Chelan County is gathering public input about what to do with 35,000 acres of land within the Upper Wenatchee Watershed.

This week, the County held community meetings in both Dryden and Entiat to hear from residents about their ideas regarding the future use of the multiple properties.

"We're doing these tours to listen to the community and find out what they'd like to see happen with that land," says Chelan County Commissioner Shon Smith. "We're just looking for options right now on finding what the best use is for those so that all of these properties can be utilized to their best potential."

The land, which is described as a checkerboard of properties in the Peshastin and Entiat drainages, along with large contiguous blocks above Coulter Creek and in the Chumstick, has been in private ownership since 2016.

Smith says Chinook Forest Partners currently owns the land but does not intend to manage it long-term, and that has created the need for action by the County.

"When the Winton Mill went away, so did our logging industry here. So these lands in question still have standing timber on them. But not having the ability to get that timber to market has put those lands into a situation where we're looking at a higher fire potential if that land isn't managed properly. And that land can't just sit and be unattended."

Several years ago, Chinook entered into an agreement with the Trust for Public Land and the Chelan-Douglas Land Trust that allows Chelan County to facilitate the determination of how the lands will be used and managed going forward.

The County says it's looking for land owners who already own adjacent properties that will agree to help manage some of the land.

Smith says it is likely that a bulk of the 35,000 acres will end up being managed by the U.S. Forest Service, who already owns and manages over 88% of the land in Chelan County.

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