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Plan preserves land in Raging River valley

King County Executive Ron Sims sent legislation this week to the county council to help preserve 7,000 acres of forest south of Snoqualmie Valley.

The land would be added to the Mountains to Sound Greenway, which runs along Interstate 90 from Bellevue to the east side of the Cascades.

Councilmen Reagan Dunn and Larry Phillips are co-sponsoring Sims’ proposal, which will cost the county $3.7 million.

The state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is working out the details of a deal to buy the land in the Raging River watershed from its current property owner, Fruit Growers Supply. Under the deal the county would buy development rights of 4,000 acres of the land. The property is located east of State Route 18 near its interchange with I-90 and is bounded by publicly-owned land on Rattlesnake, Tiger and Taylor mountains and Seattle’s Cedar River watershed.

The Raging River pours into the Snoqualmie River near Fall City, and supports one-fifth of the larger river’s chinook salmon runs.

Sims’ legislation sets the land aside for conservation in perpetuity; new legislation would then be required for the county to sell the development rights. DNR would continue operating the remaining land as a tree farm and could sell the development rights.

A final deal is expected to be given to the Board of Natural Resources by Tuesday, May 5, according to a DNR spokesman. The board and county council must then approve the agreement.

Since 1991, the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust and its government and private partners have preserved 200,000 acres of forest and farmland through public purchases and conservation easements, according to the trust. Its largest deal was King County’s 2004 purchase of development rights on the 90,000-acre Snoqualmie Tree Farm.

Congress is considering legislation to add 22,000 acres of the Pratt River valley to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area and designate the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River as a Wild and Scenic River.

The Alpine Lakes addition will enhance North Bend’s effort to market itself as an outdoors recreation destination, according to North Bend officials.

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