The Discovery Creek parcel from the north, with streams highlighted. Photo by John Gussman, courtesy of Northwest Watershed Institute.
Jefferson Land Trust is pleased to celebrate the recent protection of a 91-acre property of forest, wetland, and streams at the headwaters of Discovery Creek with our longtime partners Northwest Watershed Institute (NWI) and the U.S. Navy. It’s the most recent accomplishment in two decades of conservation work by many organizations and partners in the Tarboo-Dabob Bay area, much of it spearheaded by NWI.
View of Dabob Bay.
The property is now owned and will be managed by NWI, while being permanently protected by a Navy REPI (Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration Program) restrictive easement facilitated by the Land Trust.
“The Land Trust has been working closely with NWI, the Navy, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), willing landowners, and many others to protect this area for many years,” explains Sarah Spaeth, Director of Conservation and Strategic Partnerships at Jefferson Land Trust. “Partnerships like these are vital to our work in supporting the Tarboo-Dabob Bay ecosystem, which is home to some of the most pristine estuarine habitat in the Hood Canal region.”
“We really appreciate the assistance of Jefferson Land Trust and the Navy on another important joint project to protect Dabob Bay,” said Peter Bahls, Director of NWI.
Jefferson Land Trust purchased the 91-acre property from its previous owner, Pope Resources, in May before transferring the property to NWI. NWI then worked with the Land Trust to sell a restrictive easement to the Navy that eliminates development rights on the property and provided the last piece of funding for the project. Acting as a bridge buyer in this way is one of many tools in the Land Trust’s conservation toolbelt. NWI currently owns and manages other key properties around the bay, including the 500-acre Tarboo Wildlife Preserve, which are protected by Land Trust easements.
The REPI program is designed to respond to encroachment pressures such as sprawl; environmental regulations; and competition for land, airspace, and water. It allows the Navy to enter into agreements with private conservation organizations, like land trusts, to acquire conservation or restrictive-use easements and other interests in land in the vicinity of military installations like bases, posts, and forts. Navy REPI funds have made a huge difference in helping us conserve agricultural lands, forests, and water systems throughout Jefferson County — from Chimacum Ridge Forest to Chai-yahk-wh Preserve on Marrowstone Island.
With funding from the Navy and many others, NWI and Jefferson Land Trust have worked together to protect more than 1,200 acres of land in the Tarboo-Dabob Bay area through dozens of conservation easements on private properties.
The shoreline in the Tarboo-Dabob Bay area.
This recent acquisition completes preservation of nearly the entirety of Discovery Creek, which after Tarboo Creek, is the largest freshwater source to Tarboo-Dabob Bay. The property is adjacent to other lands that are already permanently conserved as part the Dabob Bay Natural Area managed by the Natural Areas Program of DNR. Since establishing the Natural Area in 1984 to protect two globally rare plant communities growing on the saltmarsh spit, DNR has twice expanded this Natural Area’s boundary to better protect the estuary ecosystem as a whole. Today, the Dabob Bay Natural Area includes 10,000 acres of shoreline, marsh, and forestland.
“This larger Dabob Bay Natural Area designation is really critical: the idea is to protect the whole area around these water systems,” Sarah explains.
By protecting these lands and water systems, a coalition of conservation partners are helping to maintain the water quality of North Hood Canal; supporting its abundant wildlife, including birds, amphibians, and mammals; and supporting marine species, including federally listed steelhead salmon, coho salmon, and coastal cutthroat trout. Indigenous peoples have harvested shellfish, crab, salmon, and other species in this area since time immemorial, and today four tribes share treaty rights here. The bay is also important for public recreation, including tourism and fishing, as well as commercial shellfish production — all of which offer important economic benefits to our local communities.
Now that NWI owns the land, they’ll manage it for overall ecological health, including removing invasive plants, selectively thinning plantation forests to improve forest diversity, and conducting long-term biological monitoring. They also plan to lead tours and educational workshops.
Meanwhile, Jefferson Land Trust will continue our efforts to keep protecting land in this area, so that this precious natural resource remains available for future generations of animals, plants, and people.
“Going forward, we’ll continue to work with willing landowners and key conservation partners like NWI and the Navy to protect important upland forests, riparian habitat, and shoreline,” says Sarah. “We’re grateful to have such wonderful partners for this important work.”