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Whatcom Land Trust spends $4 million to protect this Whatcom forest for the future

The view from Skookum Creek includes Twin Sisters Mountain southwest of Mount Baker. Whatcom Land Trust’s purchased 1,400 acres in the area for $4 million to create the Skookum Creek Conservation Corridor.
The view from Skookum Creek includes Twin Sisters Mountain southwest of Mount Baker. Whatcom Land Trust’s purchased 1,400 acres in the area for $4 million to create the Skookum Creek Conservation Corridor. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Thousands of acres of forest and salmon habitat in Whatcom County will be protected through the Whatcom Land Trust’s $4 million purchase of what’s being called the Skookum Creek Conservation Corridor.

The land trust announced the sale this week, saying it was one of the largest community campaigns in the land trust’s 35-year history. Nearly all of the money for the acquisition came from private sources, specifically more than 600 community members.

Weyerhaeuser Co. sold the timberland to the land trust, making possible the permanent protection of 1,400 acres of riparian forest, land that’s adjacent to a river or other type of flowing water, and uplands, according to a news release that the land trust issued on Wednesday.

The purchase includes 2.3 miles of the creek, which is the largest tributary of the South Fork of the Nooksack River.

“The Skookum Creek Conservation Corridor is a long-term visionary project for the land trust — a key to what can be in the next 100 to 200 years regarding clean, cold water, healthy salmon habitat, eventual old growth, connected wild places, and a buffer against a changing environment,” said Rich Bowers, executive director for the Whatcom Land Trust, in the news release.

Cold water is important, in part, for salmon spawning and rearing, and the South Fork is important habitat for all five species of Pacific salmon, according to the land trust.

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Whatcom Land Trust bought the area bordered in yellow from Weyerhaeuser Co. for $4 million. Whatcom Land Trust Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Duck Pond, a 150-acre wetland adjacent to the South Fork of the Nooksack River, also was part of the purchase.

Skookum Creek land is part of a larger Cascades to Chuckanuts Natural Area.

With the Skookum acquisition, the total acreage permanently protected in the area increased to more than 19,000 acres and included Galbraith, Canyon Lake Community Forest, Lookout Mountain and Lake Whatcom Parks, according to the land trust.

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Drone footage of California Creek by Cole Markusen Cole Markusen Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Land trust purchases Drayton Harbor property

The Whatcom Land Trust also announced that it bought a 1-acre residential property in the Drayton Harbor watershed for $350,000. This purchase will add significant shoreline access, according to the land trust.

The land is next to the 11-1/2 acres bought back in June 2017 off Drayton Harbor Road to help restore habitat that is part of the estuary there and to improve public access to the shoreline.

The June 2017 purchase was for the California Creek Estuary property in Blaine.

California Creek empties into Drayton Harbor, an estuary is an area where rivers meet the sea, and the acquisition will help fish and wildlife as well as water quality, the land trust said in a previous Bellingham Herald article.

Kie Relyea has been a reporter at The Bellingham Herald since 1997 and currently writes about social services and recreation in Whatcom County. She started her career in 1991 as a reporter and editor in Northern California.
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