Easement buys further protect Ebey’s Reserve

The Ferry House as built in 1860 and is situated on the 640-acre Isaac Ebey Donation Land Claim. It is one of the oldest buildings in the state. - National Park Service
The Ferry House as built in 1860 and is situated on the 640-acre Isaac Ebey Donation Land Claim. It is one of the oldest buildings in the state.
— image credit: National Park Service

A couple of recent announcements spell good news for land conservation efforts in Ebey’s National Historical Reserve, the nation’s first and arguably most scenic national historical reserve.

Last week, The Nature Conservancy announced that the National Park Service had purchased a scenic easement from the Conservancy to protect 35 acres surround the 150-year-old Ferry House, one of the oldest and most significant buildings in the state.

This week, U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen announced that President Obama included $1 million in his 2011 budget to purchase easements on 300 acres of farmland in the reserve on Central Whidbey. The easements benefit farmers by essentially paying them not to develop their land.

“Ebey’s Landing is a vital resource for the community. This funding will help protect one of Washington state’s natural and historic treasures,” said Larsen. “I applaud President Obama for recognizing the importance of purchasing easements that will keep good farmland in production and preserve recreational access for the public.”

Ebey’s Landing was created by Congress in 1978 to protect the “cultural landscape” of Penn Cove on Whidbey Island. Most of Ebey’s Landing is owned by private citizens, but public access is guaranteed by easements owned by the National Parks Service and conservation organizations. The land is widely used for farming and recreation. Historic buildings on Ebey’s Landing continue to be used as homes and businesses.

The Ferry House, which appeared in the movie “Snow Falling on Cedars,” is an iconic building at the heart of the reserve. The Nature Conservancy sold the easement to the Park Service for $465,000, which came from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund appropriation in 2007. The Conservancy will use the funds to establish an endowment for long-term ecological and historic stewardship at the reserve. The group has already dedicated $100,000 to this fund.

“Throughout Washington, our state’s delicate ecosystems and natural beauty are often threatened by development,” said Senator Patty Murray, who has been a strong advocate for the Historical Reserve. “I am very glad that the funds we secured to preserve and expand Ebey’s Landing on Whidbey Island are being put to good use so future generations can enjoy the tremendous benefits of the historic reserve’s natural resources.”

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