Nature Conservancy wants public input on use of newly purchased land

The Nature Conservancy is gathering public comment as it develops a plan for almost 48,000 acres near Snoqualmie Pass that the group purchased earlier this year.

Since the acquisition from Plum Creek Timber was announced in October, the conservancy has held discussions with elected leaders, recreational groups, conservation groups and others to help develop a vision for the future of this land.

The 47,921 acres are crucial habitat for wildlife including bears and elk, as well as threatened species such as wolverines and spotted owls. The land is home to 1,000 species of plants and animals, 200 bird species and 16,000 elk in Kittitas County.

The property runs along both sides of nearly 25 miles of Interstate 90 from Snoqualmie Pass to Cle Elum, and includes the headwaters of the Yakima River. It also is adjacent to the 50,272-acre Teanaway Community Forest, which is being managed by the state departments of Natural Resources and Fish and Wildlife.

The 75-square-mile tract is the largest purchase made by the conservancy in Washington.

The conservancy wants to start a community dialogue around the future of this land, said Mike Stevens, the group’s Washington state director.

“This creates an opportunity to connect and secure important wildlife habitat that is becoming all too scarce, to continue to protect clean water in rivers and lakes right along the I-90 corridor, and to ensure that people can continue to enjoy fishing, hunting, hiking and cross-county skiing,” Stevens said in a prepared statement.

“This project will secure some of the most important wildlife habitat on the continent,” Mark Tercek, president and CEO of the conservancy, said in a statement. “These lands serve as critical linkages between vast wilderness areas and will protect sources of clean water for people and nature.”

As part of its efforts to gather public input, the conservancy is asking people to complete an online survey.