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Community Forest on Cle Elum Ridge Receives State Funding


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:


A proposed Community Forest on Cle Elum Ridge received $3 million in state funding in the 2021 Capital Budget, passed by the Legislature on Saturday, April 26. The community forest, championed by the locally led Checkerboard Partnership Planning Committee, is designed to ensure that these forests are managed sustainably to reflect the community vision and values.


“The forests above Cle Elum, Roslyn, and Ronald have been a resource for the people of Kittitas County for generations to forage for berries and mushrooms, hunt meat to feed their families, collect timber and firewood, and serve as a place for people to recreate and children to play” said Laura Osiadacz, Kittitas County Commissioner and a member of the Checkerboard Partnership.


“Protecting and honoring the history of Kittitas County while celebrating our rural roots is extremely important to me. The money provided by the State of Washington for a community forest allows local residents the ability to control the future of these lands. This is a very powerful act. The State is investing in us, and has recognized that the future for the Cle Elum, Roslyn, and Ronald Ridge should be community driven, empowering the people to decide what is best for our future.”





The funding comes from a new state program to fund Community Forests, administered through the Washington Recreation and Conservation Office. The $3 million in funding will enable acquisition of 1,250 acres in the first of three phases to create a 9,400-acre community forest on Cle Elum Ridge between Cle Elum, Roslyn, and the 55,000-acre Teanaway Community Forest. The Cle Elum Ridge project is one of six funded out of 15 proposed projects.


“I’m so glad that the Capital Budget Chair and Ranking members saw fit to include this important allocation in the final Budget,” said Sen. Judy Warnick (R – Moses Lake) and Senate Ways and Means Committee member. “Being a community driven and supported project made it all the more easier to advocate for this funding.”


“This funding is a giant step forward for creating a community forest on Cle Elum Ridge, where sustainable forest management will benefit the local communities, now and for future generations,” said Melissa Speeg, facilitator of the Checkerboard Partnership. “We are so fortunate to have so many dedicated community members working hard to realize our vision of protecting these important lands in our backyard. We are all grateful for the leadership by Sen. Judy Warnick, Rep. Tom Dent, and Rep. Alex Ybarra in securing this funding for our community.”


This community forest will connect towns to hundreds of thousands of acres of forests and an expansive trails network, while curtailing residential development that threatens the ridge. The project will benefit the local tourism and forestry economy sectors while supporting public access, cross-boundary management, environmental education, and traditional tribal resources.


The Checkerboard Partnership is planning to hold a virtual orientation in the next month to provide information to new and interested community members. You can contact Melissa Speeg at mspeeg@kittitasconservationtrust.org.


Learn more about the Checkerboard Partnership here: https://www.checkerboardpartnership.com/


Hear voices from the community: Why this forest, why now? – https://www.checkerboardpartnership.com/media


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