News & Events

Tarboo Forest Protected; 238-Acre Forestland Conservation Effort

Author: Jefferson Land Trust | 09/04/14

Carl’s Forest

Carl’s Forest conservation easement was one part of the multi-phase Tarboo Forest protection effort.

Eighty acres of mature forest in the Tarboo valley was permanently preserved in August 2014 through a project collaboration between Northwest Watershed Institute (NWI) and Jefferson Land Trust. The project marks the successful culmination of a larger forest conservation effort, totalling 238 acres, that began in partnership with Leopold Freeman LLC six years ago and represents one of the largest conservation easement projects completed to date in East Jefferson County.

The forest is intended to serve as model for alternative forestry methods. “We are looking to demonstrate that it is possible to restore old growth forest habitat conditions, while also providing some jobs and high quality forest resources – kind of a middle ground between industrial clear-cuts and “no touch” protection” said Peter Bahls, NWI executive director. The forestry plan for the property was developed by Kirk Hansen, forester for Northwest Natural Resources Group. The forest is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, which upholds rigorous standards for sustainable forestry.

The conservation easement protects the forest’s standing volume of timber as of a 2011 timber cruise by Cronin Forestry, but allows selective harvest of some of the additional growth since then above that base level. “In banking terms, we are protecting the principle and allowing it continue to grow, while harvesting some of the interest” said Bahls. “The result, we hope, will be better and better habitat and higher quality timber over time”.

The conservation effort also represented a practical way for people to offset their carbon emissions locally and take a small step to combat global warming. According to a carbon assessment done by NWNRG, the protected forest is storing at least 37 metric tons of carbon per acre. “This level of carbon protected on the forest as a whole is equivalent to the annual CO2 output of over 2,000 passenger vehicles”, said Bahls. “In effect, every protected acre offsets about 7 years of an average American’s carbon emissions”.

With help from private conservation lenders, including the Wildlife Forever Fund and local residents, NWI purchased a 78-acre forest parcel in 2011. The previous owner was planning to clearcut and then sell the land for development, according to Peter Bahls, director of NWI, but sold NWI the property with trees intact, splitting the purchase of about 200 acres with Leopold Freeman LLC. In the spring of 2014, NWI purchased an adjoining two acre tract that was threatened by development, for a total NWI ownership of 80 acres.

In combination with funding from Jefferson County’s Conservation Futures Program, more than 100 private donors and several foundations, including the Mountaineers Foundation and Wildlife Forever Fund contributed to repay the conservation purchase loans and to fund a conservation easement held by Jefferson land Trust to ensure the land is protected into the future.

Another key partner in the effort was the Leopold-Freeman LLC. As a matching contribution to Jefferson County’s grant, the forestry company donated a conservation easement to Jefferson Land Trust that permanently safeguarded their adjoining 158 acres for wildlife habitat and sustainable forestry.

The LLC forestland, know as “Carl’s Forest”, is owned by the Scott and Susan Freeman family, who named the tract in honor of Susan’s father, Carl Leopold—a son of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold—who had an abiding love for forests and conservation work. The Freeman family began working with NWI and the Land Trust a decade ago to restore Tarboo Creek where it flows through their property.

The 238-acres of forest includes seven tributaries to Tarboo Creek – the main freshwater source of Tarboo-Dabob Bay, two miles downstream. “Conserving forestland is key to protecting the water quality for wild coho and chum salmon in Tarboo Creek, as well as the productive oyster and clam beds of Tarboo-Dabob Bay”, said Judith Rubin, Stewardship Director for NWI.

To date, more than 500 acres along Tarboo Creek and more than 2,000 acres within the Dabob Bay Natural Area have been protected by a large coalition of conservation organizations, landowners and public agencies.