Jefferson Land Trust has protected another section of Snow Creek in the Discovery Bay watershed as part of a long-term project that is bringing back salmon and other aquatic species to the area as the natural environment is restored. The Salmon and Snow Creek waterways flow into the estuary at the head of the bay, forming a critical habitat for successful spawning and nurturing of salmon.
The recent acquisition covers over 15 acres and includes a meandering 1400 feet of Snow Creek, prime spawning habitat for the threatened summer chum salmon. Two of the Land Trusts’ Chumsortium partners, the State Salmon Recovery Funding Board and the County Conservation Futures Fund, provided funding to purchase the land.
The Chumsortium has focused on protecting and restoring the Discovery Bay area since 2000. Over 360 acres of critical habitat downstream of the Snow Creek Uncas Preserve have already been permanently protected and are under the stewardship of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Jefferson Land Trust.
“This property is already healthy riparian habitat, with the creek following its natural path, and a good amount of native vegetation,” says Erik Kingfisher, Jefferson Land Trust. Stewardship Director. “Now we can protect it and assure it will remain a healthy part of the Salmon/Snow Creek watershed in perpetuity.”
While much of the land in the new acquisition is in good shape, with mature maple trees and conifers, some sections are not as healthy. In the coming months, the Land Trust will remove invasive species and plant cedar, spruce and other conifers. “We want to provide shade and plants so that the whole property will replicate an old growth forest with tall long-lasting trees, and a good understory. Then, the whole property will be a nurturing and vibrant habitat as it goes through its natural changes,” said Erik.
The North Olympic Salmon Coalition and Washington Conservation Corps will work with the Land Trust to do the planting. Erik plans to include school groups to participate in the work as well.
The new property provides a strong link to the whole system of waterways that begin in the Olympic Mountains and flow into Discovery Bay. The primary conservation emphasis is on the riparian habitat, and the many species of fish it supports, especially salmon. But maintaining healthy waterways means the native forest habitat along it will thrive as well. Mammals, reptiles, amphibians, shellfish, birds and native vegetation will benefit from the viable natural habitat provided by healthy waterways and estuary.
An added benefit to protecting this parcel in its native state is that it is visible from Hwy 101, at the head of Discovery Bay. In this area a great amount of restoration work has taken place, and the public can see the benefits of returning such an area to its natural state.
Other fish that propagate Snow Creek include Coho salmon, cutthroat and steelhead trout. As the creek empties into Discovery Bay, it enhances the estuary’s native Olympia oyster population as well as white sturgeon, lampreys, herring, Chinook salmon and other fish that forage there.
“The work here is paying off,” says Erik. “ The salmon numbers are going up.”