This winter, we had additional success for the future of wildlife along the Duckabush River with the protection of a 22-acre property, now officially known as Duckabush Wetlands Preserve. Located less than 800 feet away from the Duckabush Oxbow Preserve, which we protected in 2010, this land on the north bank of the Duckabush River has about 650′ of shoreline, a grassy open area of about 2 acres, and a forested wetland.
The Duckabush is rich habitat for many species. Its waters are a haven for spawning salmonids–chinook, cutthroat, coho, pink salmon, and federally-endangered summer chum and steelhead. Harlequin ducks breed here. Elk, bear, and beaver are resident–along with many other species. Spotted owl occur in the area too. Riparian habitat corridors like this one are important to wildlife. As a link in the corridor between the Hood Canal and the Olympic National Park and National Forest, this river allows animals to move through contiguous forest cover, water and floodplains—especially important for resiliency of wildlife populations in the face of climate change.
Over the last three years, Duckabush Oxbow Preserve has been a wonderful educational site for school groups, the Northwest Naturalist Program, and wildlife tracking workshops. After major restoration, in partnership with Jefferson County, to further improve the wildlife habitat at Duckabush Wetlands is completed, it will be available for outdoor education, too. And we are working to complete the protection of another 15 acres on the Duckabush by this summer.
Conservation on the Duckabush has been a collaborative effort since regional groups strategized collectively in this area. Jefferson County received a Salmon Recovery Funding Board grant for the purchase and restoration of the Duckabush Wetlands property, with Jefferson Land Trust taking long-term ownership and management of the preserve. The Wild Fish Conservancy has drafted a restoration plan for this stretch of the Duckabush, and this project area fits Jefferson Land Trust’s Conservation Plan-identified priority areas of rivers, natural ecosystems, wildlife corridors, and shorelines. Protection and restoration of this river is a priority for Hood Canal Coordinating Council, Jefferson County, and Wild Fish Conservancy, among others. It has been identified by The Nature Conservancy as both Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecosystem Ecoregional Portfolio Site, and by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife as Priority Habitat.
And the work to protect this rich habitat is really gaining momentum now. Even greater conservation partnerships rooted in the Duckabush forest and floodplain are growing, and promise continued opportunity for preserving the life of this wild river.