Submitted by Nisqually Land Trust

In a historic conservation purchase on the flanks of Mount Rainier, the Nisqually Indian Tribe and the Nisqually Land Trust have partnered to permanently protect 2,200 acres and over three miles of critical salmon habitat along Busy Wild Creek, which forms the headwaters of the Mashel River, the main tributary to the Nisqually River.

Nisqually Land Trust purchased land 2021
The Nisqually Indian Tribe and the Nisqually Land Trust have purchased this 2,200-acre property at the headwaters of Busy Wild Creek, near Ashford. The purchase protects threatened Chinook salmon and steelhead trout and doubles the size of the Nisqually Community Forest. Photo courtesy: Nisqually Land Trust

In simultaneous transactions totaling $9.6 million, the Nisqually Tribe purchased 1,240 acres and the Land Trust acquired 960 adjoining acres. In turn, both properties adjoin the Nisqually Community Forest and will be incorporated into its management plan, effectively doubling its size.

Busy Wild Creek provides a critical lifeline for threatened Nisqually Chinook salmon and steelhead trout, both of which are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and hover on extinction. The Nisqually Chinook Recovery and Steelhead Recovery plans rank the Mashel and the Busy Wild as highest priorities for permanent protection.

For the Land Trust, the transaction is the largest in its 32-year history. For the Nisqually Tribe, the property represents its first acquisition of industrial timberlands. “It’s really a repatriation of lands historically used by the Nisqually people,” said David Troutt, director of the Tribe’s Natural Resources Department. “And we see this as just a beginning.”

“The Nisqually Tribe has always been our primary partner,” said Land Trust Executive Director Jeanette Dorner. “But this project brings that partnership to a new level, and one that we couldn’t be more proud of.”

Funding for the project came through three innovative new Washington State conservation programs.

The Nisqually Tribe purchased its part of the property with a long-term low-interest loan through the Department of Ecology’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund, which the state recently revised to allow for land acquisition. The Tribe and the Land Trust also won a joint grant from the Recreation and Conservation Office’s new Community Forest program, recently created by the State Legislature.

The Land Trust further financed its purchase by winning one of the first grants awarded under the state’s new Streamflow Restoration program, also administered by the Department of Ecology.

Former Land Trust Executive Director Joe Kane, now general manager of the Nisqually Community Forest, coordinated the project.

“Steelhead have taught us that we have to think big,” he said. “They need big landscapes. They go high and they go far. They’re telling us that we have to be creative.”

The project also provides a permanent home for a popular portion of the Mount Tahoma Trails Association’s hut-to-hut cross-country ski trail. “That trail is used by over five thousand people every year,” Kane said. “It provides high-quality public recreation and it’s a local economic driver.

“And we’re also proud that as we’ve managed the forest to improve its habitat values, we’ve used local logging crews and sent every log to local mills,” Kane said. “Supporting local jobs is essential to keeping the ‘community’ in ‘Community Forest.’”

For more information, please contact Nisqually Land Trust Special Projects Manager Joe Kane at 360.584.7386 or jkane@nisquallylandtrust.org.

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