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Cooperative efforts protect forestlands

The mountain tops in Wild Sky Wilderness are filled with snow now, but scenes like this are waiting dormantly for visitors come summer. The new wilderness area has expanded by 149 acres thanks to an agreement between the U.S. Forest Service and the Cascade Land Conservancy. Another 1,150 acres is being acquired along the Pacific Crest Trail. - Courtesy Gary Paull, U.S. Forest Service
The mountain tops in Wild Sky Wilderness are filled with snow now, but scenes like this are waiting dormantly for visitors come summer. The new wilderness area has expanded by 149 acres thanks to an agreement between the U.S. Forest Service and the Cascade Land Conservancy. Another 1,150 acres is being acquired along the Pacific Crest Trail.
— image credit: Courtesy Gary Paull, U.S. Forest Service

Darrington — The town of Darrington has purchased 11 acres of forestland along the Sauk River providing additional public access, protecting one of the most diverse salmon habitat streams in the region and taking an important step toward creating for the town another large park, according to Town Councilmember Dan Rankin.

“After six years of hard work by many citizens, county officials, Cascade Land Conservancy and the patience of Larry Evans, our dream of establishing a riverfront park is realized,” said Rankin, a leader in the project.

“We are now taking a clear step toward sustaining the quality of life for our community by providing a natural space along the Sauk River for all of us to enjoy, as well as preserving important habitat for fish and wildlife. We hope the Darrington Sauk River Park will become a place of solace and celebration for future generations.”

Darrington’s population of 1,500 huddles at the western base of the Cascade Mountains, strategically located near three wilderness areas, 27 miles east of Arlington.

The forested lands acquired are part of a largely intact and undeveloped ecosystem along the Sauk River. The purchase will protect an environment that supports all five salmon species, as well as bull, cutthroat and steelhead trout.

The acquisition also provides a much-needed additional public access point to the Sauk River — the only access point along about 12 miles of riverfront.

The site also has strong educational possibilities, according to officials. They plan to develop the site as an interpretive/educational space that people of all ages can enjoy, focusing on the salmon habitat and the forest ecosystem that surrounds it.

Darrington worked together with the Cascade Land Conservancy, Snohomish County and the Skagit River System Cooperative to complete this project. 

The CLC negotiated the purchase of the properties and Darrington will own and manage the land as a park for wildlife and salmon habitat and recreational use. Additional funds exist for partners to consider additional habitat protection.

“This was making lemonade out of lemons,” said Snohomish County Councilmember John Koster.

“We had an emergency repair on a bridge and it created a win-win situation and a great park for the citizens of Darrington.”

The Snohomish County Conservation Director for CLC, Nick Harper sees the acquisition as important contribution to the community.

“The Cascade Land Conservancy is honored to have played a role in facilitating the purchase of this park space for the town of Darrington,” Harper said.

“This is a wonderful addition that will serve the people of Darrington now and for generations to come.”

The Cascade Land Conservancy is a regional land trust, land stewardship provider and policy center operating in Washington state with headquarters in Seattle and principal offices in King, Kittitas, Mason, Pierce and Snohomish Counties. Founded in 1989, CLC has protected nearly 150,000 acres of working forests, farmlands and natural areas as well as estuary lands on the Olympic Peninsula and along the Washington Coast. It provides stewardship services, caring for more than 10,000 acres of land. Since 2005 it has been the host organization of The Cascade Agenda, which links conserving great lands with creating great communities.

For more information, see the Web site at www.cascadeland.org and www.cascadeagenda.com.

More wild acres

for Wild Sky,

Pacific Crest Trail

Wildlife will have more places to roam in 2009 with the acquisition of the Upper Wallace and Pacific Crest Trail parcels by the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie and Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forests.

“We just completed two purchases which will increase wildlife and recreational opportunities on the forest,” said the U.S. Forest Service realty specialist Scott Lynn.

“The combined acquisition is more than 1,200 acres with 149 acres in the newly established Wild Sky Wilderness and the rest along the Pacific Crest Trail.”

The Pacific Crest Trail is a nationally significant long-distance trail extending from Canada to Mexico along the rugged and remote crests of the Cascades, Sierra Nevada and southern California mountain ranges.

The Forest Service bought the land from the Cascade Land Conservancy and The Trust for Public Lands. According to Lynn, acquiring privately owned parcels within national forest boundaries allows the U.S.F.S. to better manage the land in a contiguous ownership block.

Currently, the Snoqualmie and Cle Elum Ranger Districts face the largest concentration of checkerboard-pattern ownership on forests straddling I-90 east of North Bend. Each parcel creates more trespass issues, boundary maintenance costs and potential right-of-way access situations that the forest is trying to reduce.

“The Forest Service has been working with Cascade Land Conservancy and The Trust for Public Land over six years to obtain funding for these projects,” Lynn said. The purchases were finalized in December.

The U.S. Forest Service has strict guidance to follow when purchasing land. The process requires local forests to submit a request to their regional office and from there to Washington DC for funding approval.

“Anything we can do to simplify land management while protecting key wildlife areas is something we work towards,” Lynn said.

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