Sarah Spaeth introduces newly protected property along Snow Creek. Its acquisition led to the creation of Snow Creek Forest Preserve.
Given that the Land Trust has helped to protect more than 17,000 acres in Jefferson County, protecting 10 acres may not sound all that exciting. However, when it’s the right 10 acres, it’s thrilling for us.
“I’m very excited about this recent acquisition,” said Sarah Spaeth, Director of Conservation and Strategic Partnerships for the Land Trust. “Ever since we protected Snow Creek Wetlands Preserve in 2018, this 10-acre stretch has been a very high priority for us.”
View of portion of the forest on newly protected property along Snow Creek.
That’s because the multiple parcels that make up the 10 acres sit directly between two existing Land Trust preserves — Upper Snow Creek Forest Preserve (73 acres, protected in 2015) and Snow Creek Wetlands Preserve (20 acres).
The 10-acre acquisition was made possible by grant funding from the Salmon Recovery Funding Board and the Jefferson County Conservation Futures program. And by a patient landowner who allowed us enough time to apply for and receive the necessary grant funding to purchase the land.
Snow Creek wanders and weaves down from the foothills of the Olympic Mountains into the Snow and Salmon Creek Estuary at the head of Discovery Bay. The estuary and the creeks that feed it have long been a refuge for the vulnerable Hood Canal summer chum salmon. The area also provides excellent habitat for coho, steelhead, and cutthroat trout. Because of this, the area has been a focus for conservation projects by the Land Trust and other partners over the last few decades.
View of Snow Creek as it runs through the Snow Creek Forest Preserve.
Land Trust Preserve Manager Carrie Clendaniel is thrilled that the land has been protected forever. And forever is exactly what she’s thinking about now. At the Land Trust, we often compare protecting land to the birth of a child. In both cases, getting there takes a lot of time and effort and everybody celebrates. But after the celebration is when the real work — the lifetime of parenting — begins.
As a first step, Carrie has combined all of the protected properties into the newly established, 103-acre Snow Creek Forest Preserve. From a management perspective, Carrie appreciates the advantages she and our volunteers will have in caring for one large preserve rather than three smaller, separate ones. However, it’s the benefits for plants and wildlife that are particularly exciting for her.
“Expanding a preserve is often a goal for us. That’s because, generally, the larger a preserve is, the more beneficial it is for nature,” explained Carrie. “By connecting these vital areas on Snow Creek, we’re now able to increase wildlife habitat and offer critters more shelter and room to move.”
A nurse log helps another tree to grow in the forest of newly protected property that led to the creation of Snow Creek Forest Preserve.
Snow Creek Forest Preserve consists of a variety of natural areas, most of them forested. These include steep, upland forests; recovering forests along Snow Creek; forested wetlands; and smaller streams that feed Snow Creek. It’s a unique, fragile preserve that is home to young coho salmon, in-stream macroinvertebrates, bald eagles, pileated woodpecker, and other wildlife.
All of these factors, combined with the area’s natural wetlands, rule out general public access. However, regular care and maintenance with our partners will be essential for the continued improvement of the preserve.
Our partners at North Olympic Salmon Coalition will soon join us in the next stage of restoration work. We’ll focus on a portion of the new 10 acres that is close to the creekside planting we did together in 2017. This project works toward two of our long-term goals for this special place. Together, we’ll help the property’s forested areas become more diverse over time, providing the balance necessary for the forest to thrive and better support local wildlife.
Additionally, we’ll work to improve the preserve’s waterways and wetlands for the many fish species they support, as well as the plants and animals that depend upon them. Healthy, resilient streams and wetlands capture, hold, and filter water; figuring out how to protect them is especially important in light of anticipated changes in precipitation patterns brought about by climate change.
Looking at the goals and plans for the preserve, Carrie is excited. “It’s a wonderful preserve with beautiful wetlands and forested areas that provide food and shelter to some amazing fish and wildlife. It will be fun to see it improve over time with our care and attention.”
Stay tuned. We’ll be sure to share information about the exciting work ahead and the exciting results, as the future of Snow Creek Forest Preserve unfolds.
Land Trust Project Evaluation Team gives a big thumbs up after a 2018 evaluation visit to the property before deciding to protect it.