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  Bellingham Herald   March 6, 2009

DNR buys 80 acres of forestland on Blanchard Mountain

By Kie Kelyea

The Washington Department of Natural Resources is buying 80 acres of forested land on Blanchard Mountain from a private timber company for $735,000.

The parcel in northwest Skagit County will be part of the 4,827-acre Blanchard Forest state trust lands, which are managed for timber harvest, recreation and wildlife habitat.

Known as working forests, such trust lands provide revenue for schools and other services, including $11.7 million for those in Skagit County last year. Most of the money comes from timber sales.

The department bought the land from C & G Timber Inc. of Skagit County for two reasons, said Paul McFarland, land transactions manager for the agency's northwest region.

? It's part of efforts to protect working forests from urban development. The Legislature in 2007 set aside $4 million for the department to buy forestland near the Blanchard Mountain trust lands.

? It's part of a deal hammered out by the Blanchard Forest Strategies Group in 2007 over management of the forest. The group was made up of stakeholders, including recreation, conservation and timber interests.

Provisions of the deal included protecting a "core" of the forest, about 1,600 acres, from logging. In return, other nearby land would be acquired so timber could be harvested to make up for the financial impact of setting aside the core, according to McFarland.

This is the first such acquisition, with more to come.

C & G Timber logged the parcel about seven years ago. The department isn't going to do so any time soon.

"It's true, we won't harvest this property again for some years," McFarland said, adding that might be another 30 to 60 years.

The parcel is about 11 miles northwest of Sedro-Woolley and is visible to motorists on Chuckanut Drive and to visitors to the tulip fields in Skagit County.

The sale is expected to close later this month. In addition to the purchase price, the department will pay as much as $30,000 to Skagit County as a one-time fee for land being taken from the private sector and put into state ownership.