A 6,900-acre swath of forestland south of Mount St. Helens has been purchased as a conservation easement, protecting it from conversion to non-forest uses such as residential development.
The Washington State Department of Natural Resources, Pope Resources and Columbia Land Trust jointly announced the purchase from Pope Resources.
DNR purchased the conservation easement with funds from the federal Forest Legacy Program. The easement is on land that surrounds Swift Reservoir on the Lewis River in Skamania County and is adjacent to state trust land DNR manages. The $2.4 million deal will restrict future development on the private property while allowing for the continued growth and harvest of timber.
"Protecting our working land base means that this land will continue to contribute to the economy and provide clean water and wildlife habitat," Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark said in a news release. Goldmark also administers DNR.
DNR manages state lands to ensure environmental protection, public safety and funding for schools and communities.
The conservation easement sale is part of a broader Land Trust initiative to eventually protect 20,000 acres of forest in the area from development.
Glenn Lamb, executive director of the Land Trust, said, "Our forests are rich with benefits for people and wildlife. That we all profit from conserving working forest is made clear by this unusual and effective partnership of a private timber company, a rural county and a conservation group."
The area is a popular destination because of its proximity to Mount St. Helens, recreational opportunities and habitat for wildlife such as elk, spotted owl and endangered bull trout.
"It is rewarding to see historically competing interests find the common ground in which everyone wins," said Jon Rose, president of Olympic Property Group, a Pope Resources company.
-- Steve Brown