The Nisqually Land Trust conferred its President’s Award for “Partner of the Year” to Pierce County at the Land Trust’s Eighteenth Annual Dinner and Auction Gala on March 13 at Saint Martin College’s Worthington Center in Lacey.
“This award recognizes the tremendous contributions Pierce County has made toward the protection of the Mashel River and Ohop Creek, the two most important salmon-producing tributaries of the Nisqually River,” said Land Trust President George Walter. “Both projects made enormous strides this past year. That would not have been possible without Pierce County’s commitment to conservation both now and over the long term.”
Last summer, the Land Trust ( http://www.nisquallylandtrust.org/ ), the Pierce County Planning and Land Services Department, and Cascade Land Conservancy collaborated on the first acquisition project to be carried out under Pierce County’s new Transfer of Development Rights program ( http://www.co.pierce.wa.us/pc/services/home/property/pals/other/tdr-pdr.htm ). Through the program, development rights for a 25-acre parcel on the Mashel River were purchased ( http://www.piercecountywa.org/cfapps/internet/news.cfm?node_id=91257&media=PC ) from the Van Eaton family. This greatly reduced the purchase price of the property and enabled the Land Trust ultimately to acquire it.
The Van Eaton property is critical to the recovery of threatened Chinook salmon and steelhead because it contains the confluence of the Mashel and Little Mashel rivers. The confluence is a focal point of the Mashel River Restoration Initiative, through which the Land Trust, the Nisqually Tribe, and the Town of Eatonville are restoring some 2.2 miles of the Mashel.
The Pierce County Conservation Futures program ( http://www.co.pierce.wa.us/pc/abtus/ourorg/parks/cfutures.htm ), administered by Pierce County Parks and Recreation, also played a key role in the Mashel restoration. In 2006, Conservation Futures acquired 34 acres on the Mashel known as Boxcar Canyon and transferred them to the Land Trust for salmon recovery. Boxcar Canyon anchors one end of the restoration project and was one of the first sites to be used for engineered logjams, which create salmon-friendly pools along the river.
In 2006, Conservation Futures also purchased 36 acres along Ohop Creek, in the Ohop Valley, and transferred them to the Land Trust. This land became part of Phase I of the re-meandering of Ohop Creek. Completed this summer, Phase I restored six-tenths of a mile of straightened and ditched creekbed to its natural meander, lengthening the shoreline to 1.1 miles and anchoring it with 42 salmon-friendly engineered logjams and 86,000 native trees and shrubs. This will greatly enhance Ohop Creek’s salmon-producing capacity and is especially important for the recovery of Chinook salmon.
Also last year, the Pierce County Council created the Pierce County Open Space Task Force, which is charged with evaluating the county’s open-space needs over the next ten years and designing a plan to meet them. “We’re proud to be part of the Task Force,” said Walter, “and to have the opportunity to work so closely with the many people in Pierce County government who treasure the natural resources our region is blessed with.”