Washington officials are considering a suite of 20 land acquisitions next month that they say will enhance public access and conservation.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced this week that it’s taking public comment on the proposals, which encompass about 13,500 acres.
The projects vary in size and are spread across 11 counties, including a small acquisition in Pend Oreille County and a couple of bigger ones in Grant County.
Cynthia Wilkerson, WDFW lands division manager, said in a news release that each one is being considered with a specific purpose in mind.
“Many of them are adjacent to existing public lands and are key to our ability to manage and protect conservation, habitat restoration and recreation,” Wilkerson said. “All of these projects will improve conservation of the outdoors across Washington.”
WDFW is considering each proposal under its Lands 20/20 process, which outlines a review process that considers habitat management, regional conservation initiatives, public input and the potential for outdoor recreation. The agency puts forward similar proposals each year.
In Pend Oreille County, WDFW wants to acquire a 40-acre inholding in the Rustler’s Gulch unit of the Sherman Creek Wildlife Area, northeast of Deer Park.
The Washington Department of Natural Resources manages the parcel near the west branch of the Little Spokane River and Horseshoe and Fan lakes. It is surrounded on all sides by the nearly 2,800-acre wildlife area, managed by WDFW. Moose, white-tailed deer and an abundance of birds use the area.
Transferring the land to WDFW would ensure it remains an undeveloped natural forest with wetlands, according to documents detailing the proposal. The acquisition can happen through the state’s Trust Land Transfer program. DNR documents say the land is valued at $125,000.
Dan Wilson, co-chair of the Washington Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, said in a statement that his group supports that transfer, and that it would provide “ample recreation opportunity and easy access for residents of Spokane and Pend Oreille counties.”
In Grant County, WDFW is eyeing four acquisitions.
The biggest is called Beezley Hills, and it consists of 9,297 acres north of Quincy. It’s a broad swath of private land near a number of Bureau of Land Management and DNR properties.
It consists of shrubsteppe habitat that is valuable for species like sage grouse, pygmy rabbit and ground squirrels, according to WDFW, and it could provide bird and deer hunting opportunities.
Farther west, WDFW is looking at 1,532 acres managed by DNR to add to the Quincy Lakes Unit of the Columbia Basin Wildlife Area. The project is called the Babcock Bench/Dusty Lake TLT, and can also be transferred through the Trust Lands Transfer program.
It includes a parcel surrounding Dusty Lake southwest of Quincy and another parcel along the Columbia River called Babcock Bench. WDFW says the acquisition will protect connectivity for wildlife and habitat for a number of species that depend on undisturbed sagebrush habitat. It also could benefit trail runners, mountain bikers, hunters and hikers.
The other two Grant County proposals include a 20-acre inholding in the Gloyd Seeps Unit of the Columbia Wildlife Area east of Ephrata and 56 acres near the Lenore Shooting Range.
WDFW officials will present the proposals to the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission in December. If the acquisitions are approved, the agency will start looking for grant funding for the purchases.
Lisa Coffman, the Lands 20/20 and acquisition funding coordinator for WDFW, said in an email that if a project is approved, the type of transaction and the funding would determine how long it takes to complete.
Public comment is open through Nov. 28. Comments can be submitted by emailing email@example.com or by mail to: WDFW, ATTN: Wildlife Program, P.O. Box 43200, Olympia, WA 98504.