Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA-03) has introduced legislation to transfer ownership of approximately 23 acres of the former Wind River Nursery from the U.S. Forest Service to Skamania County.
Budget crises constantly plague the distressed communities within Skamania County, since more than 97% of Skamania County is restricted from any type of commercial use that generates local revenue to fund roads, schools, police and fire protection. Skamania County currently owns 187 acres adjacent to Wind River Nursery and plans to develop the acquired acreage for recreational, historical, and business opportunities that will draw in tourism and additional revenue for the county.
The land conveyance is supported by both Skamania County and the U.S. Forest Service.
“In 2016, Skamania County, the Forest Service, and community stakeholders came to an agreement to ensure that the federal government wasn’t further permanently undercutting Skamania County’s ability to generate revenue by taking away more of its land. That collaborative agreement also allowed an important Pacific Crest Trail improvement project to move forward. The legislation I’m introducing today makes sure Skamania County and its desperate need for revenue to fund schools and police services aren’t a forgotten piece of that 2016 agreement; conveying federal land – even a few dozen acres – requires an act of Congress.
“Skamania County and its economically distressed communities grapple with the same challenges as King County and other larger communities – homelessness, hunger, barriers to education access – but is often a forgotten corner of the state by our leaders. I’m hopeful Senators Cantwell and Murray will step up to the plate and assist me with moving this legislation through Congress to help Skamania County support its citizens’ most basic needs,” Herrera Beutler said.
“There are a large number of older structures where we have deferred maintenance at the Wind River Administrative Site. Conveyance of a portion of this site to Skamania County will allow the Forest Service to focus on other areas with more critical needs and provide an opportunity for the County to make some long-term investments in structures that will benefit the community at large. With this change in ownership recreational and other visitors to the area will have more lodging opportunities and bring in needed revenue to Skamania County,” Gifford Pinchot National Forest Supervisor, Eric Veach said.
“This long overdue conveyance will put Skamania County on a path to show how an old unused facility like the USFS Wind River Nursery can have a new life and bring back some vitality to a rural corner of our County,” Skamania County Commissioner, Robert Hamlin said.
In Skamania County, 80% of the land is owned by the federal government, with state and private timber land comprising much of the rest, leaving approximately 1.8% of land in Skamania County taxed at full market value. This in turn has hindered the county’s ability to fund basic services like law enforcement and schools.
The Gifford Pinchot National Forest, which encompasses a majority of Skamania County, is currently facing tens of millions of dollars in deferred maintenance. By conveying the land to the county, the U.S. Forest Service will shed financial responsibilities associated with maintenance of buildings and facilities on the Wind River Nursey – providing a win-win solution for Skamania County and the U.S. Forest Service.
More information on the 2016 agreement between Skamania County and the U.S. Forest Service can be found here.