Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission to discuss property purchase on Grande Ronde

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The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will contemplate spending $3 million to purchase another piece of the 4-O Ranch along the Grand Ronde River in rural Asotin County when it meets Friday in Moses Lake.

If approved, the 1,600-acre buy would be the second phase of a multiyear process that envisions the state purchasing the entire 12,000-acre property. The land is prized for its big game herds, fish habitat and populations of wildlife that ranges from elk and bighorn sheep to wild turkeys and chukar partridge.

Last year, the department spent $4.2 million to purchase a 2,200-acre parcel of the ranch from Mike Odom of Anatone. Odom retained the right to run cattle and manage timber on the property, and the state has made the area a limited access hunt for both deer and elk.

Should phase two of the purchase be completed, the state will have paid more than $7 million, or about $1,800 per acre for the property. If that price per acre continues, the entire ranch would cost the state about $21 million.

Funding for phase one came from the state’s Recreation and Wildlife Program and was approved by the Legislature. Phase two will be paid for by a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The property includes timbered uplands, flat benches, steep draws, grassy break land and riverfront flats.

State wildlife officials have praised Odom and his family for managing the property that benefits wildlife and have said it will be a valuable addition to the Asotin Wildlife Area.

But at least one critic of the agency thinks wildlife officials are getting a bad deal. Rob Kavanaugh of Olympia believes the agency should be paying around $900 an acre instead of $1,800. He also opposes the deal because it allows Odom to continue to graze cattle there.

Kavanaugh has been a critic of the wildlife department’s pilot grazing project on parts of the Asotin Wildlife Area and routinely floods the agency with Freedom of Information Act requests. He has asked for and been denied copies of the state appraisal of the 4-O Ranch. He now contends the agency isn’t following its own grazing procedures on the 4-O. The department must show grazing will benefit wildlife before it is approved.

“My concerns are we may be paying more than the property is worth — number one — and number two they are hiding the appraisal so the public cannot know about it and number three they are not managing the 4-O according to the standards of the Asotin Wildlife Area.” Kavanaugh said.

The commission meeting will be held at the Moses Lake Civic Center.

A full agenda is available on the department’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/.

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