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70 Acres of State Land Near Lake Cushman Preserved As Open Space

Tacoma Public Utilities has taken possession of 70 acres of public lands near Lake Cushman that were previously owned by the State Department of Natural Resources. Under the deal, the parcel will remain open space for recreation and will stay closed be logging or development.

The land is just east of Hood Canal near the southeast corner of Olympic National Park. It’s immediately adjacent to several small lakefront parcels that the utility has leased to private citizens since 1966. It’s also close to a popular recreation area called Staircase.

Bret Forrester is the wildlife and lands manager for Tacoma Power. He says when the state approached his agency, it was clear to him pretty quickly that it would be good for the utility and its constituents.

“The message is it’s going to remain as is as a forested site, and this provides assurance that it’s not going to be clear cut, ever,” he said.  

The utility manages these kinds of public open spaces as recreational areas to mitigate for its hydroelectric projects, including the dams on Lake Cushman that were relicensed by the federal government in 2010.

For the state, it made sense to get rid of the land because it was isolated and too hard to log effectively, says Dave Gordon, who was in charge of the land transfer for the Department of Natural Resources.

“And it became a challenge for us to manage for primary timber revenue generation because of its proximity to Lake Cushman and all of the trails and recreation activity that go on around the lake.”  

Under the deal, the land and its timber was valued at nearly $700,000. Most of that money has been used to buy replacement lands that can be logged for DNR in the Capital State Forest near Olympia.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment beat for KNKX, where she has worked since 1999. From 2000-2012, she covered the business and labor beat. Bellamy has a deep interest in Indigenous affairs and the Salish Sea. She has a masters in journalism from Columbia University.
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