Ebey's deal closes

"It's a done deal. Yesterday, The Nature Conservancy of Washington completed the purchase 387 acres forest bordering the Bluff Trail on Ebey's Landing National Historical Reserve for $5 million. With the purchase, the conservancy increased it's holdings on the 17,000 acre reserve to about 509 acres. The organization received a 102-acre donation last year from the estate of Robert Pratt and recently purchased a 20-acre wooded tract close to the historic Ferry House near the intersection of Ebey and Hills Roads.In addition, another 45 acres of Pratt's land, including the Ferry House, will be donated to the conservancy later this year. The purchase means the bluff trial, long a destination for hikers and photographers and tourists, is permanently protected from development. In addition, conservancy holdings include the woods bordering the trail eastward from the trail to SR 20, and Perego's Lake, identified as a top conservation priority by the state's National Heritage Program almost 20 years ago.Another reason the area has long interested the conservancy, conservation director Curt Soper said, is because it contains a population of the federally listed golden paintbrush (Castilleja levisecta), a yellow flower found in less then a dozen places worldwide.Although to date the agency has only been able to raise about $2 million of the $5 million asking price, Soper said the conservancy decided to go ahead with the purchase because of the support it has received since announcing its plans last year. The reason we're making the plunge is that so many people, especially on Whidbey Island, have stepped forward, Soper said. We haven't found anyone who doesn't want this to happen.Of the $2 million raised so far, Soper said about $1.5 million came from Whidbey residents.The help with fund-raising efforts, the conservancy is working with the National Parks Service, which manages the historical reserve and sought the conservancy's help in protecting some 407 acres. Soper said the conservancy's immediate plans for the property include organizing weed-pulling parties to cut down the scotch broom population, conducting an summer inventory of woods, To take stock of what we've got and continue to get to know our neighbors.Ebey's Landing National Historic Reserve includes 17,000 acres of farm, fields and forest. Much of the land, including the town of Coupeville, is in private ownership.Yesterday's purchase means that 2,274 acres on the Reserve are protected from development.The Nature Conservancy owns and manages 40 preserves in Washington, including part of Whidbey Island's Lake Hancock. With 34,000 members it is the largest membership-based conservation group in the state."

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