WDFW Commission approves land purchases for wildlife habitat, outdoor recreation

The properties, both situated on the eastern slope of the Cascade Mountains, will be managed to benefit wildlife, while also providing public access for outdoor recreation, Wecker said.

Dan Budd, WDFW real estate manager, said the department secured an option to purchase the 5,497-acre Manastash property in Yakima County from the Nature Conservancy for an assessed price of $4,675,000.

Once that sale is finalized, the property will become part of WDFW’s L.T. Murray Wildlife Area, the third such acquisition in that area for WDFW since 2007 under the multi-party Heart of the Cascades land-conservation project.

The smaller property in Yakima County, historically owned by timber companies, is located within WDFW’s Wenas Wildlife Area and home to elk, bighorn sheep, mule deer and a variety of other species. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has offered to sell the property to the department for its assessed price of $230,000.

Budd noted that WDFW will make payments-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILT) to counties on both properties once the purchases have been finalized. PILT payments are designed to compensate counties for the loss of local property taxes, which cannot be levied on state-owned lands.

In other business, the commission heard comments from nearly a dozen people about a proposed plan to develop a new policy for Grays Harbor salmon fisheries. That policy, which will set the direction for resource conservation and catch allocations, is the focus of ongoing public meetings in western Washington. Information about the proposed policy is available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/fisheries/grays_harbor_salmon/ on WDFW’s website.

Commission will discuss policy for Grays Harbor salmon fishery

A number of public workshops are scheduled on the proposed policy through mid-January. Information about those workshops is available at http://goo.gl/kLCLi6.

In other business, the commission will consider a proposed rule for commercial dive fisheries that would prohibit the use of certain types of fishing gear aboard commercial vessels to make it more difficult to harvest geoduck clams illegally. Another proposal asks the commission to delegate the responsibility of setting sea urchin size limits to WDFW, so managers can respond more quickly to changing conditions.

The proposed land acquisition in Kittitas County involves 5,497 acres adjacent to WDFW’s L.T. Murray Wildlife Area, 35 miles northwest of Yakima. The department has also proposed purchasing a 589-acre inholding in the Wenas Wildlife Area near WDFW’s winter feeding area for elk.

Other topics on the commission’s agenda include a briefing on proposed changes in WDFW’s hydraulic permit approval rules and a status report on the state’s reptile and amphibians populations.