Revitalized tool would retain or manage 7,000 acres of MNR-managed trust land for recreational purposes
information published by the Ministry of Natural Resources
The Washington State Natural Resources Council approved a priority list of 10 underperforming land parcels for transfer to conservation or recreation management as part of the Trust Land Transfer Tool Revitalization Pilot Project at its Tuesday morning meeting at Olympia.
The Washington State Department of Natural Resources will submit the ranked list of properties, which come from 10 different counties in the state, to the Office of Financial Management and the Office of the Governor as part of agency applications for the next legislative session. The 7,033 acres of land are proposed to be transferred to public agencies, including MNR’s Natural Areas Program, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Washington State Parks, and county governments. . The transfers will require funding from the legislature before they can be completed.
“We have a responsibility to ensure that Washington State’s public lands provide the greatest environmental, social and economic good. The revitalized Trust Land Transfer tool will be a critical device for ensuring environmental equity while enabling more effective management of state lands for current and future generations,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, the statewide elected official who oversees the DNR. “I am grateful to the many people who have spent a significant amount of time creating a new vision for trust land transfers, balancing ecology and economy while cultivating support from communities and tribes across the state. “
The DNR generates more than $250 million each year through the management of trust lands, which are needed to generate revenue to support schools, colleges, and essential local services in Washington State. These revenues come from sustainable forest management, agricultural leases, clean energy leases, commercial real estate leases and, soon, carbon credits.
The Trust Land Transfer tool is designed to transfer land that is not producing expected revenues and that provides significant ecological values or public benefits. If funded by the Legislative Assembly, MNR will transfer these lands to public agencies for conservation or recreation purposes and then replace them with lands better suited to generate funds to support the construction of schools and local governments.
The revitalization of the Trust Land Transfer tool was a major project of the Trust Land Performance Initiative 2021, which focused on identifying tools to address underperforming land assets. This effort, funded in part by the Legislative Assembly, is designed to make the tool more consistent, transparent, replicable and effective. The Trust Lands Performance Initiative builds on the findings of MNR’s 2021 report led by the Legislative Assembly titled “Trust Lands Performance Assessment Project: Charting a Path Forward.”
Beneficiaries, tribes, industry and conservation groups worked with DNR staff for over a year to redesign the tool, develop a new framework and create a pilot project to test it. A key feature is an improved analysis to determine whether it is in the interests of trust beneficiaries to transfer parcels proposed by claimants. Additionally, a new advisory committee will score potential Trust Land Transfer parcels on five criteria – community involvement and support, ecological values, economic values, public benefits and tribal support – and then MNR will use those scores to prioritize proposed transactions. Parcels will be dispatched in order of priority.
Since 1989, Trust Land Transfers has retained nearly 126,000 acres, but only about 56,000 acres have been added back through the tool to support K-12 school construction funding. Previous funding required that 80% of the transfer cost be paid directly to recipients, making it impossible to replace acre-by-acre of land taken out of revenue-generating status and slowly reducing the amount of land that DNR can manage. MNR is proposing that this requirement be removed and other changes be made to ensure the Department has the funding it needs to purchase productive replacement land.
The DNR is also exploring expanding the tool to include State Forestlands, which supports local services such as hospitals, school districts and libraries in nearly every western Washington county. To complete the transformation of the Trust Land Transfer tool, MNR will make a set of requests to the Legislative Assembly to codify these changes.
Here are more details on each of the 10 packages included in the package, in order of rank:
Eglon Property, Kitsap County: The 707-acre parcel north of Kingston contains 130-year-old forests, wetlands and salmon streams, and about half of it is unsuitable for timber harvesting due to buffers protecting clean water and unstable slopes. The parcel is proposed to be transferred to Kitsap County to be managed for park purposes.
Devils Lake Property, Jefferson County: The 415-acre parcel south of Quilcene contains a rare forest plant community and a mile of Puget Sound shoreline, and approximately 70% of it is unsuitable for timber harvesting due to buffers protecting clean water and unstable slopes. Additionally, there is no road or trail access to the plot. It is proposed to transfer the parcel to the MNR Natural Areas Program and add it to the existing Devils Lake Natural Resources Conservation Area.
Upper Dry Gulch Property, Chelan County: The 3,023-acre parcel east of Wenatchee is steep and arid, has no water rights, and contains 95% of all known habitat for Whited’s Milk-vetch, a unique endangered plant in Chelan County. MNR negotiated a land swap for 2,205 of these acres in May 2020 to consolidate previously fragmented habitat. It is proposed to transfer the parcel to the MNR Natural Areas Program and add it to the existing Upper Dry Gulch Natural Area Reserve.
Chapman Lake Property, Spokane County: The 542-acre parcel south of Cheney is not suitable for forestry, agriculture or clean energy development, but a proposed transfer to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife would allow that agency to restore fishing access to the lake, which has since been lost. the closure of a private resort there in 2011.
Morning Star Property, Snohomish County: This 1,071 acre parcel north of Gold Bar contains steep slopes, unstable soils, unproductive areas and areas of wildlife habitat, and approximately 80% of the parcel cannot be managed for timber harvesting. It is proposed to transfer the parcel to the MNR Natural Areas Program and add it to the southwest boundary of the Morning Star Natural Resources Conservation Area.
Owned by West Tiger, King County: This 99 acre parcel has no road access and approximately 80% of it cannot be harvested due to buffer zones protecting unstable slopes and water quality. It is proposed to transfer the parcel to the MNR Natural Areas Program and add it to the nearby Western Tiger Natural Resource Conservation Area.
Ownership of Spokane Lake Campground, Stevens County: This 305-acre parcel is a recreation site operated by Washington State Parks under a DNR lease agreement, complete with a campground, boat launch access, and parking. It is proposed to transfer the parcel to State Parks to allow this agency to officially add the land to Riverside State Park.
Blakely Island Property, San Juan County: The 184 acre parcel at the western end of Blakely Island is not suitable for timber management as there is significant marine coastal habitat and potential old growth forest on the site, which also has no legal road access. The parcel is proposed to be transferred to San Juan County to be managed for parks purposes.
Moses Lake Sand Dunes Property, Grant County: The 647-acre parcel south of Moses Lake has no water rights or legal access. Grant County operates an all-terrain vehicle recreation site to the north of the parcel, and it is proposed to transfer this parcel to the county for parks purposes.
Rustler’s Gulch Property, Pend Oreille County: The 40-acre parcel in the southwest corner of Pend Oreille County is surrounded on all sides by the Rustler’s Gulch Unit of the Sherman Creek Wildlife Area of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. It is proposed to transfer this parcel to WDFW to be added to the wildlife reserve.
Maps, photos and more information on each of the proposed trust land transfer parcels are available on the Natural Resources Council’s webpage.