Seattle City Light is set to receive 850 acres of wilderness from the Washington Department of Natural Resources for stewardship under the utility’s Wildlife Lands Program.
The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) expects to transfer the property in January at no cost to City Light under the state’s Trust Land Transfer Program. The program transfers ownership of lands with high ecological, scenic and, or recreational significance to public agencies that are better able to protect them without the need to generate revenue. The Trust Land Transfer Program reimburses the Common School Trust through legislative appropriation when land is transferred from the trust to become a natural area or to other agencies.
“Seattle City Light is committed to producing low-cost electricity in an environmentally sensitive manner,” Superintendent Jorge Carrasco said. “Part of that stewardship responsibility is taking care of the fish and animals that depend on the watersheds that power our hydroelectric dams. Protecting these lands as wilderness is one more way we are living up to that commitment.”
City Light’s strong history of habitat conservation and restoration along the Skagit River, where it operates three hydroelectric dams, made the utility an ideal candidate to receive these lands. The utility already holds nearly 10,800 acres of land for conservation.
“Seattle City Light is a valued partner with DNR in helping to maintain these forested areas of Skagit County to support clean water and healthy habitat for fish and wildlife,” said Commissioner Public Lands Peter Goldmark. As commissioner, Goldmark leads DNR and chairs the Board of Natural Resources, which approved the transfer of the parcels to Seattle City Light through the state’s Trust Land Transfer Program.
“Seattle cares about protecting the natural resources that provide so much to our community, from recreational opportunities and scenic vistas to drinking water and electricity,” said City Councilmember Bruce Harrell, who chairs the Council’s Energy and Technology Committee. “By protecting these lands, the city is ensuring that future generations will be able to enjoy those same benefits.”
The two parcels that will be transferred to SCL in early 2010 are:
- Olivine Ends – 210 acres in the Nooksack River drainage that border a DNR-managed Natural Area Preserve and City Light-owned wildlife lands. The property is in the heart of the Nooksack elk herd range and Includes 25 acres of old growth forest that could provide spotted owl habitat and 3,000 feet of the important salmon-bearing South Fork Nooksack River.
- Finney Creek — A 640-acre section of land in the Skagit River Drainage near existing City Light lands. This parcel encompasses approximately 3,000 feet of Finney Creek and the lower portions of several tributaries that are accessible to salmon and steelhead. The upland portions of the property are composed of second-growth conifer forests that provide habitat for big game and a wide variety of wildlife species.
Seattle City Light is the ninth largest public electric utility in the United States. It has the lowest cost customer rates of any urban utility, providing reliable, renewable and environmentally responsible power to nearly 1 million Seattle area residents. City Light has been greenhouse gas neutral since 2005, the first electric utility in the nation to achieve that distinction.
DNR manages about 3 million acres of state-owned trust lands — forests, agricultural and commercial properties that provide long-term funding and benefits to current and future trust beneficiaries and the residents of the state.