Lands conserved include sections near the three major lakes in Kittitas County.

The Nature Conservancy announces second largest purchase in Greenway history

The Nature Conservancy announced the conservation of 47,921 acres of forest land in the Central Cascades, the majority within the Mountains to Sound Greenway. This acquisition represents a great leap forward for healthy forests, clean water, wildlife habitat, and the outdoor recreation economy in Kittitas County.

This is one of the largest conservation purchases in the 23-year history of the Greenway Trust, second only to last year’s state acquisition of the Teanaway Community Forest. The Nature Conservancy’s purchase includes a large portion of the Cle Elum Ridge, which is adjacent to the Teanaway basin. Conserving this large swath of the ridge will ensure that public access from the Roslyn area directly to the Teanaway will be maintained into the future.

The Nature Conservancy is committed to managing these lands to ensure long-term forest health, wildlife habitat, and outdoor recreation. Mark R. Tercek, president and CEO of The Nature Conservancy, said “We are excited about the opportunity to work with local communities to develop a shared vision for the future of these forests and rivers.” This private investment will greatly improve water quality and preserve habitat for native salmon and trout in the Yakima River.

The Nature Conservancy Acquisition 2014The lands were purchased from Plum Creek Timber, a former subsidiary of the Northern Pacific Railroad, which was granted every other square mile section as a subsidy to build a transcontinental railroad 150 years ago. For over a century, land ownership in much of the Cascades has been a checkerboard pattern between public and private lands, making forest management extremely difficult. With The Nature Conservancy’s acquisition, the vast majority of the “checkerboard” forest lands in the Upper Yakima basin are now conserved.

Speaking to Joel Connelly of the Seattle PI, Greenway Trust Immediate Past President Bill Chapman called this act of conservation, “of huge, significant benefit to Seattle and Kittitas County, to the Mountains to Sound Greenway, and to the integrity of the land itself.”

Read more on The Nature Conservancy’s website.