Another piece has fallen into place in the decades-long push to protect a 1,600-acre “core”of Blanchard Mountain from logging, days from a Sept. 16 celebration for saving the beloved recreation area south of Bellingham.
The state Board of Natural Resources recently gave the Washington State Department of Natural Resources the OK to buy 76 acres of working forest next to Blanchard State Forest in Skagit County. The price was $728,000, DNR said.
Offered by willing private sellers, the forest land will help replace timber revenue that Skagit County once received from Blanchard that is being put into conservation status.
The “core” that’s being protected includes Samish Overlook, Oyster Dome and backcountry camping areas at Lily and Lizard lakes.
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Located just south of the Whatcom County line, Blanchard Mountain, which has about 100,000 visitors a year, is known for its sweeping views.
It is part of the Chuckanut Range and is a favorite destination for hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders as well as paragliders and hang gliders.
Conservationists, recreation groups and the Skagit County Board of Commissioners spent years pushing the state Legislature to secure funding to protect all of the 1,600 acres that formed the centerpiece of the Blanchard Forest Strategy, reached about a decade ago.
The 4,800-acre Blanchard Working Forest is overseen by DNR, which, by law, must manage such forest trust land to provide revenue, primarily through timber sales, for Skagit County, Burlington-Edison schools and other smaller taxing districts in that county.
Logging will occur elsewhere in the forest but the idea is to allow the 1,600 acres, referred to as the “core,” to grow into an old forest and to provide habitat for wildlife and continued opportunities for recreation.
To offset revenue lost from not logging in the core, other land in Skagit County must be acquired for timber harvest recently valued at $14.2 million.
As for the celebration, it will be held at Samish Overlook and will include remarks by Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz.
Although free, the organized event has filled up. It runs 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 16.