Going all out to protect Chimacum Ridge

By Leader Staff
Posted 7/28/15

The largest conservation effort in Jefferson Land Trust’s history – in terms of both acreage and dollars – is centered on Chimacum Ridge.

The proposed protection of 850 acres on this …

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Going all out to protect Chimacum Ridge

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The largest conservation effort in Jefferson Land Trust’s history – in terms of both acreage and dollars – is centered on Chimacum Ridge.

The proposed protection of 850 acres on this ridge, which separates Beaver and Center valleys just outside Chimacum, as a "community forest" would be made possible through a unique collaboration, and would support prior and ongoing efforts throughout the Chimacum Creek watershed.

It's not a done deal. Jefferson Land Trust (JLT) now has five years to finalize a plan to raise the money and other support to buy the land; a ballpark estimate for the conservation effort starts at $7 million.

JLT's goal is to manage Chimacum Ridge as a community forest, with recreational trails, a standing mature forest retained through sustainable harvest techniques while bringing in timber revenue, and forests that provide wildlife habitat and contribute to clean air and water quality.

"It's integral to the health of the watershed," Erik Kingfisher, JLT’s stewardship director, told the Leader. "There is an integrated landscape vision we are cultivating. If we can protect Chimacum Ridge, then all those big pieces start to come together, and we get a real, lasting sustainable landscape."

MAJOR GOAL

In a process facilitated by The Trust for Public Land, Ecotrust Forest Management acquired the Chimacum Ridge property and is holding the land as a bridge owner for five years, allowing JLT time to determine the takeout plan and final property ownership structure.

Richard Tucker, JLT’s new executive director, said the long-term financing plan includes "a combination of grants and community funding." One step is applying for those grants and funding within the 2016 budget cycle of the new state Community Forest Trust program.

TIMBER HARVEST

Chimacum Ridge has been managed for timber production for decades, and has been owned by the Rayonier timber company since 2006. Rayonier, which had other opportunities to sell the land, has been supportive of a process that allows conservation.

“We are proud to partner with Jefferson Land Trust, The Trust for Public Land and Ecotrust Forest Management to conserve this iconic ridge overlooking the Chimacum Valley,” David Nunes, president and CEO of Rayonier, said in a press release. “I also want to thank our foresters for their hard work and dedicated stewardship of this special property over the past decade. Conserving Chimacum Ridge as a working forest is an important reminder of the long-term viability of the forest-products industry and the role it plays in the economy and lifestyle of this region.”

Ecotrust stated that it values its role as the parcel’s interim owner.

"We are excited to be working together with partners to create a model of community forestry that generates high-quality timber for local and regional uses, creates job and entrepreneurial opportunities, provides recreation and scenic beauty, and enhances habitat for fish and wildlife,” said Bettina von Hagen, CEO of Ecotrust, in a press release.

WORKING FORESTS

Privately owned working forests, managed for timber production, comprise more than 200,000 acres in Jefferson County. The JLT Conservation Plan, published in 2010, has identified conservation of large tracts of working forest, including Chimacum Ridge, as a priority and has noted that the conversion of working forests into rural, sprawl-type development is the principal threat to a viable working-forest economy.

“Chimacum Ridge borders a bustling rural center that is growing and changing, and as a community, we have opportunities to influence what direction change will take. Chimacum’s vibrant local farm and food renaissance is a testament to this,” said Sarah Spaeth, JLT’s director of conservation and strategic partnerships.

“What about a local wood movement, akin to the local food movement that has garnered such support and had such great effects on our rural communities? What about the idea of locally operated mills selling to a local market? Working forests are an essential part of our landscape, culture and economy. Local wood can be as powerful as local food," Spaeth said in a press release.

CHIMACUM CREEK

Chimacum Ridge is directly connected to other conservation efforts in the area. The property filters water to 19 tributaries that feed salmon streams, including both branches of Chimacum Creek, a local focus of extensive salmon habitat restoration in which the JLT has played an active role. The land also is adjacent to a number of JLT’s working farm and forest protection projects, representing nearly 2,000 contiguous acres of preserved working farms, forests and salmon streams.

"Our mission is land for people, and this is an excellent example of that; it will make a remarkable and productive community forest," said Richard Corff, project manager for The Trust for Public Land. "This success is because of a terrific partnership involving us, Jefferson Land Trust, Ecotrust Forest Management and Rayonier Timber Resources."

“It’s been a long time in the making, and we’re not done with the work yet,” said Spaeth. “But it’s so gratifying to know that in the long run, we will always see Chimacum Ridge stay a forest. Especially at night, I think of the ridge as sleeping giant – this great, massive behemoth that anchors the Chimacum valleys. It inspires me to think long into the future: At night, the giant will remain dark. We won’t ever see lights along that ridge top, and we’ll know it will forever remain forested and dark.”

LEARN MORE

Jefferson Land Trust is an accredited land trust, a private 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Since its incorporation in 1989, Jefferson Land Trust has helped the community permanently protect more than 12,000 acres. It works to recover salmon streams, sustain vast working forests and farms, and protect ancient habitats and urban open space.

Ecotrust Forest Management (EFM) is a forestland investment management company with 30,000 acres under management in Oregon and Washington through two private equity funds. Its strategy is to acquire ecologically and socially significant forests and to manage them for long-term value, and for the full array of products and services produced by forests. It acquires properties on behalf of investors both for long-term ownership and for transition to permanent conservation-oriented owners, such as land trusts, tribes, municipalities, state and federal agencies, and private entities. EFM is a FSC-certified forestland manager (fsc.org), a “Best for the World” B Corporation (bcorporation.net) and an ImpactAssets top 50 fund manager (impactassets.org).

Rayonier is a leading timberland real estate investment trust that owns, leases or manages about 2.7 million acres of timberlands located in the southern and Pacific Northwest regions of the U.S., and in New Zealand. To date, Rayonier has joined with conservation experts in ensuring that more than 200,000 acres of forestland remain in conservation for future generations. Learn more at rayonier.com.

The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit organization. Its mission is to create parks and protect land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come.

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