LAKE WENATCHEE — A community forest management plan is almost ready for Nason Ridge.
Mike Kaputa, director of the Chelan County Natural Resources Department, said the plan addresses:
- Timber management
- Road network maintenance
- Recreational opportunities
- Aquatic habitat restoration
It must be submitted to the governor and legislative committees by Dec. 1. A community meeting is planned for 9:30 a.m. Saturday at the Lake Wenatchee Rec Club, 14400 Chiwawa Loop Road, to offer an update on the progress of the group putting the report together.
State Sen. Brad Hawkins, R-East Wenatchee, introduced a bill in this year’s legislative session to establish a community forest pilot program under the state Department of Natural Resources. It passed the Senate but never made it to a vote on the House floor.
The state capital budget included funding for two other community forest pilot programs, but not Nason Ridge. However, the Legislature did order a management plan for Nason Ridge.
Nason Ridge is 3,714 acres of forest along Nason Creek, a Wenatchee River tributary. Timber company Weyerhaeuser sold the property to the Western Rivers Conservancy last year, but the goal is to find a long-term steward.
Kaputa said the stakeholder group includes representatives from the county, Chelan-Douglas Land Trust, Lake Wenatchee Fire and Rescue, state Recreation and Conservation Office, Washington State Parks, U.S. Forest Service and Yakama Nation. Private landowners from around the area are also involved.
“The county is looking at owning these properties, and we want to have some more detailed conversations with the surrounding property owners — State Parks, Kahler Glen, the Forest Service and the private property owners,” Kaputa said. “Those discussions will continue after the Dec. 1 plan deadline.”
Because it’s an even-numbered year, the 2020 legislative session will only be 60 days instead of 105 days like this year. Hawkins said that will be a challenge.
“Getting Nason Ridge funding across the finish line will be difficult, but it’s not impossible,” he said. “I remain very hopeful that partial or full funding for Nason Ridge will be secured this session. The stakeholders are focusing their collective efforts on the House side because that is where the work is needed.”
If the pilot program bill doesn’t make it through the House, Hawkins said, legislators could again pursue funding in the capital budget.
“The capital budget — like the other two state budgets — is already squeezed,” he said. “It won’t be an easy effort, but the Legislature is already aware of the project and stakeholders have worked hard over the summer and fall to position the effort to be successful.”
The Chelan-Douglas Land Trust owns two nearby properties and raised over $1 million in a campaign to help preserve Nason Ridge.
Executive Director Curt Soper said he’s impressed with community involvement in the project.
“It’s hard to find folks who live around the Nason Ridge property who haven’t been engaged and supportive of this whole effort, and it’s been really rewarding for us,” he said.