This state’s Department of Fish & Wildlife wants public input: Should they acquire and ecologically restore a 9600-acre coal mine?

On January 12, 2021, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) started soliciting public feedback on six land acquisition proposals that would help restore fish and wildlife populations and boost public access to the great outdoors.

The department is interested in acquiring 9600 acres of the Centralia Mine property owned by TransAlta in Thurston and Lewis counties to provide public access for recreation and benefit fish and wildlife conservation.

Ebsen Water Access

Other land acquisition proposals include connecting two adjacent wildlife area units in Douglas County to restore shrubsteppe habitat connectivity and recreation opportunities, as well as ensuring public boating and fishing access to the Grande Ronde River in Asotin County.

This highly-efficient “restoring by reconnecting” strategy was documented in the 2020 book, RECONOMICS: The Path To Resilient Prosperity.

Acquiring the Ebsen Water Access in Asotin County would ensure continued public boating and fishing access to this portion of the Grande Ronde River.

Descriptions of proposed land acquisition projects are available on the department’s land acquisition webpage.

We want to hear from people in this early stage of our land acquisition process,” said Cynthia Wilkerson, WDFW lands division manager.

Our mission is to protect land and water for people and wildlife in Washington, and this is one tool we use to determine which properties will best meet our conservation goals and recreational priorities,” she added.

After reviewing public comments, WDFW will finalize a list of projects to seek funding sources. Since the department does not use operating budget funds for land acquisitions, the department relies on state and federal grants to purchase properties.

The department owns or manages more than one million acres statewide, with 33 wildlife areas and over 500 water access areas around the state. These public lands help sustain wildlife habitat and public recreation opportunities for current and future generations.

WDFW is the primary state agency tasked with preserving, protecting, and perpetuating fish and wildlife and ecosystems, while providing sustainable fishing and hunting opportunities

The Centralia Mine is one of three TransAlta-owned surface coal mines. It is a sub-bituminous surface coal mine located about 10 kilometers (six miles) northeast of the city of Centralia, Washington.

The Centralia Mine began commercial operation in 1971 and was purchased by TransAlta in May 2000. The mine supplied coal to TransAlta’s Centralia thermal generating plant until November 2006 when TransAlta stopped active mining operations and is now focused on compliance and reclamation activities.

The life-cycle of a mine includes reclamation. Since 1971, approximately 2000 acres of the 7155 acres disturbed for mining activities have been completely reclaimed. For the remaining disturbed acres, the multi-year reclamation process continues.

TransAlta says they are committed to protecting of the environment and working with regulatory agencies to implement a diverse reclamation program. This includes restoring land to a state that is equivalent to—or better than—it was before their mining activities, or restoring it for other uses.

When complete, these reclaimed lands support a variety of land uses such as agriculture, woodlands, wildlife habitat, recreation and wetlands.

Images courtesy of WDFW.

See WDFW website.

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