Jefferson Land Trust seeks to expand protected properties in Jefferson County

Two grant applications submitted to state wildlife fund

Brennan LaBrie blabrie@ptleader.com
Posted 8/18/20

Jefferson Land Trust submitted two grant applications for state funding last week with the hope to preserve swaths of forested and farmed areas in Port Townsend and Jefferson County.

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

E-mail
Password
Log in

Jefferson Land Trust seeks to expand protected properties in Jefferson County

Two grant applications submitted to state wildlife fund

Posted

Jefferson Land Trust submitted two grant applications for state funding last week with the hope to preserve swaths of forested and farmed areas in Port Townsend and Jefferson County.

The applications were sent to the Recreation and Conservation Office’s Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program, which provides public matching funds for outdoor and community projects such as preserving wildlife habitats and farmlands.

QUIMPER WILDLIFE CORRIDOR

The first grant application seeks funds to acquire numerous properties in the Quimper Wildlife Corridor, a greenbelt of native vegetation that stretches along the top of Quimper Peninsula, from McCurdy Point to Fort Worden State Park.

Much of the corridor is made up of a forested area known to locals as Cappy’s Trails due to its extensive network of narrow trails.

Preserving the Quimper Wildlife Corridor was the Jefferson Land Trust’s first project, said Sarah Spaeth, the organization’s director of conservation and strategic partnerships.

Ever since 1996, the nonprofit has bought parcels of land within the corridor, whose cover ranges from dense forest to wetlands and lakes, in order to preserve them for wildlife transit and human recreation.

This has been a slow and arduous process, Spaeth said, as most of the land in the corridor was divided up into small lots in the late 1800s, and thus there are many landowners to work with.

Because of this, the land trust has had to prioritize, focusing their efforts on preserving trail corridor buffers, or the sections of the corridor that line the public trails and wet habitat areas.

“We really try to focus on properties that are linking previously protected lands and are providing those buffers to trails,” she said, stressing the importance of connecting preserved properties to maintain the corridor. As development interrupts the natural migration patterns and movements of many animals both on land and in the air, connected corridors of preserved land become essential in the survival of these species.

Spaeth said that the corridor’s diverse array of habitats, which includes mature forests, wetlands, lakes, and a bluff habitat, support a “surprisingly large number” of animal species. This includes more than
130 species of birds, around 10 reptile/amphibian species, and a host of mammals from shrews and beavers to bobcats and coyotes. In recent years, an elk and a bear were spotted roaming around in the forest. The corridor provides a habitat for numerous species of endangered flora and fauna, and also serves as the city’s largest drainage basin for stormwater and a major source for groundwater recharge.

Development is encroaching on the corridor from all sides, Spaeth said, including the Bell Street and Lynnesfield planned unit developments, which could impact the integrity of the corridor. Luckily, she added, many of the small plots in the corridor’s interior are far too costly and inconvenient for any one person to develop on.

Because the grants from the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program are matching grants, Jefferson Land Trust has had to procure funding from various local sources, both public and private.

This hasn’t been a problem, Spaeth said.

“It’s really been an amazing community effort,” she said.

Working in close partnership with Jefferson County, the city of Port Townsend, community members, landowners, and private and government funding sources, the land trust has facilitated 50 land transactions and helped preserve around 245 acres of protected land, Spaeth said. This time around, the organization has 40 willing sellers if they can secure the funding to buy. 

“We hope that if we get the funding we’ll be able to move forward and make this big push in the project and protect another 50 acres of great habitat and recreation land,” Spaeth said.

Jefferson Land Trust representatives gave a presentation of their grant application to the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program’s Urban Wildlife Habitat grant program and made modifications based on feedback from that session. Applications are submitted in even years, and grants accepted or declined in odd years, the amounts dependent on the funding received from the Washington State Legislature.

“It all boils down to the funding next year,” Spaeth said. “We might rank well but we won’t know how much the program will be allocated until next June.”

This is the land trust’s first year submitting a grant application to the Recreation and Conservation Office, as regulations in the past have barred land trusts from doing so, and the nonprofit has therefore had to assist in the city’s sponsorship of such grant applications.

NATEMBEA FARM PROPERTY

The second grant application seeks to protect Natembea Farm from development. Natembea Farms is a 97-acre property on the outskirts of Port Townsend that includes farmland, pastures, forests and wetlands. It was purchased in 2016 from the Swanson family by Devon and David Pablo Cohn, who had a mission to “preserve the land for community benefit in a way that honors its history as a family farm.”

The Cohns, with guidance from the WSU Farm Extension, land trust, Local 20/20 and other organizations, decided to lease the land to “the next generation of young farmers,” as Cohn put it.

He and Devon provide the land and physical resources for the farmers to start their own farming business, and in return they help maintain and restore the Cohns’ farm.

The farm is operated on a “collaborative decision process” in which each partner is part of the decision-making process for projects and spending.

“Young farmers can no longer afford to live here, let alone lease or purchase land on which to farm,” Cohn said. “Providing them with land and opportunities not only preserves the historical agricultural community on the peninsula, it enhances food security and overall resilience.”

“We now have goats (Vadopalas), cows (One Straw Ranch), fruit and nut trees (Heartwood Nursery), cut flowers (Sweet Seed), and fresh vegetables (Hopscotch Farms and Soft Step Farm) farming here and helping run the farm as a whole,” he said.

The Cohns approached the land trust hoping to ensure that this community of farmers could continue to exist far into the future. If accepted, the state grant would purchase a conservation easement that would limit development rights and only permit agricultural usage of the land.

“We’re trying to plan using a 150-year horizon,” Cohn said. “This means everything has to be built to last: infrastructure, legal arrangements, governing processes — everything. We knew from the start that securing the land as open space with a conservation easement  was a vital piece of that 150 year and beyond planning.”

As for the Quimper Wildlife Corridor grant application, the funding request to the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program Farmland Preservation Advisory Committee was submitted last week and the land trust will learn of a decision next spring.

Comments

No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here