Land trust announces sale of 38-acre seed orchard

The Whidbey Camano Land Trust in Greenbank said it would sell the former Plum Creek conifer seed orchard to Longview Timberland of Longview.

The 38-acre property is located inside Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve at the intersection of Highway 20 and Parker Road.

The $950,000 sale is the last step in the land trust’s year-long project to keep the seed orchard in agricultural production while permanently protecting the property’s ecological and scenic values.

“This property was a very high protection priority for us because of its notable agricultural and scenic qualities and its location inside Ebey’s Reserve,” said Patricia Powell, executive director of the land trust.

“We couldn’t be more pleased that the site will remain undeveloped and be managed for continued conifer seed production,” she said.

To complete the land deal, the land trust took out a loan to buy 46 acres property from Plum Creek, then sold the Navy an easement that guaranteed the property wouldn’t be developed in a way that would hurt flight operations at the nearby Navy Outlying Field. Then, the organization sold 8 acres to Island Transit so the bus agency could expand its transit yard.

Trust officials said the land could have been sold for light industrial use or residential development, but the land trust partnered with the Navy and Island Transit to put together a unique and complicated conservation solution to keep most of the land undeveloped and in agricultural production.

The land trust then placed its own permanent conservation easement on the remaining 38 acres, with tougher terms than the Navy easement.

Finally, the trust sold the property during a closed-bid process.

The Whidbey Camano Land Trust said the sale to Longview Timberland means the property will remain as a conifer seed orchard.

Conifer seed orchards are used by timber companies and government agencies to grow seeds for reforestation. More than 80 percent of the Douglas fir seedlings planted in Western Washington each year come from seed orchards, the land trust said.

The Plum Creek orchard has been in operation for more than 25 years and is considered an outstanding site because of its well-drained prairie soils, gently sloping land and rain-shadow climate.

Money from the sale to Longview Timberland will be used to repay the land trust’s loan for the initial purchase of the land from Plum Creek. The rest will be used for other land conservation projects.

The organization has more than

20 land conservation projects in progress, and has conserved nearly 5,800 acres in its 23-year history. Of those, 4,310 acres valued at almost $19 million have been protected in the past 4 ½ years.

“This sale didn’t just save an important seed orchard,” said Charles Arndt, board chairman for the land trust. “Other distinctive places will be conserved as well, thanks to this deal.”

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