North Olympic Land Trust took a big step forward in 1993, when it received its first gift of land. The 29-acre “Dungeness Meadows” property was donated by Woodland Management Association. Located along the Dungeness River, south of Highway 101, this land includes a portion of the Dungeness River bed that is subject to channel movement. Important fish populations in the Dungeness include chinook, summer chum, bull trout, pink, fall chum, coho, and winter and summer steelhead, along with sea-run cutthroat , resident rainbow trout, and native char. The Land Trust moved quickly to address some of the topics that would come to accompany any land acquisition, including those regarding public access, mapping and signage, recreational usage, insurance, and more. (In 2011, Dungeness Meadows was sold to the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, with a conservation easement in place.)
Another exciting first occurred in 1995, when the Land Trust created its inaugural conservation easement, also along the Dungeness River. John Willits, a retired Peninsula College forestry professor, donated the development rights to Quacker Farm, resulting in the permanent protection of 42 acres of prime waterfowl habitat near the mouth of the river.
In the years that followed, more landowners came forward to join the growing enthusiasm for land protection. Conservation easements were completed to protect habitat along Salt Creek, the Dungeness River, and Ennis Creek as well as on Harry Lydiard’s working tree farm and on Dungeness Valley farmland belonging to John Willits and farmed by Nash Huber.
In 1998, the Land Trust received its first-ever grant, state salmon recovery money that enabled the purchase of additional development rights along the Dungeness River. In the two years that followed, 127 acres were permanently protected on eight properties. Today, the Land Trust has protected over 700 acres of irreplaceable wildlife habitat and farmland in the Dungeness River Valley.