Nature Conservancy buys Clearwater River frontage
The Nature Conservancy bought 3,088 acres along the Olympic Peninsula's Clearwater River on Wednesday from Florida-based timber company Rayonier, and plans to replant trees and work to restore the watershed.
Seattle Times environment reporter
It tumbles from the very edge of Olympic National Park, one of the last rivers in Washington whose runs of chinook, coho and steelhead aren't listed as threatened or endangered.
And the Nature Conservancy just spent $6.98 million to try and keep it that way.
The conservancy bought 3,088 acres along the peninsula's Clearwater River on Wednesday from Florida-based timber company Rayonier. The conservancy plans to replant trees and work to restore the watershed, much as it has tried to do along a 7,300-acre stretch of Ellsworth Creek near the Willapa Hills.
Rayonier owns 2.4 million acres in the United States and New Zealand and has owned these parcels along the Clearwater since the 1940s.
"When you're looking at the future of salmon, the Washington coast pops up as hugely important," said Robin Stanton, with the conservancy. "The river's salmon numbers are way down from historic highs, but the species are at least still there."
The Clearwater cuts through state and private land in Jefferson County before it spills into the Queets River and the Pacific Ocean at the northwest tip of the Quinault Indian reservation. The once-thick coastal forests have largely been clear-cut through the years, and the land is crisscrossed with logging roads.
Unlike the Hoh and other larger peninsula rivers, the Clearwater isn't fed by glaciers, which makes it susceptible to drought during the long, hot late summer season. Trees offer shade that helps keep waters cold enough for fish.
Still, this region still remains largely free from development.
"That system has been logged extensively, then given a chance to recover, then logged again," said Mike Gross, a district fish biologist with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. "But you don't have a lot of people, just a few small private residences here and there. In that sense, it's all still quite wild."
Rayonier spokeswoman Robin Keegan said the company had been working with the conservancy for several years on the transaction.
"Part of our business involves regularly looking at and evaluating our lands to see if they have other attributes that make them valuable," Keegan said. "Then we work with appropriate conservation partners to conserve them."
The Nature Conservancy bought 11 miles of river frontage on both sides of the water. It hopes to do for the Clearwater what it's been doing on Ellsworth Creek.
There, along with hemlocks, spruce and 800-year-old cedars as thick as cars, the conservancy is planting other species to restore diversity to the forest, providing habitat for wildlife and seabirds.
Craig Welch: 206-464-2093 or email@example.com
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