THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES
The sale of 1,275 acres in Chelan County’s Stemilt Basin by the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) completes a project that began in 2007 and has involved multiple community partners to protect habitat and outdoor recreation.
The Board of Natural Resources approved the transfer of two parcels eight miles south of Wenatchee today, following the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission’s approval April 13.
In 2013, both boards approved the sale and transfer of 1,268 acres in two adjacent parcels, bringing the final total of new WDFW property to 2,543 acres.
The land transaction was recommended by the Stemilt Partnership, a community based coalition of agriculture, wildlife, recreation, development, and conservation interests.
The Partnership was established by Chelan County in response to community concerns in 2007 when the four DNR sections were originally proposed for sale. By selling these lands, DNR managers could buy land elsewhere in the state better suited to producing revenue for the Common School Trust.
“Two state agencies, a county and an engaged community of diverse interests worked as partners to make this a landmark day for public outdoor recreation and wildlife habitat in Chelan County,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, who chairs the Board of Natural Resources in addition to leading DNR.
WDFW secured federal Endangered Species Act funding to buy the remaining two sections of DNR trust land, appraised at $1,778,000, to protect Stemilt Basin habitat for elk, deer, wolves, and other wildlife species. The parcels, which are adjacent to Chelan County property, are managed as a unit of WDFW’s Colockum Wildlife Area. Land acquisition is one of many ways that WDFW carries out its statutory mandate to protect and preserve fish and wildlife habitat, while also providing hunting, fishing and other opportunities for people to enjoy the outdoors.
“We’re managing this land on a broad watershed-wide basis that protects water supplies for fish and irrigated agriculture, along with critical wildlife habitat,” said Jim Brown, WDFW Northcentral Regional Director. “We’re balancing our management of traditional activities such as hunting, fishing, and wildlife viewing, with multiple-use recreational access that the Partnership values.”
Linda Evans Parlette of Wenatchee, who worked with the Partnership for years as a Washington State Senator, called the transfer the fulfillment of ten years of commitment.
“I am thrilled that this transfer has finally happened,” said Parlette, who is currently an executive director with the Chelan-Douglas Health District. “I give a lot of credit to lead staff at Fish and Wildlife, DNR, and Chelan County, in addition to those individuals who tirelessly attended all of the meetings.”
(Editor’s note: During a hearing in Olympia, then-Sen. Parlette defended the importance of wildlife habitat in the Stemilt Basin when questions arose from another Republican former senator, Brian Dansel.)
Chelan County Commissioner Kevin Overbay said the deal exemplifies what can be achieved through collaboration.
“I am pleased to see the community’s vision for this area coming to fruition,” Overbay said. “I commend all of the citizens and organizations who have worked tirelessly over the past decade to make this a reality.”