The state Department of Fish and Wildlife will buy another 5,088 acres of timber and grazing land in the Simcoe Mountains in south-central Washington for $3.35 million.
The Fish and Wildlife Commission approved the purchase from Western Pacific Timber on June 14. The department has been acquiring property from the company in phases since 2016 and has now bought a total of 10,294 acres.
Fish and Wildlife has ambitions to buy another 8,450 acres from the company, though the department has not yet lined up the money, and the property remains on the market.
If the state buys the land, the property would have to be acquired in more phases over several years, Fish and Wildlife real estate services manager Julie Sandberg said.
“It takes a long time to acquire acreage like that,” she said. “It’s been a great opportunity for the public.”
Fish and Wildlife manages more than 1 million acres and regularly acquires more property.
The land bought in the Simcoe Mountains will expand the department’s Klickitat Wildlife Area in Klickitat County.
Fish and Wildlife will manage the land with two partners, the Eastern and Central Klickitat conservation districts.
The department and conservation districts are working on a plan to allow grazing to continue, while protecting wildlife and fish habitat, and opening the land to recreation, including hunting, Sandberg said.
The department will not commercially log the land, but will thin the forests, she said.
Maintaining the property will cost the state $52 an acre a year, the department estimates.
The land includes a tributary of the Columbia River. The benefits of acquiring it will include protecting habitat for fish, western gray squirrels and deer, according to the department.
Grazing has been well managed on the property and supports a healthy population of grasses and flowers, according to a department report.
Klickitat County commissioners have endorsed Fish and Wildlife’s acquisition of the land.