Cascade Land Conservancy: TDR program saves 90 acres of Pierce County forest

The Cascade Land Conservancy announced today it has conserved nearly 90 acres of family-owned working forest in Pierce County.

According to a statement released this morning, the conserved lands include 64 acres at the Soler Forest near South Prairie and 24 acres at the Van Eaton Forest near Eatonville. The Conservancy completed the first Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) transaction under Pierce County’s TDR program, with the purchase of 30 TDR Credits from the two properties.

TDR programs enable property owners of resource-based lands like farms and working forests to sell, at fair market value, their land’s development potential as TDR credits. Developers who buy those credits are allowed to increase the development potential of building projects in urban areas. Homes and local businesses are provided in urban areas, making efficient use of existing infrastructure, while important resource lands are forever protected.

Jerry Soler and the Soler family are lifelong residents of Pierce County, having actively managed their forestland over the last 60 years. The Van Eaton family has been in the agricultural and forestry business for generations, homesteading the town of Eatonville. Both properties were under pressure of development, according to the Cascade Land Conservancy, but the TDR program allowed the families to realize their forestland development value without seeing the land converted to non-forest use. The work on the Van Eaton forest was done in partnership with the Nisqually Land Trust, creating the possibility of even more conservation in the future.

In 2007, Pierce County passed a TDR ordinance, enacting a program that will conserve land without using local taxpayer dollars. According to the U.S. Agricultural Census, between 2002 and 2007, the County’s agricultural lands were reduced by 1,900 acres per year on average.

The Pierce County projects were part of a larger, multi-county TDR effort by the Conservancy. The Conservancy completed five transactions in three counties resulting in the conservation of nearly 800 acres of family-owned working forest.