That was the big question at this morning’s county commissioners’ meeting. At issue is an “acquisition project” by Ducks Unlimited and a couple other groups regarding the proposed purchase of about 1,750 acres near the hunting club’s land in Grayland. Currently owned by Anderson Middleton, the land is next to Laidlaw property. The potential buyers seek a “letter of support” from the commishes for the property purchase.
Commissioner Frank Gordon brought up the subject during last Monday’s morning meeting of the BOCC. At that time, the commishes agreed to hear more today.
It was a full house. About 15 people including traditional media, staff, and members of the public packed into conference room 1 in Montesano. The latter included citizen activist Dan Boeholt (who’s motoring around pretty well on his crutches), Bill McClelland and Paul Metke. McClelland and Metke are members of the Laidlaw Island Hunt Club. McClelland is club secretary/treasurer. The club’s land is located in Grayland, on an estuary area off Highway 105, near Brady’s Oysters and Elk River.
It gets a bit murky from there. Think peanut butter fog.
Cutting to the chase, the big question related to the proposal – which Anderson Middleton seems to be unaware of according to Boeholt – is, Why? Is the Anderson Middleton property so restricted with burdensome government regulations that it makes no economic sense for Anderson Middleton to hold onto it, thus the potential sale? What does Ducks Unlimited, a “world leader in wetlands and waterfowl conservation,” want with the land? What’ll it do with the acreage if the sale goes through? (We’re told that the group has a history of buying land and closing it off to public access under the banner of “conservation.” Hi, Wild Oly?)
The proposal isn’t sitting well with Laidlaw members. They worry about the effect the proposed purchase may have on their property and property rights, especially if any plans for development or access through their land are involved. A mix of timberland and wetlands, the land in question is adjacent to the club’s property.
McClelland asked Gordon if he’s visited the site. Short answer was No, but Gordon said he’s “hoping to get an opportunity to do so.”
“Any development of that land is detrimental to us,” said McClelland. “We’ve been good stewards of the land for over 90 years.” Public access to the land Ducks Unlimited wants to buy is via “a couple logging roads,” but “main access” is through the hunting club’s property.
In a separate communique, McClelland clarified, “The Laidlaw Island Hunting Club’s biggest concern is the possible development to the A & M property, not so much the existing wetlands, but the higher ground areas of which we think presently makes up about 60-70% of this A & M property.”
Check out the sale prospectus here:
Boeholt said, “It’s key who these conservation groups are.” Citing the Sierra Club as an example, he noted, “We all know what they’d do with the land.”
“I guess this whole thing is premature,” said McClelland.
The Project Objective says:
- Acquire ~ 1,750 acres in South Bay of Grays Harbor
- – 1,130 acres of delineated wetlands
- – Mature forests and timberlands
- – Unique “dune slack” wetlands
- Protect large, diverse coastal parcel
- Create larger wildlife corridor
- Develop management plan
The Importance of Acquisition document reads:
- Protects Critical Habitat (Marbled Murrelet)
- Assists in Recovery of Sensitive Species
- Protects Unique Interdunal Wetlands
- Addresses Goals and Objectives of many regional, state, and national Plans
“Marbled Murrelet”? Really?
So. A “conservation” group wants to buy up land next to a private hunting club. DNR land is practically a kissing cousin. (We all know how that “willing seller” tune plays out, right?) Let’s say the “conservation” group buys the land. Determines that its neighbor – those dreaded duck hunters – may pose a threat to their newly purchased land. Or they want their land – with main access via hunting club property – to become a “nature conservancy.” Or they decide to develop the land. Guess who takes it in the chops?
Stop me if you’ve heard this before.
McClelland added later:
We believe that sportsmen are the true conservationists of our wetlands and timberlands. Through the hunting and fishing licenses, all wildlife including waterfowl and fish can be managed and protected if funds are used wisely. Laidlaw is a privately owned Club, but we spend our own money to enhance the part of the Elk River estuary that we own and protect the waterfowl that use it. As Members, we are passionate about our Club and our hunting privledges and are willing to speak out to protect them.
The assessed value of the acreage is about $1.2 or $1.7M, depending on who you ask.
Commissioner Vickie Raines said, “We probably should not offer any support until we hear both sides.” Look for a revisit on the issue on August 15.
Gordon said later that any sale contract would have to be written “so Laidlaw is protected… or they won’t get any support from me.”
Keep an eye on this one.
*** UPDATE ***
August 4: I just received notification from Jenna Amsbury, Clerk of the Board, that the discussion on the Grayland Conservation property has been moved to Monday, August 8, 2016 at 10:30 a.m.