Slightly more than 3,600 acres of prime deer habitat in the Simcoe Mountains of Klickitat County are about to be bought by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
State Fish and Wildlife Commission members have approved the purchase of 3,613 acres east of U.S. Highway 97 from Western Pacific Timber LLC.
The appraised value of the land is $1.98 million. Money from two Washington Wildlife Recreation Program grants will pay for the purchase.
The land will be managed as part of the existing state Klickitat Wildlife Area.
“This land purchase is part of a larger area that the Department of Fish and Wildlife will work to acquire in phases over the coming years,’’ said Sue Van Leuven, manager of the Klickitat Wildlife Area.
The area once was popular for deer hunting and includes tracts formerly owned by the state Department of Natural Resources.
In 2007, DNR completed a land exchange and its holdings in the Simcoe Mountains were traded to Western Pacific Timber LLC for property elsewhere.
Western Pacific closed their block of land east of Highway 97 to public access, but does allow hunting on their lands between the Klickitat River and U.S. Highway 97.
“WDFW wants to reopen this area of Game Management Unit 382 to public hunting through land purchases from Western Pacific Timber,’’ Van Leuven said.
State wildlife lands are managed under specific guidelines for each local area, she said.
Those provide the public with an understanding what the agency’s intent is on the property and keeps managers on task despite the distractions that crop up over the years, she added.
“We intend to work with the Central and East Klickitat conservation districts to develop the management plan for the Simcoe acquisition,’’ Van Leuven said. “We often tap other agencies for expertise when drafting management plans.’’
State wildlife officials have been waiting for the acquisition to occur before working on details how to manage public access.
“WDFW will have to figure out the best way to ensure that hunting access is available on the new WDFW parcels, yet try to avoid having hunters trespass on land the Western Pacific Timber still owns,’’ she said.
Recreation management for the Simcoe property will be considered shortly, probably in July, she said.