Land Trust members learn about salmon and other wildlife habitat now being protected along the Dosewallips River.
On a beautiful, sunny May Day, Land Trust members and county officials got to see first-hand the results of a collaboration between Jefferson County and Jefferson Land Trust in preserving 65 acres of floodplain and salmon habitat along a 1.5-mile stretch of the Dosewallips River. They also got to hear from members of the Swift family, who are long-time landowners in the area and sold a 40+-acre parcel for the project, and from Washington State Parks manager Doug Hinton, wildlife biologist Richard Brocksmith, and county staffer Tami Pokorny. Participants also saw rough-skinned newts, juvenile salmon, and mergansers in flight, and some caught a whiff of a nearby, but elusive, elk herd.
This past March, three parcels in the Dosewallips River project area were purchased for permanent conservation. The project was made possible by a grant Jefferson County received in 2004 from the State Salmon Recovery Funding Board (SRFB) for protection of the valuable salmon habitat in the project area. The county’s application had been ranked as #1 for funding because of the ecological important of this project. The SRFB grant provided $295,920, and was matched by $52,220 from Jefferson County’s Title III federal funds. The total for land acquisitions was $348,140. Jefferson Land Trust was contracted by Jefferson County in early 2004 to assist in the negotiation and purchase of properties. Jefferson County and Washington State Parks are discussing the possible transfer of properties to State Parks at some point in the future. In addition, approximately another 10 acres will be added to the conserved areas within the next several months.
The Dosewallips River contains some of the most diverse salmonid populations on the Hood Canal. The project area is used by all salmonids for migration, spawning and rearing, including the Puget Sound Chinook and Hood Canal summer chum. The project reach is known for having the highest concentration of spawning chinook in some years, and contains the mouth of one tributary in which coho spawn and rear.
The project is also important as a floodplain, serving as an important “safety zone” for flood waters, sediments, and debris to collect, protecting the nearby town of Brinnon. The floodplain also serves as an important biological resource for birds and other wildlife.
During the property tour, Steven Swift, a member of the family who created the Lazy-C development, shared childhood reminiscences and some adult reflections about the land. Areas that had once been vacation lots were swept away by floodwaters in the late 1960s. “The river wanted the land back,” he commented.
State park manager Doug Hinton also talked about the spiritual and ceremonial impacts of the land conservation for tribal groups. He explained that five different tribes have been in the area since the mid-1800s, and they are watching carefully what is happening here. Hinton was excited about the long-term promise of this project for both human and wildlife communities. “The river is an ecological engine, and so much more can happen now that will benefit not only salmon and elk and clams, but also the residents of Brinnon and Brinnon’s tourism economy.”