Chelan County is entering into a Master Good Neighbor Agreement with the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. 

The Agreement lets the county perform forest, rangeland, and watershed restoration services on and adjacent to National Forest System lands. 

Chelan County Natural Resources Director Mike Kaputa says it's a major benefit for the county.  

"I'd say in general it's a big deal that any entity would have the ability to go do work on the Forest Service," Kaputa. "So, this opens the door for us on a number of things, recreational projects, restoration projects." 

Chelan County commissioners signed off on the agreement this week, which gives the county a say-so on federal projects in Forest Service land. 

The county can also initiate projects in collaboration with the Forest Service using federal money. 

The arrangement is particularly meaningful in Chelan County where 80 percent of county lands are owned by the Forest Service. 

The Good Neighbor Authority was originally passed in 2014 and originally only applied to states. The federal government expanded that arrangement to include counties and federally recognized tribes in 2018. 

Chelan County spokesperson Jill FitzSimmons says they don't know of any other county in the state that has a Master Good Neighbor Agreement with the Forest Service. 

Kaputa told commissioners this week that the agreements are scarce at the county level. 

"I didn't want to overlook the fact that there aren't that many counties who have been able to pull this off with the Forest Service," Kaputa said. "I think it's going to open a lot of doors for us with the Forest Service." 

All projects performed by the county will be using federal funds. In return, the Forest Service must be involved in the development and implementation of any work performed on its lands. 

FitzSimmons says the county will likely be involved in restoration projects such as fish habitats. 

She said the Forest Service has limited ability and personnel to deal with such projects, whereas Chelan County is one of the few counties to have its own Natural Resources Department, and to have the level of personnel and expertise that it has. 

Kaputa told commissioners that he would like to have a ceremonial signing of the agreement with the federal government at some point in the future. 

FitzSimmons stressed that there's no project currently targeted by the county, and that the Master Good Neighbor Agreement was signed off by commissioners to be prepared for any future projects. 

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