2018-2023 draft Conservation Plan underway

The team at North Olympic Land Trust is in the midst of creating the organization’s 2018-2023 Conservation Plan. This plan is intended to prioritize local land conservation efforts across Clallam County. Upon its completion, by March 2018, the plan will be reviewed and hopefully approved by the State’s Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program, which has a number of categories that the Land Trust can apply for project funding in. Additionally, the Conservation Plan will help guide the organization over the course of the next six years and help us work toward the goals of our 2017-2021 Strategic Plan.

Conservation is a community process, and the surrounding landscape should reflect the values of its communities. It is with this lens that we’re seeking input on the draft Conservation Plan and its priority areas shown below, along with a brief description of why these areas are being prioritized.

Opportunities for public feedback include:

  • 1-3 p.m. Monday, Dec. 11 at the Forks Branch Library, 171 Forks Ave. South, Forks.
  • Sequim Chamber of Commerce Luncheon* from Noon-1 p.m.Tuesday, Dec. 12 at the Sunland Golf & Country Club, 109 Hilltop Dr., Sequim.
    *Chamber fees apply: $15 for lunch or $3 for general entry/coffee/tea.
  • Dungeness River Management Team meeting from 2-5 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 13 at the Dungeness River Center, 2151 W Hendrickson Rd, Sequim.
  • 4-6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 14 at the Port Angeles Library Branch, 2210 S. Peabody St., Port Angeles.

If you cannot attend any of the above opportunities to give feedback, but would like to share your input, please contact the Land Trust’s Conservation Director Michele: michele@northolympiclandtrust.org or (360) 417-1815 ext.5.

Simply click on any of the maps below to see a larger version.

About the priority areas:

Priority Area 1 – Priorities for salmon and steelhead in the western straits, Water Resource Inventory Area (WRIA) 19. In 2011, the Land Trust had a conservation plan completed for the western straits, known as The Western Strait of Juan de Fuca Salmonid Habitat Conservation Plan. The Plan identifies and prioritizes habitat important to salmon and steelhead productivity and survival. In this Plan, many of the highest priorities were in these three watersheds: Hoko, Clallam and Pysht Rivers.

The Land Trust has already done a significant amount of work in the Pysht, but would like to do more. We have some current opportunities in the Clallam River watershed, and on the Hoko, where priorities 1,2 and 4-10 are located, we hope to do more work, and the North Olympic  Salmon Coalition, when the capital budget is passed, will have funding for some feasibility work that could result in some inroads.

Priority Area 2 –  Expansion of the Lyre Conservation Area. In 2014, the Land Trust acquired the 280 acre Lyre Conservation Area. We hope to conserve additional land around there, including land along the Lyre River (currently we have just conserved the estuary), additional wetlands, land along Nelson Creek and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, working forestland in the vicinity, and additional recreational opportunities. The Lyre is one of the few remaining rivers on the Peninsula with the potential to maintain a protected corridor and intact ecosystem that would secure connectivity from the Olympic Mountains to the saltwater shoreline of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. 85% of the Lyre River watershed is in public ownership, primarily Department of Natural Resources.

Priority Area 3 and 4 – We also hope to promote a fish friendly riparian corridor from the estuary of the Elwha River to the National Park boundary (Priority Area 3), and along Little River and Indian Creek (Priority Area 4). Efforts to restore the Elwha watershed have necessarily centered around dam removal. While 83% of the Elwha watershed is protected inside Olympic National Park, critical floodplain areas and two large tributaries (Indian Creek and Little River) are in private ownership. In 2016, the Land Trust completed a conservation prioritization for the Elwha River watershed, including Indian Creek and Little River. The prioritization will help us protect the best existing salmon habitat and ecosystem function while identifying and treating limiting factors on private land. Already, two properties are conserved on the Elwha and one on Little River. When a capital budget is passed, we will have funding for two acquisitions on the Elwha (one is partial funding). There is hopefully more to come. Additionally, maintaining a wild and scenic river will not only benefit salmon habitat, but will also recreational opportunities.

Priority Area 5 – Fish and wildlife habitat along Morse Creek that’s upstream of restoration efforts. Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife and the North Olympic Salmon Coalition have protected 160 acres and restored the channel-meander in an important reach of Morse Creek, shown in green.

Our hope is to acquire and protect critical salmon habitat in the near-pristine upper reach of Morse Creek. Morse Creek is currently home to federally listed Bull Trout, Chinook, & Steelhead. Morse Creek is designated habitat for Bull Trout. Though a waterfall presents an impassable barrier to salmon and steelhead, 5 miles from the mouth, the section of creek adjacent and downstream of the waterfall is considered high quality habitat.  There is also high quality habitat upstream of the natural barrier.

Priority Area 6 – Our eastern-most priority area, is farms of all sizes. The Land Trust has a goal of conserving farms of all sizes, but particularly those that retain the vestiges of the Sequim-Dungeness Prairie, and our agricultural heritage. Farmland is our community’s most threatened landscape. Within the past 70 years, more than 70% of the original farmland in Clallam County has disappeared. The number of remaining farms within the area is less than 50 percent than in 1945. Reflective of the fragmentation throughout the county, the average farm size is 44 acres instead of 105 acres in 1974.

Also within Priority Area 6, there is a significant amount of shorelines and wetlands that are in line with our conservation goals.

Other priorities –  The Sequim area is represented by the map above, but conservation of shoreline and wetlands, including estuaries, nearshore areas, and river corridors – especially when activities encroach on nature – is a priority throughout Clallam County. These landscapes also provide some excellent recreational benefits.