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More federal money headed to Ebey's Reserve

"Some pristine properties within Ebey's Landing National Historical Reserve could soon gain protection from development - the kind of protection that starts with a dollar sign, followed by seven digits. The U.S. Senate recently approved spending $2 million to protect properties within Ebey's Landing National Historical Reserve. The Reserve constitutes more than 17,000 acres of forest, beach and farmland in Central Whidbey, most of which is in private ownership.The money is part of the Department of Interior appropriations bill, which passed the Senate in a 97-2 vote. Earlier this summer, the House of Representatives passed an Interior bill that included $250,000 for Ebey's Landing. Next, the two bills go to a Senate-House conference committee for fine tuning.We're hopeful that the final bill contains at least $2 million, which would give us an opportunity to put several hundred acres of this spectacular landscape into the public domain, said Len Barson of the Nature Conservancy of Washington.Earlier this year, the Nature Conservancy made it's own investment in the reserve, securing a $3 million loan to purchase 370 acres of mature forest bordering the bluff trail. The acquisition increased the Nature Conservancy's holdings on the Ebey's Reserve to more than 500 acres.When the latest Ebey's appropriation is approved by Congress and signed by the president - probably this fall or early winter - the money will go to the Nature Conservancy to pay off its loan, said reserve manager Rob Harbour.Following that, the Conservancy plans to transfer portions of their property to the National Park Service. The appropriation will enable the park service to purchase conservation easements from the Nature Conservancy, thereby guaranteeing permanent protection for the land.Both Barton and Harbor praised Sen. Slade Gorton for his role in securing the funding. Gorton is chair of the Senate Interior Appropriation Committee. It's been outstanding, a very significant show of support, Harbour said, noting that Gorton had already helped secure more than $3 million for the Reserve.Slade's done great work for us in the past several years, Harbor said. He's helped get $3.5 million approved, all of which has to gone to protect working dairy or farmland."

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