State DNR Plans Land Transfer Of Property Near Wenatchee
The Washington Department of Natural Resources is planning to transfer some land it currently operates as a revenue source to other uses.
There are 10 pieces of land it's proposing to transfer, including about 3,000 acres near Wenatchee known as the Upper Dry Gulch area.
DNR Communications Specialist Kenny Ocker says the land would stay under the department, but would move into its Natural Areas Program.
"This transaction would put all of that block that is designated to be managed for revenue production into the Upper Dry Gulch Natural Area Preserve," said Ocker.
Once the transfer is done, the land would be designated to protect an endangered plant that exists almost exclusively within its boundaries - the Whited’s milk-vetch.
The plant is only found in Chelan County, with 95 percent of it existing in the Upper Dry Gulch property.
The DNR has a wide range of trusts where money it raises from its land use is channeled.
Any funds generated from the Upper Dry Gulch property currently go toward construction of K-12 school buildings.
That trust, known as "Common School", is the single largest trust under DNR, raising $80 million a year to finance school buildings. All of the department's trusts collectively generate about $300 million annually for the state, with higher education making up another substantial portion of the total.
Ocker says the Upper Dry Gulch property only has one other use in addition to being a preservation area.
"The other use for this land were it not to be in conservation would be for grazing," Ocker said. "And our grazing leases only generate about two dollars an acre. So the benefit to the trust is very low. And the value of the land for fair market use is also fairly low."
The DNR is submitting its proposal for land transfers to the Governor's Office for submission to the state legislature, which will need to provide funding for the transfers to take place.
The 10 properties it plans to transfer are evenly divided between the western and eastern part of the state.
Three other properties would join the Upper Dry Gulch area in moving to the DNR Natural Areas Program. Two of them would move to the Department of Fish and Wildlife, while the remaining four would be returned to counties in which they're located.
A roughly 650 acre property known as the Moses Lake Sand Dunes would be returned to Grant County, presumably to expand use in the area for off-road vehicle (ORV) recreation.
The DNR is also working with the legislature to try and get a larger share of revenue from land trust transfers. It currently receives about 20 percent of that money with the remaining 80 percent going directly to the actual trusts, such as Common School.
The department is trying to get a much larger share of the revenue directed back into replacement lands from the transfers.
The program has protected about 126,000 acres in the past 30 years, but the DNR has only been able to purchase about 56,000 acres of replacement land. The department wants to put the full value of the revenue from land transfers back into replacement lands to keep its holdings from shrinking.