Is ‘Conservation Group’ Attempting ‘Wild Olympics II’ in SW Grays Harbor?

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What do Ducks Unlimited Anderson-Middleton, the Laidlaw Island Hunting Club and the Grays Harbor County Commission have in common?

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:

16-A&M SALE PROSPECTUS

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.

View the Project Objective and the Importance of Acquisition documents below. They’re from the “Grayland Acquisition Project” a la Ducks Unlimited and Rescue Our Wetlands.  Project Objective

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.

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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.

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