Ebey's Reserve money in the bank

"Last week President Clinton signed a bill that will send $3.25 million to the Ebey's Landing National Historical Reserve. With numerous property acquisition deals and scenic easement negotiations in the works, National Park Service reserve manager Rob Harbour says the money will likely be used up quickly.We'll be back down to zero in no time, said Harbour, adding that the cash infusion will be used to wrap up the purchase and protection of 450 acres of Engle Farms land as well as contribute to the joint purchase with the Nature Conservancy of some of Ebey's Prairie's most scenic land owned by the late Robert Pratt.In addition, Harbour hopes there will be money left over to purchase development rights on the 138-acre Jenne Farm located on the southeast corner of the prairie. That land was purchased by local residents Fran Einterz and Joyce Peterson, who were worried that it could be sold for development.Einterz said he and Peterson are still talking with the Ebey's Landing Trust Board about the sale of rights, but he acknowledged that the board has several priorities to look at, including a large expenditure to buy development rights on 554 acres of land now owned by the Nature Conservancy. He said he's just pleased to see the ongoing effort being made to fulfill the original dream of the trust board to preserve the prairie.I think this is what they envisioned. It's really a 20-year story, Einterz said.During the past few years, Congress has set aside annual appropriations to the National Park Service for preservation of the reserve, usually in $1 million to $2 million chunks. This year's $3.25 million is the largest ever. Thanks to the money, Harbour said nearly 2,000 acres of Ebey's Prairie is currently preserved, including the picturesque bluff and forest backdrop overlooking Ebey's Landing.That whole ridge is now protected, he said. We sometimes forget how monumental that is.The entire reserve covers more than 17,000 acres of forest, beach and farmland in Central Whidbey. Most of the property is in private ownership.When development rights are sold on a piece of property, the landowners can still use it for ongoing activities such as farming, erecting fences, or constructing a barn. But any large-scale future development is restricted forever. Such scenic easements are attached to the property's title so that even if the land is sold, the development restrictions remain. Leslie Brown of the Nature Conservancy said the new money will help the nonprofit environmental organization repay the $3 million loan it took out to originally purchase the Pratt estate land. She said having a partnership in which the Nature Conservancy owns the property and the Park Service owns the development rights will give the land even greater protection. "

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