Gregory A. Hicks, Managing State Trust Lands for Ecosystem Health: The Case of Washington State's Range and Agricultural Lands, 6 Hastings W-Nw. J. Envtl. L. & Pol'y 1 (1999), https://digitalcommons.law.uw.edu/faculty-articles/373
Hastings West-Northwest Environmental Law & Policy
The protection of ecosystem health and wildlife habitat on state trust lands has received increasing attention in public lands literature. This article is meant to contribute to that discussion. It is focused on recently adopted land management policies in Washington state which are intended to restore ecosystem health and wildlife habitat on the 1.1 million acres of range and agricultural trust lands in the upland interior of the state's Columbia Plain. The lands in question are lands originally granted to Washington at statehood by the federal government for the support of the common schools and other public institutions. Those lands have subsequently been dedicated to agricultural and range uses to produce income for the trusts they serve. The Washington legislature has now passed a series of statutes requiring that those lands also be managed to protect and preserve wildlife habitat and the ecosystem values of the Columbia Plain's shrub steppe lands.
The article is divided into four parts. The first part offers an overview of the goals of Washington's steppe land habitat restoration statutes, and of the fit between those goals and the historical management of trust lands subject to the statutes. The second part describes the state's trust land holdings in the steppe and plateau landscapes of the Columbia Plain. It includes a brief overview of their acquisition, their ecological character, and the management imperatives that have guided their use. The third part describes, in detail, the origins and structure of the steppe lands statute, including the intended operation of its habitat and ecosystem provisions. The fourth part describes early efforts at implementation of the statute, focusing particularly on the impact of existing management priorities on the accomplishment of habitat and ecosystem goals. An important part of each section of this article is a description of the relationships between Washington Department of Natural Resources and the people who lease state trust lands, and the impact of those relationships on the effort to Improve ecosystem health and wildlife habitat on the trust lands.