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ACFL Easement Expansion

Skagit Land Trust’s Conservation Easement on the Anacortes Community Forest Lands Grows by 253 Acres

253 acres of the Anacortes Community Forest Lands were recently added to the Conservation Easement held by Skagit Land Trust. Over 1,900 acres of the ACFL are now protected by this easement which ensures the forestlands will never be logged, mined or subdivided. The remaining ACFL lands are protected through other means such as land donor intent and deed restrictions on the parcels.

“The Anacortes Community Forest Lands are so special because you have 3,000 acres protected in the middle of a city,” says Anacortes Parks & Recreation Director Jonn Lunsford. “Within that you have old growth forest, three lakes, an abundance of wetlands, and 50 miles of trails. There aren't many cities in the entire nation that have that.”

After years of work, an amendment to the easement was completed and approved by Skagit Land Trust and the City of Anacortes to consolidate the 25 different conservation easements held by the Trust on the ACFL, into one updated easement. Staff from the City, Friends of the Forest, and the Trust were on hand for the signing and recording of the updated document on Wednesday.

Easement Partners left to right: Trust Conservation Director Michael Kirshenbaum, Friends of the Forest Executive DirectorAsa Dean, Trust Board President Mark Hitchcock, Anacortes Mayor Matt Miller, Trust Executive Director Molly Doran,Anacortes Parks & Recreation Director Jonn Lunsford

“The amended and expanded Conservation Easement clarifies important language to make the provisions of the easement clearer and easier to steward,” says Conservation Director Michael Kirshenbaum. “Along with increasing protection by 253 acres, it also now includes a clear path for the forestlands to be managed ecologically in the face of fire risk, climate change, and invasive species.”

When the program first began, new separate easements were added each time a fundraising threshold was reached. As the number of easements grew, it became harder to manage with multiple legal descriptions. Local attorney Konrad Liegel assisted in reviewing the 25 different easements to consolidate them into one updated easement that will be more durable and easier to manage going forward as more land is added.

“I am pleased to have done a part in bringing this project to fruition,” says Liegel. “Working on the amendment made me realize what an incredible resource these lands are.”

People living on Fidalgo Island have long known how valuable these lands are. The forest has in fact served many purposes over generations. The peoples of the Coast Salish were the first stewards of these lands.

“One thing we appreciate and recognize is that the health of this amazing forest is due to the stewardship of the Samish Indian Nation and the Swinomish Indian Nation,” says Lunsford. “They took care of this land since time immemorial. Now we work with the Samish, Swinomish, Friends of the Forest, Skagit Land Trust, and the whole community to protect these lands in perpetuity.

Whistle Lake in the ACFL

When Anacortes incorporated in 1891, the lakes found in the ACFL provided water for the city. The forests surrounding the lakes ensured the water was clean and uncontaminated. As the City’s water needs grew past the capacity of the lakes, the lands were opened for recreational use.

Community members exploring the ACFL in the
early 1980’s

In the 1990’s a dedicated group of citizensincluding members of Friends of the Forest and Skagit Land Trust worked with the City of Anacortes to ensure the forestlands would remain in their natural condition in perpetuity. For every $1,000 donated by the public to an ACFL Stewardship Fund held by the City, another acre of land would be enrolled in a permanent conservation easement held by the Trust.

"The ACFL is such an incredible example of what a small group of dedicated citizens can accomplish when they work together. The founders of Friends of the Forest knew that it was a unique place and organized to protect it in perpetuity,” says Asa Deane, Executive Director of Friends of the Forest. “With the partnership between the Friends, the City of Anacortes, and the Skagit Land Trust, it's truly a model for how community forests could be managed across the country.

The City of Anacortes owns and manages the ACFL, but the Trust’s conservation easement provides an essential backstop to ensure conditions of the easement are being followed. Friends of the Forestprovides educational, advocational, and stewardship opportunities in the forest. The ACFL is great example of how a partnership between local government and private nonprofits can benefit the whole community.

kids looking through scope at birds
Families on a spring break family field trip in the ACFL hosted by Skagit land Trust and Friends of the Forest

Watch the ACFL Partnership video here.

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