OLYMPIA – OLYMPIA – The Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office has given its Bravo Award to the Nisqually Land Trust for its visionary project to protect the shoreline and salmon habitat on the Mashel River in Eatonville.
The land trust’s project was the top ranked project in the riparian protection category of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program.
“This project is a great example of what the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program aims to accomplish,” said Kaleen Cottingham, director of the Recreation and Conservation Office, which administers the statewide grant program. “Using this grant for $1.1 million along with $2.8 million in local, tribal and other funding, the Nisqually Land Trust plans to conserve important shoreline property forever. This project proposes to acquire property that connects two substantial blocks of Mashel River shoreline already protected, creating nearly
6 miles of protected river corridor.”
With this grant, the Nisqually Land Trust proposes to buy more than 1,000 acres, including 3.1 miles of the Mashel River, 6.2 miles of feeder streams, 884 acres of shoreline, and 128 acres of the surrounding forest near Eatonville.
The Mashel River is the largest tributary to the Nisqually River and the salmon recovery plan for the area calls out these sections of the Mashel River as the highest priority for protection. The river is used by Chinook salmon and steelhead trout, both of which are listed as threatened with extinction under the federal Endangered Species Act.
The land has steep, unstable slopes and is part of a larger industrial forest. Buying the land would prevent further habitat degradation from logging and development and would buffer protected habitat for northern spotted owls and marbled murrelets, both of which also are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
The purchase also would help recreation by providing room for expansion of the Mashel Greenbelt Trail and by protecting a key section of the popular Mount Tahoma Trails cross-country ski trail.
The Legislature created the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program in 1990 to conserve land before it was developed, and provide more places for outdoor recreation. The Legislature recognized that the state’s growing population would need more places for outdoor recreation and wildlife and it would be more economical to buy the land early. Today, the program is the largest state funding source for development of local parks and trails and the conservation of working farms and ranches.
The competition for grant funding is high, with projects rated by citizens and professionals on many factors, such as threats to the habitat, project support, public access opportunities and ongoing stewardship of the land.
“Only the best of the best projects get funded,” Cottingham said. “The Nisqually Land Trust has consistently brought forth outstanding projects. The land trust has been awarded 30 grants since 1997, totaling nearly $8 million, all for salmon recovery work.
Cottingham presented the award Sunday to the land trust at is annual volunteer recognition meeting in Olympia.
More information about the grant, as well as pictures, are available online at Mashel River Shoreline Protection.