A total of 490 acres of state land near Twisp — in seven separate parcels — could ultimately be sold at auction because the property doesn’t produce revenue for the school trusts managed by the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
DNR plans to transfer these parcels into the state land bank. The land bank holds properties DNR has recently purchased that have the potential to generate more income for the trust. It also holds properties that are awaiting sale.
Two of the parcels in the Methow Valley — at 80 and 120 acres — are south of Twisp on the east side of Highway 153 near the Okanogan County Public Utility District substation. There is a 30-acre parcel south of Twisp on the west side of the highway on the Methow River, north of Beaver Creek Road. The four others — two 40-acre parcels, one 120-acre parcel and one that’s 140 acres — are off Balky Hill Road.
DNR earmarks land for transfer when it’s considered no longer suitable for the land trust. Unsuitable properties don’t produce revenue and are often isolated parcels, according to DNR.
The land swaps will make managing these lands more efficient by consolidating parcels and increase marketing options for the trust revenue. It will also enhance the sustainability of working trust landscapes to provide for future generations, according to DNR.
A recent revision to state law requires DNR to buy suitable land before selling the existing state properties — the opposite approach of the old system. These new purchases are put in the land bank until they can be swapped — at equal value — with the trust lands, Deborah Whitney, DNR’s exchange project manager, said.
In addition to the seven parcels in the Methow Valley, there are one near Tonasket and four near Conconully. Other trust lands being considered for transfer into the land bank are in Spokane, Benton, Jefferson and Klickitat counties. If approved, they would be swapped for properties already in the land bank in Benton, Kitsap, Skagit and Snohomish counties.
In a separate proposal, DNR is considering swapping about 2,200 acres of state land for up to 2,640 acres of private property, all in Chelan County. The objective is to consolidate trust lands, improve management efficiencies, support fish and wildlife habitat, and enhance access to trust lands.
DNR is required to sell the properties at auction at fair-market value — the minimum bid for the properties is the appraisal, Whitney said. Proceeds go into the land bank so DNR can purchase other properties for future transfers.
In managing the properties, DNR will ensure that revenue is distributed to the different trust accounts in proportion to the original acreage and value, Whitney said.
Before any action is taken, it must be approved by the state Board of Natural Resources. The board also must approve individual parcel auctions.
DNR can sell property to a city or government agency without going through an auction, Whitney said.
DNR hopes the proposal to put these properties in the land bank will go before the board in February or March. Auctions would take place next spring or summer, Whitney said.
People can comment about the proposed transfers to the land bank until Nov. 22 at email@example.com. For more information and a map of the properties, visit www.dnr.wa.gov/managed-lands/land-transactions/land-bank-exchange-2019, or contact Whitney at (360) 902-1482 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The public can also provide input to the Board of Natural Resources at each phase.
State trust lands
The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) manages 3 million acres of state trust lands to produce non-tax revenue for specific beneficiaries.
The origins of the arrangement go back to 1889, before Washington became a state. Congress granted Washington millions of acres to support public institutions, and the lands remain a source of financial support to various beneficiaries.
The beneficiaries include public schools, state universities, buildings on the capitol campus, and correctional facilities. The largest is the Common School trust, with approximately 1.8 million acres of forestland, agricultural lands and other lands that help support construction projects at K-12 schools.
The others are the Agricultural School, Normal School, Scientific School, and University Original trusts.