Nonprofit to convert Thurston ranch into preserve

lpemberton@theolympian.comApril 12, 2014 

A large ranch in south Thurston County has been purchased by the Center for Natural Lands Management, which plans to turn it into a preserve, the California-based nonprofit announced Friday.

Formerly known as the Northwest Equestrian Center and the Turner Brothers Ranch, the site, which is about 140 acres, has been renamed the Deschutes River Preserve. It’s on state Route 507, just south of Rainier.

The property is home to Mazama pocket gophers, which were listed Wednesday as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, and other rare plants and animals including the streaked horned lark and golden paintbrush, according to the nonprofit.

Grants from the Department of Defense Readiness and Environmental Initiative, the Joint Base Lewis-McChord Army Compatible Use Buffer and other donations made the $1.075 million purchase possible, according to Patrick Dunn, director of the Center for Natural Lands Management’s South Puget Sound Program.

The property is bordered by the Deschutes River and features grassland, oak woodland and riparian habitat. Nonprofit officials say they want to remove invasive vegetation and replant prairie plants.

“Prairies are part of Washington’s natural and cultural heritage,” Dunn said in a release. “We value open space and want to protect the land and wildlife so future generations can enjoy these special places too.”

One of the ranch’s former owners, Bill Turner, said he and his family are pleased with the deal.

“The Equestrian Center has been for sale for several years, and we are very pleased the property will be conserved rather than become a housing tract,” he said.

Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433 lpemberton@theolympian.com

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