PORT TOWNSEND — Jefferson County is hoping to collaborate more closely with the state Department of Natural Resources on forest management following an $83 million appropriation from the state Legislature.
At their regular meeting Monday, the Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved a response to a letter sent by Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz with recommendations on which lands the county would like to see benefit from DNR investment and collaboration.
“I would like to invite you to work with me and my team to develop a strategy for how DNR manages the county forest trust lands in your county,” Franz said in her June 7 letter. “I am seeking your collaboration and input so that together we can make decisions that reflect our shared values.”
In their letter, commissioners identified the expansion of the Dabob Bay Natural Area; specific parcels for the Trust Land Transfer program and parcels for potential reconveyance or co-management between the county and DNR.
DNR has $70 million available to purchase new forest lands to offset a commitment to move up to 2,000 acres of structurally complex, carbon-dense state trust forest lands to conservation status, and commissioners identified nearly 500 acres in Jefferson County that could benefit from that program.
Most of those lands are located around Dabob Bay, and commissioners suggested those parcels could be included in an expansion of the Dabob Bay Natural Area. Jefferson County has been seeking to expand the natural area for several years and had already identified parcels that may be eligible for DNR’s program.
The county has also identified up to 2,500 acres in the region owned by forest products company Rayonier Inc. that commissioners say the company is willing to sell which are adjacent to working forest, recreation and conservation lands.
“We see great potential for DNR to acquire significant acreage from private forest landowners with areas that would connect well with existing DNR-managed lands and be in the same junior taxing districts as many of our conservation priorities,” the commissioners’ letter said.
The state’s Trust Land Transfer program allows for certain forest lands to be placed into conservation status while replacing them with other, more economically viable lands. There are roughly 1,500 acres — mostly within the Dabob Bay expansion area — that commissioners listed as candidates for the transfer program, but the letter states the boundaries of the natural area must be expanded before those lands can qualify.
The letter also identifies just under 700 acres of state-owned lands the county is interested in for reconveyance or co-management with DNR.
The commissioners’ letter also asks for a meeting with Franz and her team in the near term to discuss the increased collaboration.
Reporter Peter Segall can be reached at email@example.com.