Public comment opens on Dabob Bay

State, county look to move lands into conservation

PORT TOWNSEND — Public comment on a proposed expansion of the Dabob Bay Natural Area opens today as the state Department of Natural Resources looks to add 671 acres to the protected area.

“The decision that we’re hoping to make will be about the establishment of the boundary,” said Kristin Ohlson-Kiehn, recreation and conservation division manager for the Department of Natural Resources.

Ohlson-Kiehn told county commissioners on Tuesday that a community meeting would be held at the Laurel B. Johnson Community Center in Coyle at 6 p.m. June 17 for members of the public to provide feedback on the proposal.

“We’re hoping to get a decision from the (Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz) early to mid-July,” she said.

The proposed expansion would add 671 acres of county land adjacent to the existing Dabob Bay Natural Area, placing them in conservation status and allowing DNR to use state funding to purchase replacement lands for the various beneficiaries of state-managed lands.

County- and DNR-managed lands throughout the state are used to generate revenue for junior taxing districts and schools, and replacement lands must be purchased before the transfer can be completed.

Jefferson County commissioners sent a letter to Franz and the DNR last August asking the department to begin the transfer process, and in November, Franz announced that 780 acres adjacent to Dabob Bay would be chosen as part of the state’s new carbon sequestration program.

The lands in the proposed expansion area include all of the remaining globally imperiled forest plant associations on state land, said Peter Bahls, executive director of the Northwest Watershed Institute, a Port Townsend-based organization that has sought to protect the area around Dabob Bay for years.

“The DNR proposal is very close to what the commissioners requested of the department in their letter in November of 2023,” Bahls said. “DNR is doing a good job of listening to the county.”

Representatives from junior taxing districts have expressed concern about the expansion in the past, but DNR officials including Franz have noted that replacement lands must be identified before a transfer can be completed.

Bahls noted the lands under consideration — which include a type of rare rhododendron forest — are already protected under other environmental standards, and DNR cannot harvest the area in the same way it does other trust lands.

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Reporter Peter Segall can be reached by email at peter.segall@peninsuladailynews.com.

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