Old-growth forest protected

1:38 pm September 17th, 2012

Nearly 80 acres of forest near Ashford has been given conservation status by the state, a move that protects the environment and amounts to an investment in public education.

The action was taken at a meeting last week in Olympia by the state Board of Natural Resources on 78 acres of what officials called “unique forestland” bordering the Glacier View Wilderness Area. The state trust land, located two miles northeast of Ashford, includes old-growth forest between 400 and 600 years old that survived a wildfire several hundred years ago.

The board is part of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which transfers state-controlled land into conservation status as Natural Resources Conservation Areas (NRCAs) in order to protect native plants and ecosystems. NRCAs are open to the public for “low-impact activities” such as hiking, bird watching and viewing wildflowers, a DNR spokesman said.

In the Ashford-area transaction, $1.1 million appropriated by the Legislature is moved by Washington’s trust land transfer program into the state’s public school construction account as the value of the timber on the 78 acres. The value of the land, about $50,000, will be used to buy more productive forestland for the Common School trust, which supports public school construction statewide, officials said.

The Natural Resources board last week approved a similar transaction in King County for 150 acres of working forestl 11 miles east of Maple Valley. The $142,500 purchase includes a development easement to prevent new housing and associated traffic in the area from having a negative impact on the Cedar River watershed, the source of drinking water for the city Seattle.

DNR manages more than 5.6 million acres of state-owned land. More than half is state trust land whose income from forest, agriculture, wind energy and other production uses support the public schools, universities and prisons. The Board of Natural Resources represents the beneficiaries of those funds.

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