Seattle City Light will receive 640 acres of old-growth forest in the Skagit River watershed for conservation purposes. The land, which is along Pressentin Creek, formerly was managed by the Washington Department of Natural Resources.
Much of the land is covered by old-growth conifer forest that supports northern spotted owls and marbled murrelets. Both of those birds are listed as threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. They require forests with large trees and complex forest habitat structure.
“We are pleased to work with the state Department of Natural Resources to preserve this important section of old-growth forest as wildlife habitat,” City Light Superintendent Jorge Carrasco said. “This is one more way that we can demonstrate our commitment to being good stewards of the environment, especially in the watersheds where our renewable energy is produced for our customers.”
City Light will manage the land under its Skagit Hydroelectric Project Wildlife Mitigation Program. The utility acquires and protects wildlife habitat to mitigate the effects of construction and operation of the three hydroelectric dams on the Skagit River.
The property along Pressentin Creek will be transferred at no cost to City Light through the Department of Natural Resources’ Trust Land Transfer Program. The Seattle City Council is scheduled to formally accept the land transfer in January 2012.
“Our city receives great benefit from our hydroelectric projects and it is our responsibility to ensure the areas surrounding them are preserved,” said Councilmember Bruce Harrell, chair of the Energy, Technology and Civil Rights Committee. “Acquiring these 640 acres of old-growth forest further solidifies our city’s commitment to conservation, sustainability and environmental stewardship.”
The Department of Natural Resources manages more than 3 million acres of state trust forest, agricultural, range, and commercial properties. Trust lands earn income to build schools, universities and other state institutions and help fund local services in many counties. They also provide important habitat for fish and wildlife, recreation, and educational opportunities for the public.
The Department strives to improve returns from state trust lands; however, not all trust lands are best suited for income production. Some lands have important social or ecological values that are desirable to protect for public use and benefit. The Trust Land Transfer Program provides an opportunity to maintain public ownership of such property.
Under the program, timbered property is transferred to another public agency to be managed and protected for wildlife habitat and public open space. Seattle City Light’s strong history of habitat conservation and restoration along the Skagit River made the utility an ideal candidate to receive these lands to be managed for conservation purposes.
Seattle City Light is the 10th largest public electric utility in theUnited States. It has some of the lowest cost customer rates of any urban utility, providing reliable, renewable and environmentally responsible power to nearly 1 millionSeattlearea residents. City Light has been greenhouse gas neutral since 2005, the first electric utility in the nation to achieve that distinction.