A heavily forested area in the Lagoon Point area of Greenbank could be protected from being logged and turned into a housing development.
The Whidbey Camano Land Trust has applied for a $650,000 grant from the Conservation Futures program for the purchase of three properties, which total more than 200 acres of untouched forestland.
Funds from the Conservation Futures program come from a small property tax. The county program protects and preserves environmentally threatened areas, culturally significant sites and farmland.
The proposed land acquisition will expand existing protected properties to create a 300-acre “Lagoon Point Community Forest,” according to documents from the Island County commissioners’ most recent work session.
The land in question is between Lake Hancock and Trillium Community Forest. Ryan Elting, the conservation director for the Whidbey Camano Land Trust, said in an interview that it is unusual to have a swath of 260 acres of intact forest.
“There aren’t very many of those so that makes it really important for climate resilience and wildlife habitat,” he said. “If it isn’t protected, the likely scenario would be 24, 28 houses in there.”
The land trust has an easement to the north of the proposed land acquisition, which would allow an expansion of past existing conservation work that has occurred in the area.
Elting said the goal would be to balance hiking trail opportunities with the need for wildlife habitat. A part of the project involves identifying and securing appropriate public access, either off Smugglers Cove Road or Day Road.
According to the county work session documents, the forest contains Red Alder and Douglas fir portions, Western hemlock and Western red cedar trees, which attract raptors, woodpeckers and migratory songbirds.
“Many slopes contain mature trees, while the flatter areas hold younger trees,” the application stated. “The understory is healthy throughout, with very few invasive plants. The project area contains wetlands and seasonal streams.”
The land trust plans to seek grants and conduct community fundraising to secure the remaining funding for the project.
A citizen advisory board voted in favor of approving county funding for the project, with the recommendation that the commissioners set a date with the land trust for public access to the Lagoon Point Community Forest.
Later this year, the land trust plans to give a presentation to the commissioners about the acquisition during a public hearing.
“We’re excited about the project, even though it’s early on and we’ve got work to do,” Elting said.