Special to the Mountain News, from the Nisqually Land Trust:
May 23, 2017 Susan Callender
The Land Trust recently added two more highly prized properties to its acquisitions along the Whitewater Reach of the Nisqually River, near Yelm, which is rated the highest priority for protection in both the Nisqually Chinook Salmon Recovery Plan and the Nisqually Steelhead Recovery Plan.
The properties total twenty acres and just over one-third mile of shoreline, and they provide spawning and rearing habitat for all five Pacific salmonid species native to the Nisqually Watershed, including Chinook, coho, chum, and pink salmon and steelhead trout. Both Chinook and steelhead are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
In addition, the purchase of one of the properties completes the goal of securing land for the potential extension of the Yelm-Tenino Trail all the way to, and possibly across, the Nisqually River. The property and one purchased in 2016 bookend railroad tracks, owned by the city of Yelm, that cross the river and run to Roy, in Pierce County. The track and its trestle could be converted to a pedestrian and bike crossing, which would be the first on the Nisqually River.
“It’s a bold vision,” said Land Trust Outreach Coordinator Cris Peck, who will work with Yelm on planning for the potential project, “but it’s an inspiring one. The Yelm-Tenino Trail already connects with the Chehalis Western-Woodard Bay Trail in Thurston County. If we can extend it across the river to Roy, and connect the Thurston County network with the planned Pierce County trail network, we’ll have a regional jewel.”
The two new property acquisitions, and a third completed in 2016 are part of a combined project funded by Thurston County Conservation Futures and the Washington Salmon Recovery Funding Board. Total cost for the three properties was $490,000.
The two new properties are undeveloped, with largely intact shoreline, forest, and wetland habitat. “Acquiring high-quality habitat while it’s still healthy – before it has to be restored – is unquestionably the most cost-efficient strategy for salmon recovery,” said Land Trust Executive Director Joe Kane.
All three properties will be managed as part of the Land Trust’s Yelm Shoreline Protected Area, expanding it to 227 acres and 2.79 shoreline miles.