SILVERDALE, Wash. – The Navy and its partners have set aside 3,310 acres for conservation use in the Chimacum Valley of Western Washington State in the past year. The partners including Trust for Public Land (TPL), Jefferson Land Trust (JLT) and the Navy have set aside the acreage for conservation, environmental and public recreation use.
The Navy used the Defense Department’s Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) program to help conserve the acreage. “We have figured out how to make this work in the Pacific Northwest,” said Richard Corff, TPL project manager. “The Navy works with the local community to make this program the national success it has become.”
Lands conserved run along the east side of the Puget Sound from the Hood Canal Bridge north and west to Naval Magazine Indian Island, including the following locations:
- Mats Mats One: 817 acres
- Mats Mats Two: 1,485 acres
- Yarr Farm: 154 acres
- Chimacum Ridge: 854 acres
The Navy paid a land easement fee of $4.92 million.
Lynn Wall, Naval Base Kitsap, Community Planning Liaison Officer, said the Navy’s primary focus is to protect its installations and operating areas from activities that could inhibit the mission.
“We work with our partners to identify areas with common interest and protect working forest, agricultural lands and high-value habitat,” said Wall, whose areas of operation include both Kitsap and Jefferson counties. “In the Chimacum Valley, our partnership supports agricultural lands and helps further and develop agribusiness, while protecting the watershed and the Navy mission.”
Corff said the Hood Canal REPI program sets the national standard because of the teamwork and collaboration of the involved agencies. “This is probably the most successful REPI program in the nation. This is a model program throughout the (Department of Defense),” Corff said.
Conservation provides advantages for the surrounding communities by protecting open space, habitat, and recreation areas that might otherwise be lost to development, explained Sara Spaeth, Jefferson Land Trust.
“It was critical for us to have the opportunity to restore Chimacum,” said Spaeth, JLT’s Director of Conservation and Strategic Partnerships. “Jefferson Land Trust was always very interested in keeping Yarr Farm a working farm. We worked with the Trust for Public Land to make this happen.”
The previous owners of Yarr Farm, Merrill & Ring, had planned to develop the property into mini ranches, or “ranchettes.” Working with Jefferson Land Trust and Jefferson Land Works Collaborative, a farming family was found willing to work the Yarr Farm with a conservation easement which ensures the property remains whole and undivided. The new owners want to build an organic farm and restore Chimacum Creek which runs through the property. It is hoped the restored creek will increase the salmon’s annual run.
Another example is the Mats Mats purchases from Pope Resources, a land and timber company out of Poulsbo, Wash., which includes a working forest easement allowing continued, non-motorized public access, explained Corff. “We’re talking mostly mountain bikes, hiking, and bird watching,” Corff said. “Pope Resources continues to own the property while the Navy owns the restrictive easement. The easement extinguishes further development rights forever.”
The purchase allows Pope Resources to continue using the land as a working forest, which supports on-site employment, he added.
The 854 acres on Chimacum Ridge will most likely be operated with a community focus, said Corff. “Working with Jefferson Land Trust and other partners, our aim is to maintain this land as a community forest, which will be locally owned and managed for the benefit of the community,” he explained.
The property is located entirely within the Chimacum Creek watershed, and its tributaries feed Chimacum Creek, a main waterway for several species of salmon, as well as Pacific lamprey, steelhead, and cutthroat trout, said Corff. The property borders spawning and rearing habitat and improves water quality for federally listed Summer Chum, Puget Sound Steelhead and Federal Species of Concern Puget Sound Coho. The Chimacum Ridge forest is surrounded by organic agricultural operations and rural private residences along the valley floor, and predominantly commercial timberland operations at the higher elevations.
Corff and Jefferson Land Trust envision trail upkeep, public access, and potentially hosting on-site environmental education classes for local elementary schools. “Active forest management is in the public interest,” he said. “We can raise money working the forest for the community, giving local people jobs cutting trees and transporting the lumber to the mill.”
“From our end, the REPI work in Chimacum ties in enormously well with previous protections in the Chimacum Creek watershed,” said Caroline Robertson, Jefferson Land Trust, Outreach Director. “This has been a big focus of our work for decades now, starting from salmon habitat protection in the lower reaches of the creek. Farmland protection, including salmon habitat zones in Chimacum’s farmland, has been very powerful for our community, and the watershed of the upland forests of Oak Bay ridge, including Mats Mats and Chimacum Ridge are iconic parts of our landscape and heritage. Chimacum Ridge’s prominent location, so closely tied with all of Jefferson Land Trust’s work in the area, gives it great potential to be an amazing local resource as a community forest. Conservation work in Chimacum is a great example of integrated, interconnected landscape-scale protection.”
Spaeth summarized the preservation process experience. “Our partnership is like a big jigsaw puzzle with many intricate pieces. But when it all comes together, it’s a beautiful thing.”
For more information on the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration program, its projects, and its partner organizations, go to http://www.repi.mil/