Whitman County Gazette - Serving Whitman County since 1877

By Garth Meyer
Gazette Reporter 

State funds Steptoe Butte road, land purchase

 

May 9, 2019



The new two-year Washington state budget passed by the legislature April 29 features two likely projects for Steptoe Butte.

The first is a $5.2 million complete rebuilding of the road to the top of the butte, which is a Washington State park.

“It really needs it,” said Virginia Painter, State Parks’ communications director.

The funding is part of $31 million designated for State Parks’ capital projects.

The second item comes from the Department of Natural Resources, with $1,239,000 marked for acquisition of private property on the butte by the Recreation Conservation Office.

“We have very high confidence that acquisition grant will be funded,” said Larry Leach, DNR State Lands Assistant Region Manager.

The legislature designates money to go to the state’s Recreation Conservation Office (RCO), which disperses grants to multiple agencies including State Parks, DNR and the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

In 2016, private citizens Ray and Joan Folwell and Kent Bassett bought a 437-acre piece of land at the base of Steptoe Butte to preserve as native prairie. Since then they have been in contact with the DNR and State Parks, among other organizations, which have shown interest in buying the land.

The private acreage is adjacent to the state park – which does not take up the entire butte.

The RCO is expected to award the latest grants in mid-summer.

The purchased land would be designated either a natural resource conservation area or a natural area preserve.

“The only thing that would stop this at this point is if the landowners decide not to sell, or if there is an outcry from the public to go back and re-think,” Leach said.

 
 

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