THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES
The Washington State Board of Natural Resources approved the $55 million purchase of more than 9,000 acres of forestland in Wahkiakum County during its meeting Tuesday at the Natural Resources Building.
Each of the four properties is adjacent to lands already sustainably managed by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources to generate revenue for public services, provide wildlife habitat, and protect water quality.
Funding for the purchases will come from Climate Commitment Act dollars from the Legislature, as well as proceeds from prior transactions by DNR.
“This is a transformational opportunity for Washington state to add to our public lands and keep working forests working,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz. “I am grateful to the legislators and county commissioners from across western Washington for their longstanding support to ensure we keep providing revenue to schools and public services while meeting the requirements of the Endangered Species Act.”
The purchase is set to be the state’s largest land acquisition in more than a decade.
“By investing in thousands of acres of working forests in Wahkiakum County, Washington State DNR is helping ensure our woods stay healthy and we maintain thriving local forest product economies,” said U.S. Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez. “Today’s investment will help keep our woods working for years to come, and I’ll continue fighting at the federal level to support pathways to good jobs in the woods across Southwest Washington.”
“The Washington State Association of Counties is thrilled that DNR successfully acquired such a large tract of timberland with this purchase to be managed for commercial timber production and harvest,” said Eric Johnson, WSAC executive director. “Most counties in our state are rural, and keeping our forestlands intact and in production supports rural jobs and communities. These lands will also provide additional environmental benefits for all Washington residents. This is a great example of an outcome where we don’t have to choose between environmental or economic benefits. In this case, we get both.”
“We are extremely pleased to support DNR’s purchase of timberland in Wahkiakum County,” said Wahkiakum County Commissioner Lee Tischer. “With this purchase, this land will remain in timber production in perpetuity, and our county’s residents, schools, and fire districts will benefit financially for generations to come.”
“Like many counties where timber harvest is an important industry, Skamania County has suffered economically for many years as forestry declined on national forestland,” said Skamania County Commissioner Tom Lannen. “This purchase is a great step toward increasing revenue for rural counties to provide sorely needed financial resources while assuring access to valuable timber products for the timber industry we all rely upon.”
“Jefferson County is thrilled to see such quick action by the DNR to use funding to replace structurally complex, carbon-dense existing forestlands with other working timberlands,” said Jefferson County Commissioner Heidi Eisenhour. “This purchase will allow DNR to preserve some of our most valuable landscapes while acquiring highly productive replacements that will provide significant environmental and economic benefits for our state’s residents. It shows that win-win solutions really are possible.”
For the transaction, 941 acres of land would be purchased with $7.2 million in Real Property Replacement Account funding and would benefit the Common School Trust, which supports K-12 school construction across Washington state. That parcel is on the southern end of the Elochoman State Forest east of Cathlamet, the Wahkiakum County seat.
The other 8,174 acres of land in the transaction, which are north and northwest from Cathlamet, would be purchased with $47.8 million in Climate Commitment Act funding allocated in the 2023-25 capitol budget. The three properties in that transaction would be held in DNR’s Land Bank, allowing it to be designated to support specific trusts at a later date.
The vast majority of the lands approved for purchase have high-quality soils, and tree ages range from recently harvested and replanted stands to those that are mature enough to be harvested.
This transaction is expected to close in mid-December.
For decades, DNR has continued to acquire forestlands across the state to support schools and counties. Since 1980, the department has added more than 100,000 acres of sustainably managed forestland to public ownership through its transactions program.