The future of Steptoe Butte
February 27, 2017 - Last fall you may have seen the news that 437 acres of land surrounding Steptoe Butte State Park - making up the majority of what we see when we look at the butte - was purchased by two families for preservation. Until that time, many people didn’t realize that the State Park only included the 150 acres at the very top of the butte.
The land is really special: the site is home to some of the largest known,critically endangered Palouse Prairie remnants in Whitman county; it is home to two historic apple orchards with some of the last known specimens of certain heritage varieties; and it provides an economic boost to our area, attracting tourists from all over the world to photograph the butte and the Palouse region from the state park at the top. We have been working with the families that bought the land to find a permanent conservation solution for the property.
Starting next week, Washington State Parks will be conducting a public planning process for a number of state parks in eastern Washington, including Steptoe Butte State Park. This is an agency-wide planning system called Classification and Management Planning or CAMP. You can find out more about the CAMP process here.
As part of every park plan, the agency determines a potential long-term boundary for the park - identifying nearby lands that may advance the conservation goals of the park. The long-term boundary does not obligate State Parks to acquire the land, but rather, provides staff with the opportunity to work with nearby landowners on cooperative management or potential land transactions like conservation easements or land purchases. We are advocating for the inclusion of this 437-acre property surrounding the park into the long-term park boundary to preserve the option for potential conservation through the parks system.
Opportunity for your input
The CAMP process is a public process, and State Parks is very interested in hearing from you. There is a public meeting on Tuesday, March 7, 2017 from 5:30 to 7:30pm at the Whitman County Library in Colfax. State Parks employees will be there to describe the CAMP process and gather initial feedback about what is important to the community and what you want to change or save in the park. This helps get a sense of the range and type of issues that need to be considered through the planning process.
Even if you can’t make the public meeting, State Parks is accepting comments in the form of written comments through their website. The website also outlines the four stages of the CAMP process.
Opportunity for Preservation
One of the ways you can help is to provide your thoughts on the potential long-term boundary for the park. By advocating for the inclusion of the 437-acres surrounding the park into the long-term boundary, you’d be giving State Parks the ability to pursue options for the long-term conservation of the Butte. Including the land in the long-term boundary does not force the sale of the land to State Parks, and does not constitute a"taking” of private land. It simply identifies areas that may advance the conservation and recreation mission of the park, and gives staff the ability to work with neighboring landowners on cooperative management or potential land transactions, including conservation easements or land purchase, all on a voluntary basis.
In case you’re interested in reading the Land Trust’s written comments, you can find them here. If you have questions about the CAMP planning process, you can contact Randy Kline from WA State Parks at (360) 902-8632 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have questions about the Land Trust's position or how you can help, please email or call Amy Trujillo, Executive Director, at 208-669-0722.