As of Friday, December 5, 2014
I’ve often voiced my concern over state agencies continuing to buy land in the name of habitat protection. But rural residents should also be aware of the economic pitfalls that will follow large acquisitions by environmental groups.
Recently, the Nature Conservancy announced that it is acquiring 47,921 acres of timberland between Hyak and Cle Elum. The land buy is part of a $134 million deal with Plum Creek Timber Co., which also includes the acquisition of 117,000 acres near Kalispell, Mont.
The organization is hailing the Snoqualmie Pass land acquisition as a positive move for all state residents and wildlife. But nothing could be further from the truth.
In its heyday, Plum Creek provided thousands of timber jobs across the state. The timber industry powered a lot of our economy. And even in today’s so-called “green” society, the industry provides numerous jobs across the state.
For those of you who are unaware, the corridor being purchased is also in the heart of Washington’s coal country. While our mines have long since been closed, there’s a natural resource there that could be tapped to provide jobs and a boost to the Eastern Washington economy.
I must admit that I enjoy the trip through Snoqualmie Pass — the trees, the lakes and the mountains. And the acquisition will surely preserve the aesthetic views in the primary corridor linking Eastern and Western Washington.
But when that much land is taken out of production, you have to stop and wonder about how the move may affect the rural economy of not only Kittitas County, but the entire North Cascades region.
The Conservancy says it is thinking bigger. That should further raise a red flag for rural communities whose economies are natural resources-based. While the organization says it’s not locking up the land, it certainly is putting up a roadblock for managing timber and other resources.
You would think that after this summer’s devastating wildfire season, more rural residents would be up concerned over acquisitions such as this.
Along with the timber and other potential resources in the land, the Conservancy will likely control water on the property. And should any water rights be transferred in the name of fish habitat, they’re most likely lost forever to agricultural and other interests providing jobs.
The Nature Conservancy has a real agenda here to create so-called wildlife corridors. And it is working with state agencies to push an unsustainable economic agenda that would take more private timber, agricultural and other lands off the tax rolls.
This acquisition comes on the heels of last year’s state acquisition of 45,000 acres in the Teanaway River basin between Cle Elum and Liberty. That acquisition came about the same time as the emergence of the Teanaway wolf pack.
Coincidence? I think not.
Large scale land acquisitions in the name of wildlife and habitat preservation need to be halted in our state if our rural communities are to remain vibrant.
Roger Harnack is the editor and publisher of The Chronicle. He can be reached at 509-826-1110 or via email at email@example.com.