PUBLIC LANDS -- The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), and Forterra today announced the purchase of 50,272 acres in the headwaters of the Yakima Basin watershed.
The area, with benefits ranging from the watershed's importance to irrigators to the outdoor recreation opportunities, is being designated the Teanaway Community Forest.
The $97 million Teanaway acquisition is the largest single land transaction in Washington State in 45 years and reflects more than a decade of collaboration involving many organizations and individuals, state officials said in a media release.
The property will become Washington's first Community Forest, a model designed to empower communities to partner with DNR to purchase forests that support local economies and public recreation, said Peter Goldmark, Commissioner of Public Lands.
The forest will be managed through a partnership between DNR and WDFW, with input from the local community and interested stakeholders.
Acquisition of the property is a key step in implementing the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan, an initiative developed by a coalition of public and private organizations to safeguard the basin's water supply, restore fisheries, conserve habitat, preserve working lands, and enhance recreational opportunities.
Read on for details on how this came to be.
For over a decade, Forterra, a statewide non-profit conservation and land stewardship organization, worked with the landowner, American Forest Holdings LLC (AFH), to negotiate a purchase and structure the sale. The Yakima Basin coalition advocated the importance of the acquisition to the state Legislature. Forterra and AFH signed a sale agreement in April, which Forterra assigned to DNR after state lawmakers appropriated $87 million for the purchase in the 2013-15 State Capital Budget. DNR supplemented that amount with a $10 million loan from its Real Property Replacement Account.
"The Teanaway has been a holy grail for the conservation community for a long, long time," said Forterra President Gene Duvernoy.
The Teanaway property has been a working forest operated by AFH. The state's purchase will ensure the land remains a working forest, available to the public for multiple uses, officials said.
"We have always kept the Teanaway property open to the public so that the local community and outdoor recreational enthusiasts from across the state can enjoy the Teanaway's one-of-a-kind aesthetic beauty and recreational opportunities," said David Bowen of American Forest Holdings.
DNR and WDFW are establishing a community advisory committee to help guide their development of a management plan for the forest. Interested persons can receive updates about the plan and information about ways to get involved by subscribing to the Teanaway Community Forest e-newsletter.
Sign-up for the e-newsletter with updates on the project.
See photos of today's signing ceremony.