Parks accepts easement transfer

While the bluff trail at Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve provides a spectacular view of Puget Sound, it also shows a view of a pristine wooded area.

And the 325-acre woods will remain a prominent feature of the area for years to come as The Nature Conservancy transferred an easement to the National Park Service that operates the 17,000-acre reserve.

“What you see is what you get. There aren’t going to be any houses and there aren’t going to be any gas stations,” said John Rose, incoming chairman for The Nature Conservancy of Washington Board as he pointed to the woods Friday during an event marking the occasion.

Approximately 100 people walked out past the Jacob Ebey House to a field where spectators could see the woods and farmland that dominate the area. Author Ivan Doig and U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen were some of the people who spoke during the ceremony. Eagles were seen soaring overhead during the windy, Friday afternoon ceremony.

The National Park Service paid $1.4 million to The Nature Conservancy for the scenic easement on the West Woods, valued at $3.5 million. The Park Service money comes from federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. Individual donors chipped in the remaining $2 million for the easement.

“I think it’s remarkable to help the government protect land that everybody cares about,” said Leslie Brown, spokesperson for The Nature Conservancy. She said 600 people contributed money for the preservation effort.

With the easement signed, The Nature Conservancy owns the land while both groups will manage it.

Rob Harbour, Reserve manager, said the easement provides a scenic buffer on the edge of the woods and assures the property will never be logged.

He said the easement sets out the ground rules for both groups to manage the land. The two groups have two different missions. The Reserve has a cultural and historical aspect to its mission while the Nature Conservancy focuses on biodiversity.

“It’s about as permanent a measure as you can have,” Harbour said.

The effort to preserve the land began in 1999, when Robert Pratt, whose family owned much of Ebey’s Landing, died. His estate donated 147 acres of land that included the bluff trail and Ferry House to The Nature Conservancy while the remaining property was put on the market. The Nature Conservancy stepped in and purchased 407 acres.

One hundred thousand dollars of the money the National Park Service used for the scenic easement goes into two endowments — one provides funding for historical preservation while the other provides funding for ecological restoration in Ebey’s Landing National Historic Reserve.

To help boost the endowments, The Nature Conservancy is lobbying Congress for another $500,000 to purchase an easement for a 35-acre property that surrounds the Ferry House located near Ebey’s Landing. The funding for that easement would come from the Land Water Conservation Fund.

Len Barson, deputy director for external affairs for The Nature Conservancy, said he hopes to hear a decision from Congress sometime this fall.

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