News & Events

Protecting Dabob Bay and Devils Lake

Author: Jefferson Land Trust | 01/04/17

Protecting Pristine Natural Areas

Tarboo Slopes. Photo by Eric Durfey.

Dabob Bay is one of the most pristine naturally functioning ecosystems in the Puget Sound region.

Thanks to an outpouring of community support, Washington State Department of Natural Resources has approved the expansion of Natural Resource Conservation Areas (NRCA) at Dabob Bay and Devils Lake, opening the door for great conservation work to preserve these unique natural ecosystems of the Olympic Peninsula.

The newly expanded NRCAs open up 4700 acres of the most pristine local natural places to state and federal funding opportunities for their permanent preservation. Dabob Bay (pictured here) and Devils Lake are some of the most intact, naturally functioning ecosystems remaining in East Jefferson County and Puget Sound. The expanded NRCAs will enhance the success of large-scale collaborative conservation work in these areas, where over 2850 acres have been protected to date.

Dabob Bay has been a long-time focal area for Jefferson Land Trust and our project partner, Northwest Watershed Institute. Public lands protected within the NRCA are just a part of the picture. Landowners may wish to retain their property, but still preserve their land as part of the natural ecosystem, and this is where Jefferson Land Trust comes into play, working with willing landowners to permanently protect their land as private property. These different conservation tools create a big-picture landscape of protected public and private lands that come together to create an intact, healthy ecosystem.

Natural Areas

Land purchased and protected as Natural Resource Conservation Areas allow for low-impact public use that is compatible with habitat and ecosystem conservation. Natural areas do not provide any regulatory or land use authority over private landowners. A natural area boundary represents an opportunity, not an expectation, for willing landowners within the boundary to work with DNR to preserve their lands should they so choose. Within the boundary, DNR may also transfer state-owned timberlands that may not be ideal for management for timber revenue into permanent natural areas conservation, trading it for more often more appropriate, and lucrative, timberland through Trust Land Transfer and Integrant Exchange processes. See DNR’s natural areas brochure and webpage to learn more.

Benefits of Conservation

As the population continues to grow in the Puget Sound region it is critical that we actively protect ecosystem health. Shorelines and forests provide clean water and wildlife habitat, support shellfish and fisheries, and offer low impact recreational opportunities now and for generations to come. The expanded boundaries at Dabob Bay and Devils Lake include high quality salt marsh estuaries, pristine shoreline, critical fish and wildlife habitat and rare plant communities.

NRCAs provide great opportunity for willing landowners within the natural areas boundaries to preserve their land should they so choose, preserve the landscape’s health and beauty, and studies indicate they are likely to pay off economically. Within the existing natural areas boundaries, over $23 million in land transactions has flowed into the community from competitive state and federal grants and private contributions. Restoration work contracted with local businesses provides an even greater economic boost. Studies indicate that proximity to open space and natural areas correlates with increased property valuation for neighboring land.

The conservation of these areas also provides long-term local economic benefits by helping to protect fishing, tourism, and the shellfish industry that are completely dependent on the health of the environment. Shellfish farmers are the largest employer in the southern part of East Jefferson County and produce the largest agricultural export in the County. The protection of land within the Dabob Bay and Devils Lake Natural Areas helps ensure that the direct and indirect tax revenue that these businesses provide to Jefferson County, and the community character and way of life they are part of, can be sustained into the future.