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Bill to Revitalize Trust Land Transfer Passes State House, Push for Full Funding Continues

Posted on Feb 28, 2023 in Conservation News, Forest Management, WA Wild Blog
WA Wild coordinates diverse group of 55 conservation, recreation, and wildlife groups, and land trusts to send letter supporting revitalization of the Trust Land Transfer program and funding for 10 projects

Last night, the State House of Representatives passed legislation (HB 1460) to modernize the Trust Land Transfer (TLT) program by a floor vote of 82 -13. Since its inception in 1989, the TLT program has preserved more than 128,000 acres of state trust land. Parts of the state’s most treasured places—Mt. Si, Blanchard Mountain, and Deception Pass State Park—were former trust lands. Revitalizing the TLT program has been a major priority for Commissioner of Public Lands, Hilary Franz. 

“To ensure Washington’s public lands are providing the greatest environmental, social, and economic benefits for everyone, we need a solid, transparent Trust Land Transfer program,” said Hilary Franz, Washington State Commissioner of Public lands, who guides the Department of Natural Resources’ management of approximately 5.6 million acres of state lands. “A dedicated, diverse panel has identified the properties we will acquire with full funding from the capital budget to maximize the ways Washington’s public lands build stronger communities across the state.” 

The bill (HB 1460) increases transparency by putting TLT into state law and establishes a consistent process for TLT projects at every step of the way, allowing for more public input. It also improves flexibility by applying the program to all state trusts (not just the common school trust), allowing DNR to better manage its complete lab portfolio to improve financial returns to trust beneficiaries and more easily transfer land for local community uses. The bill also eliminates the 80/20 rule, an outdated funding formula that mandates 80% of the legislative appropriation be “cashed out” (i.e. spent on school construction) instead of allowing for greater reinvestment in more productive lands; with this mandate gone, the TLT program will be better positioned to support trust beneficiaries over the long term.  

Photo: Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Cascadia Photography

On the same day as the House floor vote, the leadership of the House Capital Budget Committee and the Senate Ways and Means Committee received a letter signed by 55 diverse stakeholders across the state—from Spokane to Shelton and Bellingham to Vancouver—calling for support for a revitalization of the State Trust Land Transfer program and funding for 10 priority conservation projects.  

The Trust Land Transfer Program provides a Win-Win solution for trust beneficiaries, working forests, and priority issues such as carbon sequestration, salmon and orca recovery, and outdoor recreation. HB 1460 provides a necessary upgrade to ensure that the TLT program continues to be successful for the next 30 years and the House passage means we are halfway there! – Tom Uniack, WA Wild Executive Director

The letter, from a mix of land trusts, conservation organizations, recreation groups and fish and wildlife advocates, was coordinated by Washington Wild and supports two priorities in the current state legislative session: (1) HB 1460 that would revitalize the Washington State Department of Natural Resources Trust Land Transfer Program and; (2) support $25 million in funding for 10 projects creating new greenspaces and conservation lands statewide. While the first priority was accomplished with the passage of HB 1460 on Monday, funding for the 10 projects requires a separate action by the Legislature. Each biennium, DNR identifies a list of trust lands as candidates for inclusion in the TLT program, and then the legislature must appropriate those funds in the state’s capital budget.

DNR’s 2023-25 Proposed TLT Projects

One of the proposed projects, the Devils Lake addition, was on DNR’s proposed TLT project list in 2017-19 and 2019-21, but has not yet been funded despite strong support from private citizens, local shellfish businesses, Tribes, and county government.


Devils Lake is one of the loveliest wilderness lakes on the Olympic Peninsula displaying magnificent Douglas fir, western hemlock, Pacific rhododendron, and evergreen huckleberry. – Connie Gallant, Board President of Olympic Forest Coalition

The area includes one mile of intact forested shoreline on steep slopes along Dabob Bay that provides diverse wildlife habitat and helps protect water quality, both of which are highly beneficial to the local shellfish industry. The proposed acreage also includes older forests classified by DNR as a globally imperiled forest plant community. “With its scenic qualities, wildlife habitat, and low-impact recreational opportunities, it makes it the perfect spot for a hike, a row around the pristine lake, fishing, or a day picnic with the entire family. We fully support the expansion of the Devils Lake Natural Resources Conservation Area (NRCA).”

Photo: A mother river otter checking to see if the coast is clear, Great Peninsula Conservancy

The Eglon Wetland located just north of Kingston is bordered by towering trees 130+ years in age that help keep the water that flows from the wetland into Puget Sound cool, clean, and clear. “The Eglon Wetland is an amazing property for recreation, a beloved community greenspace, and provides important wildlife habitat”, says Travis Merrigan, Co-Founder of GRAYL, maker of innovative water purifiers for international travelers and outdoor explorers. If the funding is provided, Kitsap County Parks intends to manage this property and existing trails for recreation, as a commuter thruway for bikers and pedestrians, open green space, and wildlife habitat.

As a resident of Kitsap County and founder of a local business that supports conservation, recreational opportunities, and access to clean water, the Trust Land Transfer Program is an important conservation opportunity. Kitsap is growing fast, so including the Eglon Wetland in this program is a key chance to preserve this critical habitat forever.  – Travis Merrigan, Co-Founder of GRAYL