Updated Feb. 21: The purchase has been approved by the Fish and Wildlife commission and has not been finalized. The site is not currently open to public access.
About 1,100 acres of waterfowl, deer, bear and elk habitat will be opened for hunting, bird watching and wildlife viewing near Grayland thanks to a recent land purchase by Ducks Unlimited and the State Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“This (property) will be held and managed by WDFW as a new wildlife area with public access and use,” said Gregory L. Green, Ducks Unlimited manager of conservation programs for the Pacific Northwest.
The Fish and Wildlife Commission approved the purchase at its meeting Feb. 8 in Olympia.
“This entire project has been in partnership with Ducks Unlimited,” said Fish and Wildlife Region 6 wildlife manager Brian Calkins. “In fact, it would not have been possible without them.”
There are three different parcels shown on the purchase proposal map supplied by Fish and Wildlife; the largest is bordered on the north by State Route 105, and on the west by Twin Harbors State Park and State Route 105 south for about 2 miles. The north end of the purchase property is adjacent to the Elk River Unit of the Johns River Wildlife Area, a popular spot among birders and waterfowl hunters. The two smaller sections are located about two miles south of the larger parcel.
“I would describe it as a very wet site, lots of wetlands, but there are also quite a few areas that were recently logged and replanted. There are some stands of older trees, but they’re pretty limited,” said Calkins. “We’re really interested in the wetland part of this and making improvements to some of those wetlands, providing waterfowl hunting opportunities and maybe seeing if there’s a way to benefit salmon and other anadromous species.”
Anadromous is the term for fish species migrating upriver from the sea to spawn.
The property is not currently developed for access. It has some overgrown logging roads left over from the property’s previous owners, the timber company Anderson and Middleton, some of which may be passable by a vehicle, but preliminary plans call for walk-in access to the property.
“We will most likely be managing public access from the perimeter of the property on a walk-in basis,” said Calkins. Discussions about specific access and land modifications and improvements are ongoing.
The property will become part of the Olympic-Willapa Hills Wildlife Area, said Calkins, adding to its current size of more than 10,000 acres split into 23 units. The nearby Johns River Unit is a “fairly well-developed” part of this wildlife area, said Calkins.
As for what the new unit will be named, Calkins said the placeholder “Grayland Unit” appears to have stuck.
“For lack of a better name we have been calling it the Grayland Unit, and nobody has proposed to change that,” he said.
The process to make this purchase started last year with the intent of buying about 1,750 acres but the funding didn’t come through. This year’s acquisition leaves about 600 acres or so of private land between the northern and southern property purchases approved by the Fish and Wildlife Commission Feb. 8. Calkins said Fish and Wildlife and Ducks Unlimited are in the process of purchasing the property in between the 2019 purchase parcels in the coming year.
“We split the purchase into two phases, so this 1,100 acres more or less (approved this year) is the first phase that we currently have funds for,” said Calkins. He said he is “very optimistic” the funds to complete phase 2 of the purchase will be approved through a grant application submitted to the State Recreation and Conservation Office.
“That request has made its way through the process and is now in the Recreation and conservation Office capital budget request to the Legislature,” said Calkins. If approved the purchase can move forward once the funds are released.
The property is appraised at a little more than $2 million.
“Ducks Unlimited has secured $1.5 million in funding for the acquisition and due diligence costs from state and federal sources,” said Green. “Of this, $1 million from the US Fish & Wildlife Service National Coastal Wetland Conservation Conservation Grant Program.” Those funds are administered by Washington State Department of Ecology.
“The other $500,000 is from the Washington Coastal Restoration Initiative,” said Green. “These funds are administered by Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office. Additionally, Ducks Unlimited is providing in-kind matching funds and resources to coordinate negotiations and closing.”
The state will manage the land; operations and maintenance costs are expected to be about $58,000 annually.