The State Department of Fish and Wildlife, in close partnership with Ducks Unlimited, recently finalized the purchase of 1,100 acres of land near Westport in Grays Harbor County.
The site will provide recreation opportunities, including hiking, birding, and big-game and waterfowl hunting. Public access will initially be on a walk-in basis from the perimeter of the property, as plans to improve access are ongoing, according to Fish and Wildlife.
“This purchase wouldn’t have been possible without the strong support of Ducks Unlimited,” said Larry Phillips, Fish and Wildlife coastal regional director. “We are excited to explore potential opportunities for habitat restoration on this property that would further benefit waterfowl and other wildlife.”
Fish and Wildlife will manage the new property as an addition to the Elk River Unit of the Johns River Wildlife Area for the benefit of wildlife and people. A second phase to purchase an additional 600 acres is expected to be finalized by the end of the year, according to the statement.
The new property features large freshwater and saltwater wetland areas and old-growth Sitka spruce trees. A variety of wildlife use the area for year-round habitat, including several species of waterfowl, Roosevelt elk, black-tailed deer, and black bears.
“The new addition to the Elk River Unit is one of those truly special properties,” said Greg Green, Ducks Unlimited manager of conservation programs. “The opportunity to purchase and protect a large property near the coast with such ecological and recreational diversity is unique. Ducks Unlimited is pleased to have provided a major supporting role for (Fish and Wildlife) on this effort, and we look forward to future restoration and public use planning.”
The process to purchase the property began three years ago with the intention to buy a total of 1,750 acres. Ducks Unlimited and Fish and Wildlife secured funding for the first phase to purchase 1,100 acres last year. Partners have secured additional funding for the remaining 600 acres through a grant application to the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office. The finalized transaction for the second phase of the purchase is expected to be completed by the end of 2019.
Fish and Wildlife purchased the property with about $1.5 million from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service National Coastal Wetland Conservation Grant Program and $500,000 from the Washington Coastal Restoration Initiative, which the Washington State Department of Ecology administers. Ducks Unlimited also provided in-kind matching funds to coordinate negotiations and closing.