groups played invaluable roles in educating the public about what was at stake, and getting them to trust DNR and be open to the exchange.
“I used to think the Elk Foundation was just a bunch of hunters who killed elk. Now I see them as conservationists, with unlimited energy, looking at the long term,” Shelton says.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife regional director Jeff Tayor says, “It’s a great deal for wildlife. The pieces that the DNR picked up are right in the heart of migratory routes and spring and fall range for both the Yakima and Colockum elk herds.”
About 170 people attended the event, including RMEF president/CEO David Allen and Washington commissioner of public lands Doug Sutherland. RMEF and Western Pacific Timber supplied the lunch, which was served by DNR staff. The new public lands were combined with existing DNR lands north of Ellensburg to create the 71,000-acre Naneum Ridge State Forest, guaranteeing that elk and other wildlife will always have room to roam there.
For both wildlife and the citizens of Washington, it was truly a day to celebrate!