PROPOSED Lake Whatcom RECONVEYANCE
Whatcom County has indicated its interest in the reconveyance of about 8,000 acres of State Forest Transfer trust lands in the Lake Whatcom watershed. The forests currently are owned by the state and managed by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The County and DNR first began discussions of this project in the spring of 2007. Since then, the agencies have defined the project, and formalized it in an agreement to move forward.
Currently the various state trusts’ ownerships are intermingled throughout the Lake Whatcom landscape. The agencies now are moving forward with the project, which includes two major phases: the first is an exchange between the state trusts necessary to position trust ownerships for the reconveyance, and the second is the reconveyance itself.
View - Lake Whatcom Proposed Transactions Timeline (52KB PDF)
View - Proposed Lake Whatcom Inter-trust Exchange (53KB PDF)
The exchange between the trusts, and proposed reconveyance
To facilitate the reconveyance, State Forest Transfer Trust lands will be consolidated within areas designated as future park lands. This consolidation will be accomplished with an inter-trust exchange that will reposition State Forest Transfer trust lands and federally granted trust lands in contiguous blocks that can be better managed by both the County and DNR after the reconveyance is completed.
After the trust ownerships are in the appropriate configuration, the official request by the County for reconveying the lands can be made, and must be approved by the county council and the state Board of Natural Resources (BNR), which guides DNR’s management of trust lands statewide.
Conceptual Maps and other Information
View - Conceptual Map before the exchange between the trusts in the Whatcom Watershed (293KB PDF)
View - Conceptual Map after the exchange between the trusts, and prepared for reconveyance (314KB PDF)
View - Agreement between DNR and Whatcom County (1.4MB PDF)
A public hearing for the Lake Whatcom Inter-Trust Exchange was held on Monday, May 9, 2011 at the Whatcom County Council Chambers in Bellingham. A summary of public comments was presented to the decision makers. Final decisions will be made by the state Board of Natural Resources–which makes policy decision regarding state trust lands.
The Inter-trust Exchange was presented to the BNR on June 7, 2011 at its regularly scheduled monthly meeting. At that time, the BNR tabled the decision pending further review of the transaction. A second BNR meeting was held on October 10, 2011 and was again tabled until additional questions could be answered by the County.
Information is available on the County and DNR web sites, including maps, project timeline, copies of the memorandum that defines the project, agency contact information, and background about the reconveyance of State Forest Transfer trust lands. (Websites are located at www.dnr.wa.gov, and www.co.whatcom.wa.us .)
The Reconveyance Process
Washington State law RCW 79.22.300 allows a county in which there are DNR-managed State Forest Transfer trust lands to ask the state to ‘reconvey’ land back to county ownership to use as a public park.
State Forest Transfer trust lands originally were private commercial forests that were transferred to the county, usually logged, abandoned, and forfeited by their owners for tax delinquency. With no land managers to replant and care for the forestlands, the counties requested help for the estate. They transferred the lands to state ownership, mostly in the 1920s and 1930s. DNR replanted the lands, fought wildfires, invested in the productivity of these forests. Revenue earned from these lands helps pay for county services, provides funding for local school districts, and supports the general fund earmarked for education.
A county may request reconveyance of State Forest Transfer trust lands only for park purposes.
As a part of the reconveyance process, DNR examines whether the county’s proposed public park would conflict with the State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan, and how DNR must coordinate its management of state-owned lands near the proposed park. The county pays for the cost of reconveyance. If DNR determines that the request is consistent with the state outdoor recreation plan, the proposed transaction is presented to the Board of Natural Resources for approval.
Ongoing management of state trust lands in the Whatcom watershed
With the assistance of a five member inter-jurisdictional committee, DNR foresters, engineers and scientists have been implementing the Lake Whatcom Landscape Management Plan that was finalized and approved by the Board of Natural Resources in 2004. State Trust land management activities in the watershed will continue to be governed by the Lake Whatcom Landscape Management Plan after the reconveyance is completed.
DNR’s activities on the state trust lands under the plan.