The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), and Forterra today announced the purchase of 50,272 acres in the headwaters of the Yakima Basin watershed that are being designated as the Teanaway Community Forest.
The Teanaway acquisition is the largest single land transaction in Washington State in 45 years and reflects more than a decade of collaboration involving many organizations and individuals. The property will become Washington’s first Community Forest, a model designed to empower communities to partner with DNR to purchase forests that support local economies and public recreation.
“The Teanaway Community Forest is one of the most beloved landscapes in Washington, and it will be cared for and managed for years to come to reflect the values and priorities of the community that has worked so hard to protect it,” said Peter Goldmark, Commissioner of Public Lands. “That’s the beauty of the Community Forest Trust model: it allows local communities to help protect the forests they love.”
The forest will be managed through a partnership between DNR and WDFW, with input from the local community and interested stakeholders.
WDFW Director Phil Anderson said, “This transaction was made possible by a group of individuals, representing a diverse set of interests, working together for a common set of goals. This incredible landscape will be managed into perpetuity for the benefit of fish and wildlife and the citizens of the State of Washington and is now secure as a source of both economic and recreational vitality.”
Acquisition of the property is a key step in implementing the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan, an initiative developed by a coalition of public and private organizations to safeguard the basin’s water supply, restore fisheries, conserve habitat, preserve working lands, and enhance recreational opportunities.
For over a decade, Forterra, a statewide non-profit conservation and land stewardship organization, worked with the landowner, American Forest Holdings LLC (AFH), to negotiate a purchase and structure the sale. The Yakima Basin coalition advocated the importance of the acquisition to the state Legislature. Forterra and AFH signed a sale agreement in April, which Forterra assigned to DNR after state lawmakers appropriated $87 million for the purchase in the 2013-15 State Capital Budget. DNR supplemented that amount with a $10 million loan from its Real Property Replacement Account.
“The Teanaway has been a holy grail for the conservation community for a long, long time,” said Forterra President Gene Duvernoy. “This project goes to the heart of our mission, and we are proud to be a part of the incredible coalition that made this dream a reality. Congrats to DNR and WDFW on their innovative management partnership that will well serve the landscape and the community. At the end of the day, this project is a win for our families, our children, and our children’s children.”
The Teanaway property has been a working forest operated by AFH. The state’s purchase will ensure the land remains a working forest, available to the public for multiple uses. DNR and WDFW leaders today approved management agreements that provide for an extensive public engagement process to help guide the agencies’ management of the Community Forest.
“We have always kept the Teanaway property open to the public so that the local community and outdoor recreational enthusiasts from across the state can enjoy the Teanaway’s one-of-a-kind aesthetic beauty and recreational opportunities,” said David Bowen of American Forest Holdings. “Thanks to the State of Washington and the unique partnership between DNR and WDFW, I am thrilled that the Teanaway and all it has to offer will be preserved for the people of Washington for generations to come.”
DNR and WDFW are establishing a community advisory committee to help guide their development of a management plan for the forest. Interested persons can receive updates about the plan and information about ways to get involved by subscribing to the Teanaway Community Forest e-newsletter.
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Logo courtesy Washing Department of Fish and Wildlife