WILLAPA BAY Forterra, the largest conservation and community building organization in Washington state, on Sept. 27 purchased 120 acres of high-quality estuarine, riparian and forest land near Willapa Bay for permanent conservation.
Ownership of the land was transferred to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) for long-term management and stewardship.
The property is on Smith Creek, a tributary of the Naselle River close to the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge. Smith Creek is a salmon spawning stream and priority habitat for Roosevelt elk.
The successful conservation of the Smith Creek property is a major victory for Pacific County environment and community, said Mark Johnsen, Forterra Estuary Program director. It expands on the tens of thousands of acres of land permanently conserved in the Willapa watershed, furthering benefits for wildlife and the ecosystem.
Since 2010, Forterra has conserved over 400 acres of land in the south Willapa Bay area. The nearby Willapa National Wildlife Refuge contains 11,000 acres of federal protected wildlife habitat, home to elk, bear, many bird species, salmon and more. Contiguous land conservation amplifies the beneficial impacts on the environment and wildlife.
Willapa Bay is one of the highest-quality estuaries in the entire country. Conservation projects such as this one greatly benefit the entire ecosystem, the animals who live in it and the people who come to enjoy the natural world around it, said Kyle Guzlas, WDFW Wildlife Area manager.
In addition, Willapa Bay is home to the largest commercial shellfish beds in Washington and is one of the five most productive areas in the world for oyster cultivation. Protecting Smith Creeks riparian habitat and upland forest helps keep the Willapa Bay ecosystem clean, which helps protect these valuable commercial shellfish operations, in turn.
To date, Forterra has protected over 8,000 acres of estuarine properties on Washingtons coast and bays. More at www.forterra.org.