OLYMPIA – The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission has approved the purchase of a 5,497-acre property 35 miles northwest of Yakima that provides prime habitat for elk, northern spotted owls, bull trout and other native species.
Also approved was a separate purchase by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to add a 598-acre property to the state’s Wenas Wildlife Area in Yakima County.
The commission, a citizen board that sets policy for WDFW, approved both acquisitions during a public meeting Nov. 8-9 in Olympia, where members also heard public comments on a proposed management plan for Grays Harbor salmon fisheries.
Commission Chair Miranda Wecker of Naselle commended the Nature Conservancy and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation – the two non-profit organizations that offered the properties for sale – for their dedication to wildlife conservation.
“We applaud you for securing these properties for the public, and for the stewardship your organizations provide for lands under your care,” she told representatives of those groups who attended the meeting.
The properties, both situated on the eastern slope of the Cascade Mountains, will be managed to benefit wildlife, while also providing public access for outdoor recreation, Wecker said.
Dan Budd, WDFW real estate manager, said the department secured an option to purchase the 5,497-acre Manastash property in Yakima County from the Nature Conservancy for an assessed price of $4,675,000.
Once that sale is finalized, the property will become part of WDFW’s L.T. Murray Wildlife Area, the third such acquisition in that area for WDFW since 2007 under the multi-party Heart of the Cascades land-conservation project.
The smaller property in Yakima County, historically owned by timber companies, is located within WDFW’s Wenas Wildlife Area and home to elk, bighorn sheep, mule deer and a variety of other species. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has offered to sell the property to the department for its assessed price of $230,000.
Budd noted that WDFW will make payments-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILT) to counties on both properties once the purchases have been finalized. PILT payments are designed to compensate counties for the loss of local property taxes, which cannot be levied on state-owned lands.
In other business, the commission heard comments from nearly a dozen people about a proposed plan to develop a new policy for Grays Harbor salmon fisheries. That policy, which will set the direction for resource conservation and catch allocations, is the focus of ongoing public meetings in western Washington. Information about the proposed policy is available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/fisheries/grays_harbor_salmon/ on WDFW’s website.