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MISSOULA, Mont.-An area of elk habitat larger than Seattle has been conserved and permanently opened for public recreation between Yakima and Wenatchee, Wash., and the public is invited to help celebrate at a June 7 ceremony near Ellensburg, Wash.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) are hosting the 1:00 p.m. event at Walter Flat, about 20 miles north of Ellensburg.

For more information, call Doug Marsh of the Elk Foundation at (509) 826-5458.

The celebration will highlight the significance of the project, one of the largest land exchanges in Washington history, netting 61,000 acres of new public land on the east slope of the Cascades.

“This project would not have been possible without the conservation spirit of our exchange partner-Western Pacific Timber-and the support of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, many other groups and, most of all, the public,” said Washington Commissioner of Public Lands Doug Sutherland.

At the celebration, Sutherland will formally unveil part of the area as Naneum Ridge State Forest.

“This area is right in the heart of migratory routes and spring and fall range for both the Yakima and Colockum elk herds,” said Rance Block of the Elk Foundation. “Thanks to Western Pacific Timber and DNR, along with many other conservation partners working together, we now have a significant and long-lasting conservation success to celebrate in Washington.”

Negotiated over the past two years, an agreement traded 20,970 acres of state lands scattered in mostly small parcels across 15 counties for 82,548 acres of land belonging to Western Pacific Timber. Both collections of parcels involved in the trade were valued at $56.5 million.

The corporate land was mingled in a checkerboard pattern with DNR land, creating management challenges for both parties and compromising the future of public access and wildlife habitat.

The exchange enhances DNR’s forestland management efforts and prevents future fragmentation of the landscape due to residential development.

About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation

Founded in 1984 and headquartered in Missoula, Mont., the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife and their habitat. The Elk Foundation and its partners have permanently protected or enhanced over 5.2 million acres, a land area larger than Connecticut, Delaware and District of Columbia combined. More than 500,000 acres previously closed to public access are now open for hunting, fishing and other recreation. To help protect wild elk country or learn more about the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, visit www.elkfoundation.org or call 800-CALL-ELK.