OLYMPIA – Current proposals by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to acquire land for fish and wildlife habitat and public recreation are now on view on the department’s website.
Jennifer Quan, WDFW lands division manager, said the new webpage is designed to give the public an opportunity to learn about land-acquisition proposals before the department seeks funding sources in spring and summer.
Details of 21 proposed land acquisitions, identified by the department as priorities for future funding, are available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/lands/acquisitions/. Previous acquisitions and those already under way are not included on the website.
“The web page offers an opportunity to take a ‘virtual tour’ of our land-acquisition proposals,” Quan said. “We recently presented these proposals at the state’s annual Land Acquisition Coordinating Forum and now want to share the proposed projects with a broader group of citizens.”
The statewide forum brings together state agencies, local governments, non-governmental organizations, tribes, landowners and other citizens to share ideas about state land actions for habitat and recreation purposes. More information on the forum is available at http://www.rco.wa.gov/boards/hrlcg.shtml.
WDFW will seek funding for the current proposals from state and federal grants administered by the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, including the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund, the North American Wetland Conservation Act and the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation.
Quan said land acquisition plays an essential role in meeting WDFW’s legislative mandate to protect fish and wildlife, while also providing sustainable recreational and commercial opportunities. The proposed acquisitions described on the new webpage were developed by department staff and executive managers.
“Our first responsibility is to safeguard the future of fish and wildlife in this state,” Quan said. “With suitable habitat for many species in decline, land acquisitions are one tool we have to meet that responsibility.”
WDFW currently owns or manages about 900,000 acres in 32 wildlife areas, along with 700 public water-access sites. Those properties provide habitat for fish and wildlife, as well as fishing, hunting and wildlife-watching opportunities that contribute several billion dollars to the state’s economy each year.
In addition, public wildlife lands provide access to outdoor recreation for hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians, Quan said.
WDFW’s policy is to purchase land only from willing sellers. The department typically uses grant funding that limits purchase prices to fair-market value, as determined by a third-party appraisal.
Regardless of funding source, all land acquisitions proposed by WDFW must be approved by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, a nine-member citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for the department.
Quan noted that WDFW is proposing only about half as many property acquisitions this year as it did during the previous two-year major funding cycle.
“Funding is tight, whether for land acquisition or operations and maintenance, so we really have to focus on those properties that provide the greatest benefits for fish and wildlife,” Quan said.