Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group adds 50 acres to protected estuary land at Big Beef Creek

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Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group has secured the final 50 acres to protect the area.
Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group has secured the final 50 acres to protect the area.

Fifty more acres of land along Big Beef Creek has been secured by the Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group for conservation purposes, the final piece of a 302-acre restoration effort of 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 was owned for years by the University of Washington for research purposes.

Forterra helped the conservation group secure the land by getting a loan from the Russell Family Foundation. Forterra is a land trust that works across Washington state. It has been a four-year process to secure the piece of land, according to a press release. In 2017, the salmon enhancement group and the University of Washington approached Forterra, seeking assistance to secure the site until HCSEG could gain grant funding to permanently conserve it.

“We are at an urgent moment for salmon, for orcas, for our communities. Sustaining the bounty of Puget Sound requires us all to stretch to make the most of natural places, like the spectacular estuary at Big Beef Creek,” said Michelle Connor, Forterra president and CEO. “We are fortunate to have farsighted donors and guarantors who enabled us to make a critical contribution to our region’s resilience in a changing climate.”

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

Wetlands at Big Beef Creek provide a habitat to many different creatures. New land added to the protected area will further this mission, says Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group.
Wetlands at Big Beef Creek provide a habitat to many different creatures. New land added to the protected area will further this mission, says Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group.

Harlow said the intensively monitored watershed in Hood Canal has had data collection and restoration work based off the collected data. 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 cooperation by many partners. The University of Washington is receiving fair-market value for the land acquisition.

In September, HCSEG secured another 5 acres of private land to add to the conservation area, but in the final weeks of 2021 HCSEG received a state Recreation and Conservation Office grant to reimburse Forterra’s purchase to complete the land transfer.

This article originally appeared on Kitsap Sun: 50 more acres at Big Beef Creek to be protected

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