The end is nearing for efforts to protect a 1,600-acre “core” of Blanchard Mountain from logging.
On Tuesday, the state Board of Natural Resources gave the Washington State Department of Natural Resources the OK to buy about 193 acres of working forest next to Blanchard State Forest in Skagit County.
It will help replace timber revenue that Skagit County once received from Blanchard that is being put into conservation status.
The price was about $1.2 million, DNR said in a news release.
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Goodyear Nelson Lumber Co. was the seller.
It was the latest acquisition that was part of a decades-long push to protect a beloved forest and playground, according to earlier stories in The Bellingham Herald.
The “core” that’s being protected includes Samish Overlook, Oyster Dome and backcountry camping areas at Lily and Lizard lakes.
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.
In September, the state bought 76 acres of working forest next to Blanchard State Forest for $728,000.
DNR said one more land transaction is needed to complete the effort to save the core from logging.