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Group preserves 600 acres of land

NORTH BEND - Cascade Land Conservancy (CLC) and Commissioner of Public Lands Doug Sutherland announced Dec. 17 the purchase of the Crown Lakes property for inclusion in the Mount Si Natural Resources Conservation Area (NRCA). The property, nearly a full section of land (597 acres), is unique in having a west-facing basin that contains three large alpine lakes, Lake Moolock, Lake Nadeau and SMC (short for "South Meandering Corner") Lake, immediately accessible to the Seattle metropolitan area.

"This property will be a popular addition to the Mount Si conservation area and will be an excellent complement to the Mountains to Sound Greenway," said Sutherland. "I am proud of the many groups and of my staff who made it possible to add this piece to the dwindling legacy of undeveloped forestland in King County. Conservation lands and working forests help preserve the important balance between the natural landscape and developed land in areas that are rapidly growing."

The property is highly prized for its recreation and habitat values, scenic lakes and spectacular views that span the Snoqualmie Tree Farm, the cities of Bellevue and Seattle, all the way to the Olympic Mountains. The property offers connections to the Middle Fork Snoqualmie recreation area and the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area. This acquisition was achieved through a partnership between the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and CLC.

"The Mount Si NRCA is a regional treasure that we in King County have an opportunity to enjoy every day," noted King County Executive Ron Sims. "Crown Lakes is an incredible addition to the system of conserved lands in our community."

The land was purchased from Crown Lakes LLC for about $4.3 million. Funds for the purchase come from Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP) land acquisition grants. CLC has been negotiating the purchase of this property for several years. In August, Crown Lakes LLC finally agreed to sell the property, with the requirement that the transaction be closed by mid-December and that the Crown Lakes LLC retain limited rights to remove talus rock from a 30-acre area isolated from the majority of the property by a prominent ridgeline.

"Cascade Land Conservancy convinced us of the genuine public benefits in having the Crown Lakes basin protected," said Gordon Hoenig, Crown Lakes LLC representative. "Based on extensive negotiations we came to agree that this unique legacy property should be turned over for public stewardship."

In a step that recognizes the challenges now faced by public agencies in funding land management, CLC and the DNR have committed to a collaborative effort to steward the property and create trail linkages to publicly accessible trailheads in the area.

"Crown Lakes merits the highest level of stewardship," said Gene Duvernoy, president of CLC. "The DNR's Natural Areas Program staff are expert in caring for our state's most fragile ecosystems. We are honored to have an opportunity to collaborate with them in the care of this spectacular property."

Quality examples of Washington's native grasslands, woodlands, marshes and more are protected in natural areas managed by DNR as natural resource conservation areas. Natural areas are designated in 26 of Washington's 39 counties. DNR manages 49 natural area preserves covering 29,951 acres and 28 natural resources conservation areas with 86,552 acres.

These special sites offer opportunities for research and education. Some have interpretive or recreation trails. Others require permission to visit because features are sensitive to human disturbance.

CLC is a private, nonprofit land trust working in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties in Washington. It collaborates with individual landowners, organizations and local governments to protect and steward the Puget Sound region's wetlands, shorelines, forests, wildlife, rare plant habitat, stream corridors and urban open spaces. Established in 1989, it has protected thousands of acres of land and is currently negotiating to protect many thousands more.

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