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Major conservation easement granted in Northern Kittitas County

Ellensburg Daily Record
A key property along the Yakima River in northern Kittitas County has been permanently set aside as a fish and wildlife habitat after five years of discussion and negotiations between the property owners, the Kittitas Conservation Trust, Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Yakama Nation.

UPPER KITTITAS COUNTY - A key property along the Yakima River in northern Kittitas County has been permanently set aside as a fish and wildlife habitat after five years of discussion and negotiations between the property owners, the Kittitas Conservation Trust, Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Yakama Nation.

The property, owned by the Hundley Family Limited Partnership, is 431 contiguous acres of riparian forests, ponds, wetlands and shorelines that is bisected by the mainstem Yakima River for 1.3 miles. There are also two tributary streams that flow through the property and into the Yakima River.

The property is off of I-90 at Exit 78.

William and Richard Hundley, principals of the family partnership, granted a conservation easement on their property on Nov. 24. Conservation easements are a real estate transaction tool in which the landowner retains ownership of the property but certain property rights are sold to the easement buyer. The Hundleys have extinguished the property's development rights on the easement lands and agreed to have the fish and wildlife habitat attributes maintained into perpetuity.

The Hundley reach of the Yakima River is premier spawning habitat for spring chinook salmon with one of the highest densities of redds in the upper Yakima River. The property is also crucial for protecting terrestrial wildlife migration routes that include crossings of the Yakima River within north-south corridors. Landscape habitat connectivity is vital for ecosystem health and natural biodiversity for species like cougar, deer and elk.

"The Hundley property is a key piece in our fish and wildlife habitat protection strategy for the Cle Elum and Yakima River confluence landscape," said David Gerth of the Kittitas Conservatuion Trust. "The Hundley property connects hundreds of acres of other protected properties owned by Suncadia resort, Department of Fish and Wildlife, Washington State Parks and Bonneville Power to create a meaningful assembly of conserved habitat."

According to a news release, the Hundleys "expressed that ‘the granting of the conservation easement not only culminates a five-year real estate transaction but also materializes our family's vision for the property to be undeveloped open space, working forest and protected fish and wildlife habitat into perpetuity.'"

The cost of the purchase of the conservation easement was not announced. Funds came from the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office, the Salmon Recovery Funding Board and the Bonneville Power Administration.

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