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State closes purchase of property

Tue., Oct. 13, 2009

Nearly 3,000 acres are now open for public recreation

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Department closed a $6.2 million deal Monday to acquire 1,693 acres of wildlife-rich wetlands and uplands from Horseshoe Lake south to Fan Lake.

The land is about 18 miles southwest of Newport in Pend Oreille County.

The purchase was the final phase of an acquisition from Rustler’s Gulch Syndicate, which sold the state agency 1,079 acres for almost $3.4 million in 2008.

The two purchases – totaling 2,772 acres and nearly $9.6 million – guarantee the West Branch of the Little Spokane River will remain open to the public, unlike much of the Little Spokane River, which is considered private.

The land deals also ensure public access to Horseshoe and Blue lakes, and especially to Fan Lake, where the lease for the public boat launch area expires in six years.

“Our first concern is that there’s a lot of new public land out there on the brink of the deer hunting season, which opens Saturday,” said Madonna Luers, agency spokeswoman in Spokane.

“We want people to get out and enjoy the property, but there’s been no time for fencing, surveying, boundary marking or mapping.”

With the exception of two adjacent parcels managed by the Department of Natural Resources, the new public land is virtually surrounded by private land.

“There’s a high risk of trespassing on private property if people don’t know where they’re going,” Luers said.

Marshall Clark, the real estate agent who brokered the deal, said trespassing and unauthorized riding of all-terrain vehicles was a headache for the previous landowners.

“No motorized vehicle access will be allowed to any part of the state wildlife land,” Luers said. “Our officers will be doing some emphasis patrols to try to keep a handle on things.”

The property – which has streams, wetlands, beaver ponds, lakes, aspens, cottonwoods and coniferous forests – will become the closest state-managed wildlife recreation area to Spokane. Hunting, fishing and other wildlife recreation will be allowed.

The land offers “great fishing, hunting and wildlife viewing access for the future,” Luers said. “But being so close to Spokane, it will take a stringent wildlife management plan to keep it from being loved to death.”

The land purchases were funded through the Washington Recreation and Conservation Grant Program and the state Wildlife and Recreation Program, agency officials said.

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