A $6.3 million trust land transfer funded by the state Legislature will permanently protect 900 acres of timber lands within the Dabob Bay Natural Area in Jefferson County, according to a news release from the Northwest Watershed Institute.
During the recent2019 legislative session, the Department of Natural Resources requested $27.15 million in funding for 10 trust land transfer projects across the state. Of these, only two projects were funded – Dabob Bay and Middle Fork Snoqualmie ($100,000).
Each biennium, the Department identifies a list of candidate trust land properties for consideration by the legislature for inclusion in the Trust Land Transfer program.
Candidate properties are screened for special characteristics that distinguish the property from other income-producing trust assets. An appropriate and receptive public agency or program is identified to receive and manage each of the candidate properties. The list is assembled into an informational package, with maps and property descriptions and presented to the Board of Natural Resources and then to the Governor’s Office for submission to the legislature. The legislature reviews the proposal, determines the makeup of the final package and sets an appropriation funding level.
If approved, the timber value is then available for distribution by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to fund school construction (K-12) within the current two-year funding cycle.
The land value is used by DNR to acquire other lands when opportunities present themselves at a future date. The land is transferred, unaltered, to the appropriate receiving agency for management and protection of the special resource.
“This is great news for Dabob Bay and Jefferson County, and it is happening thanks to the sustained efforts of our elected officials at the county and state level and a broad coalition of organizations, landowners, and shellfish businesses,” Peter Bahls, Director of Northwest Watershed Institute, stated in a press release. The Northwest Watershed Institute has led the effort to protect the bay since 2002. “We are grateful for the support of the Jefferson County Commissioners, the county’s fire chiefs, and our legislators – Reps. Mike Chapman and Steve Tharinger and Sen. Kevin Van De Wege.”
The Dabob Bay Natural Area was expanded from approximately 6,000 acres to 10,000 acres in 2016 to include priority conservation areas, including shoreline slopes along Dabob Bay, lower Thorndyke Creek and its wetlands, and the wildlife corridor connecting the Dabob and Thorndyke areas.
Hundreds of Jefferson County residents contacted their legislators, and 25 local and statewide conservation organizations signed a joint letter of support for the project to the legislature during the recent session, showing the broad community support for preserving the Dabob Bay area.
With the funding, DNR will be able to protect state lands within the Natural Area boundary and compensate the trusts for the lands that had previously been managed for potential timber harvest. DNR is also seeking to purchase private lands within the boundary from willing landowners, according to the press release.
“The last time some private land on these steep slopes was logged it flooded my house and buried the property in mud,” said Joan Lemonds, who has lived on Dabob Bay for 42 years. “The neighbors and I are thrilled to see this beautiful old forest along the creek protected.”