Spring has arrived on the North Olympic Peninsula and along with it comes an inspirational milestone in local land conservation.
On March 20, North Olympic Land Trust and the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe purchased 104 total acres of farmland and habitat along the Dungeness River. With this purchase, River’s Edge will forever be conserved as farm and habitat.
The River’s Edge project was announced publicly in September of 2019, when the landowners agreed to sell the land for conservation rather than listing it on the public market. At North Olympic Land Trust, newly hired Conservation Director Mike Auger stepped immediately into the project, bringing years of expertise and enthusiasm to the table. A community “Farm and Habitat” fundraising goal of $425,000 was set to assist with the Land Trust’s share of the purchase cost. Over the next few months, as the Land Trust and Tribe worked through the many details of the transaction, over 250 community donors stepped forward with a strong display of support and were successful in raising the necessary funds. When combined with a low-interest bridge loan from community partner Sound Community Bank, the Land Trust had the funds designated to move forward with the purchase.
“Working through the first phase of this project has been such a great introduction to the area and community. We have so many amazing partners who are part of this important project including the landowner, the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, Clallam County, and Sound Community Bank,” says Auger. “The community support for this project has been palpable and inspiring. Not only did we raise the necessary amount, but everywhere I go people ask me about the status of the project and have such positive things to say about it.”
With the land purchase complete, North Olympic Land Trust now owns 64 acres of farmland along Towne Road. Next steps include placing a permanent conservation easement on the land and eventually selling it to a farmer who will continue the strong agricultural tradition of the Dungeness Valley. “Now that the first phase has been successfully completed we are moving forward with the next steps,” says Auger. “We will continue the positive momentum that our community has helped to build.”
The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe is the new owner of the adjacent 40 acres of Dungeness riverbank habitat. The property was purchased with funding from the State’s Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration Fund. This funding places a salmon deed of right on the property, requiring the land to be used exclusively for the benefit of salmon habitat. This will include planned setback of the existing levee along the Dungeness River, which will allow the river to meander naturally through the floodplain. This renewal of historical riparian habitat will support salmon recovery and boost overall ecosystem health. Chinook salmon, summer chum, bull trout and steelhead are among the fish that utilize the river and are federally listed on the Endangered Species Act. “Thank you to everyone who worked diligently to make this land transaction happen,” says LaTrisha Suggs, Restoration Planner for the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe. “This acquisition leads to restoration that will benefit vital salmonid populations that use the Dungeness River.”
“Personally, I would like to share how impressed and thankful I am for our community’s ability to come together, raise the needed funds, and ensure the permanent conservation of River’s Edge,” says Land Trust Executive Director Tom Sanford. “This project really reflects our community’s shared values and determination. Together, we have demonstrated an unquestionable love and commitment to the future of our home.”
Please enjoy this short video of the River’s Edge property, courtesy of local videographer John Gussman.