- Associated Press - Sunday, January 22, 2017

QUILCENE, Wash. (AP) - Washington state officials have purchased 159 acres that connect two large sections of the 2,900-acre Dabob Bay Natural Area.

The state Department of Natural Resources bought the land from timber company Pope Resources, The Kitsap Sun reports (https://bit.ly/2jNgq0p) in a story on Sunday.

“This helps put the larger puzzle together,” said John Gamon of the state agency’s Natural Heritage Conservation program. “It provides protection for everything down slope to the water.”

The U.S. Navy paid about half of the $900,000 purchase price as the Navy would like to reduce development and non-Navy activity in the Hood Canal in northwest Washington state. The Navy said it will continue providing money to expand the natural area.

Peter Bahls of the Northwest Watershed Institute said the Dabob Bay has one of the largest and least developed estuaries in Puget Sound. The bay is about seven miles west of the Hood Canal Bridge.

Bahls said it offers shelter for young chinook and chum salmon, and it is a top shellfish growing area in the state.

Dave Steele, owner of Rock Point Oyster Company, backs the expansion and said the bay’s shellfish beds have been damaged by flooding and silt from upland logging.

Earlier this month, state officials approved a plan to expand Hood Canal Conservation areas, which includes expanding Dabob Bay Natural Area by nearly 4,000 acres.

The expansion will reduce logging and development of wildlife habitat, as well as improve water quality, conservation groups said.

The conservation areas will cover nearly 6,700 acres on the canal’s west side.

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