Land bought, added to Rattlesnake area

NORTH BEND - Under a partnership between King County, the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the U.S. Forest Service, Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust and the Trust for Public Lands (TPL), 80 acres of land along Kimball Creek near North Bend will be added to the Rattlesnake Mountain Scenic Area.

Officials said the deal, announced last week, would prohibit development of the land and provide open space and habitat for wildlife. The land can been seen from Interstate 90, which is a National Scenic Byway.

"Maintaining this as forested open space is a great gift to the people of Washington, as it adds to the scenic transition from the spectacular Cascades to our vital downtown cores of Seattle and Tacoma," said the state commissioner of public lands, Doug Sutherland, in a statement.

The land, located west of North Bend's Forster Woods development, was purchased from Kimball Creek Associates. According to Brad Pruitt, a project administrator for the DNR, the land was slated for development.

He said if the land hadn't been purchased, "The biggest impact [of development] would have been the scenic impact. ... You would have seen a development right on the hillside."

Andrea Fullerton of the TPL office in Seattle said development would have had other impacts as well.

"Even if part of it is developed, it really interrupts the migratory path [of wildlife] and water quality," she said.

Negotiations for buying the land began in March 2000, Fullerton said, and acquisition came in three phases. In the first, the TPL, a non-profit organization that helped buy part of Tollgate Farm earlier this summer, purchased the property. Then DNR officials, through the Forest Legacy Program administered by the state for the Forest Service, bought the development rights for $950,000 and used a conservation easement to keep the property as open space. Those development rights constituted the bulk of the land's $1.15 million appraised value.

The final phase involved TPL donating the land to King County and the DNR, who jointly manage the Rattlesnake Mountain Scenic Area. The scenic area was created after King County and the Legislature approved funding to buy the land in 1993.

The 80-acre Kimball Creek parcel sits next to 1,100 acres that were also purchased through the Forest Legacy Program in 1996. The program tries to protect forest lands across the state from disappearing because of population growth.

Pruitt said those acquisitions conform to Mountains to Sound Greenway's goal of preserving land along the I-90 corridor.

"It's the concept of connected landscape that's important," he said.

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