Currently, the Washington Department of Natural Resources (WA DNR) has nominated four areas in Washington for Trust Land Transfer into the Natural Resource Conservation Area program in the 2019-2021 Budget. These areas are located in the Middle Fork Snoqualmie (King County), Morning Star (Snohomish County) and Devils Lake and Dabob Bay in Jefferson County on the Olympic Peninsula. DNR determined that these parcels of DNR trust land “provide greater social benefits through non-revenue generation” and “should be converted from revenue generation status to a conservation or open space function” using the TLT process.
The Trust Land Transfer program, initiated in 1989, is a tool that allows the WA DNR to manage special lands for conservation purposes while sustaining and improving potential revenue sources for trust beneficiaries. Since its inception, over 126,000 acres have been transferred through Trust Land Transfers.
WA DNR lands are managed as trust lands under the Washington Constitution. As a result, they are managed to benefit specific beneficiaries, mostly by providing revenue from timber harvest. However, in some cases DNR lands have been transferred from the Trust land to the DNR’s Natural Areas Program or to other agencies where they are managed for conservation, wildlife, watershed or recreation values. This requires the State legislature to reimburse the trust so that the trust beneficiaries are compensated for the loss of working forest lands.
The DNR Natural Resource Conservation Area (NRCA) program provides significant opportunities for public benefits by providing numerous ecosystem services and recreational opportunities for Washington residents and the general public. More than 118,700 acres are conserved in 36 Washington state NRCAs. The four areas below have been nominated by DNR for Trust Land Transfer for conservation and recreation use over revenue generation.
- Dabob Bay (Jefferson County) – This project will preserve 900 acres of trust land within the 2016 approved boundaries of the Dabob NRCA. Dabob Bay is recognized as one the most intact estuarine embayments remaining in Puget Sound, including pristine shorelines, globally imperiled plant associations, significant nearshore habitat for ESA listed salmon, and unstable slopes,. Protection of this ecosystem will also help to insure the water quality of Puget Sound and the shellfish industry.
- Devils Lake (Jefferson County) – This project will transfer 370 acres of trust land to the Devils Lake NRCA, also on the slopes of Quilcene and Dabob Bay. The area will protect one mile of shoreline on Puget Sound with unstable slopes, a globally rare forest association, and provide additional low impact recreation opportunities.
- Middle Fork Snoqualmie (King County) – This parcel will transfer 23 acres of trust land to the Middle Fork Snoqualmie NRCA. This parcel is surrounded on three sides by the existing NRCA and will protect riparian areas along the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River as well as protect a trail that provides river access.
- Morning Star (Snohomish County) – This parcel will add 1,090 acres of trust lands to the Morning Star NRCA. This land not only contains forested areas which support numerous endangered species, but also lives within the Spada Lake watershed which provides drinking water to the city of Everett and much of Snohomish County.