In a significant 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.
In 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.
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,” Kane 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.”
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