Community Partners Celebrate Land and Water Conservation

More than 60 community members gathered under bright skies last week to celebrate the Washington Cascades Land and Water Conservation Fund (Lwcf) project. Thanks to LWCF funding, the project will soon reach the milestone of protecting 20,000 hectares of private checkered land in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. The Nature Preserve and the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan co-hosted the Kittitas County community celebration to celebrate the project and thank all the supporters who made this progress possible.

Nearly a decade ago, the Nature Conservancy was able to “hit the pause button” on theof development on 48,000 acres of land in Kittitas County, which was owned by Plum Creek Timber and managed by Plum Creek Timber. These areas – east of Snoqualmie and inland from theains to the Sound Greenway – include verdant valleys and high peaks, challenging hiking and biking trails, and fresh, clear streams that form the headwater of the Yakima River.

Since 2014, we have been working with the US Forest Service (USFS) to obtain funds from the LWCF to transfer almost 30,000 acres of these private checkerboard landscapes to the Okanogan Wenatchee National Forest. We are making progress and we are approaching the finish line! Between 2016 and 2021, the USFS acquired 11,000 acres of this land. This year, the USFS will purchase an additional 10,000 acres. The last Phase of the LWCF project is scheduled for 2024 with the protection of the last 8,000 hectares. See the map below for an overview of these long-term conservation efforts.

At the celebration in Kittitas County last week, we had the honor of being joined by special guests, Davis Washines, elder of the Yakama Nation. Congressman Kim Schrier; employees of the offices of Senator Murray and Senator Cantwell; and Urban Eberhart, director of the Kittitas recovery district and member of the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan implementation committee. The leaders of the US Forest Service were also present, including Robert Sanchez, assistant regional forester for Region 6 of the US Forest Service, and Kristen, forest regulator of the Okanagan Wenatchee National Forest. Nancy lillquist, mayor of Ellensburg, and Jay McGowan, mayor of Cle Elum, also attended the festivities.

Davis Washines, elder of the Yakama Nation, welcomed the guests and shared words to anchor us in this place, the ancestral land of the Yakama Nation since time immemorial. Davis explained how co between partners can heal the country and co to great achievements like this. He said: “On behalf of the Yakama Nation, I want to say that we value our partnership, we appreciate the ability to work together and come together. This performance is a message. They are all messengers and, hopefully, this message will be d on to other so that they think about the best way to manage these natural spaces.”

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