LAND PRESERVATION REPORT:  Over 110,000 acres protected in Pacific
Northwest last year

3/24/02 - Pacific Northwest land trusts protected more than 111,000 acres last year,
more than in any other single year, according to figures compiled by the
Land Trust Alliance.

Overall, the Northwest Land Trust Census says 66 land preservation
organizations protected 111,059 acres in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon,
Washington and Wyoming. LTA was unable to specify how land was preserved,
either through conservation easements, donations or purchases, and could
not say how much the land or easements cost or estimate the dollar value of
the lands.

Montana once again had the largest amount of protected acreage, with 79,036
acres, well outpacing Washington (13,044 acres), Wyoming (5,044), Idaho
(5,023), Alaska (4,570) and Oregon (4,342). Montana land trusts have
protected at least 50,000 acres annually since 1998, LTA Northwest Program
figures show.

LTA Northwest Program Director Dale Bonar attributes the rise in protected
acreage to the success the land trust movement had in the late 1980s and
early 1990s gaining grassroots support and publicity for conservation
movements. Now, Bonar says, "the general public recognizes the value of
protecting open space or farmland or habitat and are willing to put their
money into it." The pace of land preservation has increased by 10 to 16
percent annually since 1998, Bonar noted.

There is also an increase in the amount of federal and state funding
available for conservation purposes, Bonar said. The federal wetlands
conservation program pays farmers to not to farm wetland areas, and the
Farm Bill currently in conference committee is expected to include
conservation funding as well. And state funding is on the rise; Washington
state, for example, has a $40 million fund dedicated to protecting salmon
habitat through easements, purchases and creation of stream buffers.

Weyerhaeuser tree farm purchase

Another Washington state preservation deal may nearly double the 111,000
acre total on its own. In January, the Evergreen Forest Trust and
Weyerhaeuser Company agreed on terms for a $185 million deal that would
eventually protect 104,000 acres in King and Snohomish counties.

Under the terms of the purchase, which is subject to clearing hurdles in
either Congress or the Internal Revenue Service, the Forest Trust would
place a conservation easement over land inhabited by the northern spotted
owl and marbled murrelet, but manage about 80,000 acres of the land as
working forest for about 50 years until the bonds are paid off. "It's a
real entrepreneurial type of environmentalism, where it will basically pay
itself off." said Bonar.


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