Washington State Department of Natural Resources

05/13/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 05/13/2024 12:01

Federal Funding Secured to Protect 9,700 Acres Adjacent to the Teanaway Community Forest

Federal Funding Secured to Protect 9,700 Acres Adjacent to the Teanaway Community Forest
News Date:
May 13, 2024
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Acquisition of lands north of Cle Elum, Roslyn, and Ronald would protect landscape from conversion and ensure public benefits from working forestlands for generations to come

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) were thrilled to learn earlier today that the USDA Forest Service selected the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to receive a $15.3 million Forest Legacy Program grant award for the Cle Elum Ridge Large Landscape Project.
Coupled with $5.7 million in matching state dollars, the funding will be used to purchase 9,700 acres on Cle Elum Ridge from Central Cascades Forest LLC into public ownership by DNR.
"I could not be happier or prouder to see so many years of hard work culminate in such a monumental addition to our public lands," said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz. "Many unlikely partners came together more than a decade ago to make the Teanaway a reality. Today, we take another epic step on our journey to keep the Evergreen State evergreen."
Cle Elum Ridge sits adjacent to the Teanaway Community Forest (Teanaway), which is also owned by DNR and managed in collaboration with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
Like the Teanaway, the community has indicated the desire for Cle Elum Ridge to be sustainably managed as working forest lands, consistent with the goals of the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan and DNR's 20-Year Forest Health Strategic Plan to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires and restore forest health to support a healthy landscape and outdoor recreation.
While TNC together with DNR submitted the proposal for this federal grant, 25 additional partners submitted letters of support, including U.S. Rep Kim Schrier (WA-08), the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust, and the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation.
Today's Forest Legacy Program grant announcement is a gamechanger for this treasured landscape in Central Washington," said Mike Stevens, State Director for The Nature Conservancy in Washington. "The community has been working for decades to protect Cle Elum Ridge for its forest health, wildlife, and recreational values. With the support of federal, state, and local partners, we're now poised to deliver on the community's vision and permanently protect Cle Elum Ridge. We thank USDA and our congressional delegation for its support of this important local project."
The Checkerboard Partnershiphas worked to preserve and restore fragmented forestlands, like Cle Elum Ridge, for the benefit of the local community. Several members of the Checkerboard Partnership attended a Roundtable with USDA Deputy Secretary Torres Small, Rep. Kim Schrier and Commissioner Franz this morning in Cle Elum to talk about Cle Elum Ridge and the decades-long effort to protect these lands that provide a unique backdrop to the communities of Cle Elum, Roslyn and Ronald.
In order to support the community's goals, a collaborative working group including Kittitas County, TNC, DNR, WDFW, the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan Lands Subcommittee, and Kittitas Conservation Trust is working on a transition plan that maximizes the opportunities associated with conserving this treasured landscape.
The Mountains to Sound Greenway National Heritage Area was designated to support efforts like this one: conserving the iconic landscape of the Central Cascades and protecting communities' ability to access their natural spaces for shared values," said Nicky Pasi, Kittitas Program Manager with the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust. "We have worked with our Upper Kittitas County partners to support this project for nearly a decade and are so excited to see the Cle Elum Ridge lands receive this significant grant."
As much of the area was bought up for residential development of vacation homes and resorts, TNC worked with Central Cascades Forest LLC in 2014 to protect the Cle Elum Ridge property from conversion and manage the landscape until funding for permanent connection could be secured.
Much like the Teanaway, the Cle Elum Ridge landscape features ample wildlife habitat, miles of trail networks and outdoor recreation opportunities, and shaded slopes critical for maintaining snowpack ahead of the hot summer months. Active forest vegetation management will provide a defensible buffer around the communities of Roslyn, Ronald, and Cle Elum from future wildfire risks.
The land bordering the communities of Cle Elum, Ronald, Roslyn, and Lake Cle Elum has served as a resource to the people in those areas for generations," said Kittitas County Commissioner Laura Osiadacz. "Kittitas County is extremely optimistic about working with our partners to ensure the people accustomed to utilizing these lands will continue to have access for years to come."
MEDIA RESOURCES
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MEDIA CONTACT
Will Rubin
DNR Communications Manager
Cell: 360-764-0854
Sarah Brady
TNC Washington Policy Communications Director
541-933-9185