50 more acres at Big Beef Creek to protect

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Fifty additional acres of land along Big Beef Creek have been secured by the Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group for conservation purposes, the latest part of a 302-acre effort to restore critical salmon habitat in the Hood Canal watershed.

The land, if not secured for conservation, would likely fall into the hands of developers, according to the Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group (HCSEG). The land belonged for years to the University of Washington for research purposes.

Forterra helped the conservation group secure the land by securing a loan from the Russell Family Foundation. Forterra is a land trust that works throughout Washington State. It took four years to secure the land, according to a press release. In 2017, the Salmon Enhancement Group and the University of Washington approached Forterra, seeking help securing the site until HCSEG could secure a grant to conserve it permanently.

“We are at an urgent time for salmon, for killer whales, for our communities. To maintain the bounty of Puget Sound, we must all strive to make the most of natural places, like the spectacular Big Beef Creek Estuary,” said Michelle Connor, President and CEO of Forterra. “We are fortunate to have far-sighted donors and guarantors who have enabled us to make an essential contribution to our region’s resilience in the face of climate change.”

HCSEG said it had an opportunity to gain more land along Big Beef, with its estuary, tides and creek bordered by upland forest. This will benefit endangered salmon species, as well as other wildlife that live in the area, said Mendy Harlow, executive director of the Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group. The land and water are in excellent health, according to the press release, and under the care of the HCSEG, the habitat will continue to thrive, supporting migrating bald eagles and orcas who feast on spawning salmon. .

The Big Beef Creek wetlands provide habitat for many different creatures.  New lands added to the protected area will help continue this mission, says the Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group.

Harlow said the intensively monitored watershed in Hood Canal has undergone data collection and restoration work based on the data collected. The area has a diverse landscape, she said, attracting bears, otters, beavers and a plethora of fish and birds. She said the 50 acres is a huge acquisition and the result of the cooperation of many partners. The University of Washington receives fair market value for acquiring the land.

In September, HCSEG obtained an additional 5 acres of private land to add to the conservation area, but in the final weeks of 2021, HCSEG received a grant from the State Office of Recreation and Conservation to repay purchase of Forterra to complete the land transfer.

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