With higher-than-expected proceeds from the carbon cap and trade program being funneled into the newly established Natural Climate Solutions Account under the Climate Commitment Act (see #8 in this graphic), Governor Inslee has a unique opportunity to use these funds to clear the existing backlog of Trust Land Transfer (TLT) projects.
Alongside our partners, Washington Wild is requesting Governor Inslee use his supplemental capital budget to allocate $10 million of Natural Climate Solutions Account funds for 11 TLT projects that have been proposed by DNR but remain unfunded. This includes two new heavily forested proposed project areas—Morning Star and Blakely Island—as well as nine smaller projects that would expand upon portions of conservation areas already created by TLT. Allocation of these funds would clear the existing backlog of TLT projects allowing DNR to focus on evaluating new proposals for potential investment by the legislature in 2025.
Morning Star Natural Resource Conservation Area
This 37,842-acre mountainous conservation area protects outstanding native plant communities within forests, subalpine meadows, wetlands, and lakes. Protecting middle to high elevations around the Spada Lake basin, which captures warm moist air as it moves inland from Puget Sound and the Pacific Ocean, this area represents one of the wettest areas in the North Cascade Mountains. High precipitation and cool temperatures cause subalpine plant communities to occur at unusually low elevations in this region, with at least six rare plant species known to occur here. Large enough to provide critical habitat for wide-ranging wildlife, threatened and endangered species such as the Pacific fisher, grizzly bear, and gray wolf also call the area home.
Funding for the proposed TLT project would add 1,071 acres of the existing NRCA. The proposed area is a high-elevation forest, which while ecologically valuable, provides conditions that are poor for growing timber and difficult to harvest.
From DNR’s proposal packet: This 184-acre parcel located on the eastern edge of Blakely Island is entirely forested with conifer trees ranging approximately in age from 132-162 years old. Some older trees may exhibit old-growth characteristics which is rare in San Juan County due to historic logging practices and developmental needs within the island chain. The eastern boundary of this property is adjacent to Rosario Strait. The shoreline provides important marine habitat and is seen by passengers riding the ferry between Anacortes and the San Juan Islands. Blakely Island Timberland LLC owns to the west and south of this property, and Seattle Pacific College owns to the north.
Timing is Everything
Given the limited capital budget funding for TLT moving forward (HB 1460 caps TLT budget requests at $30 million annually), this is an important and unique opportunity in which the Governor could provide significant support for the TLT program. Funding these projects now would help clear the existing backlog of proposed projects so that DNR can focus on evaluating new proposals from around the state and bring forward a comprehensive package for potential investment by the legislature in 2025.
Funding trust land transfer is good public policy—it conserves ecologically valuable lands, increases responsible access for outdoor recreation, improves financial return to trust beneficiaries, and can even protect working forests at risk of conversion. By providing a natural climate solution through carbon sequestration, the TLT program is an ideal beneficiary for funding from the Climate Commitment Act (CCA).
Lastly, we believe the revitalized TLT program can be a powerful mechanism for centering Tribal-led projects and fulfilling the requirement that CCA funding directly benefit Washington tribes. We urge the Governor to work with DNR and Tribes to identify opportunities to allocate Natural Climate Solution funds in the supplemental capital budget to fund qualified TLT proposals put forth by Tribes, where the Tribe is expressing the commitment to be the receiving agency and will manage the forest in the long term for conservation. If this can’t occur now because of timing constraints, then we propose creating a new category of TLT investment for 2025 that would better enable Tribal projects given their high priority within CCA.