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109-Acre Columbia River Estuary Island Purchased for Conservation

109-Acre Columbia River Estuary Island Purchased for Conservation

Kerry Island, as seen from the air and surrounded by the waters of Westport Slough

VANCOUVER, WA—Columbia Land Trust announced today that it has completed the purchase of 109-acre Kerry Island in Westport Slough, a roughly 11-mile side channel of the Columbia River. The parcel is located about four miles from the community of Westport and eight miles from Clatskanie. Once restored, Kerry Island will provide permanent refuge to numerous wildlife species, including all 13 species of salmon and steelhead listed under the Endangered Species Act as well as the federally endangered Columbia River population of Columbian white-tailed deer. 

 “The Columbia River estuary is a particularly vital nursery for young salmon,” says Columbia Land Trust Executive Director Glenn Lamb.  “In the last 10 years, we have worked collaboratively with many landowners to conserve nearly 10,000 acres of estuarine and tributary spawning and rearing habitat.”

Kerry Island had been owned the Jenks Family since 1946. Chester Jenks and his wife, Cleo, raised their six children on the land, and ran a cattle and hay farm there until they retired in the early 2000s. In 2010 the family contacted Columbia Land Trust with an interest in selling the land for conservation. “In retirement, Dad and Mom loved to fish for salmon,” says Steve Jenks, the youngest of the Jenks children. “Converting the island back to perpetual salmon and wildlife habitat seems a fitting way to honor both our parents.”

In addition to habitat conservation, Columbia Land Trust prioritizes the conservation of prime agricultural lands in places such as Trout Lake Valley, Washington, and the Hood River Valley, Oregon. The Land Trust also conserves working forests, such as those around Mount St. Helens and the Willapa Hills. Kerry Island presents an opportunity to improve and restore critical wetland habitat for at-risk plants and animals, the group said. Historically, Kerry Island consisted of tidally influenced scrub-shrub and forested wetlands and channels in the Columbia River floodplain. Scrub-shrub wetlands provide ideal nesting habitat for local and migrating Neotropical birds, critical breeding and egg-laying habitat for a suite of amphibians, as well as cover and shade for rearing salmonids.

“Current research suggests that migrating juvenile salmon throughout the Columbia Basin access estuary wetland sites immediately after restoration,” says Matt Van Ess, habitat restoration program manager for the Columbia River Estuary Study Taskforce (CREST). “The Kerry Island project will provide immediate benefits to the Columbia by increasing wetland function and food-web connections for fish and numerous other species that depend on the estuary for life.” 

Columbia Land Trust completed the purchase of Kerry Island with $320,000 in Bonneville Power Administration funding from electric ratepayers. The funding was provided as partial mitigation for the impacts of federal dams on the ecosystems of the Columbia and Snake Rivers.

Over the next year, Columbia Land Trust will develop a management plan for Kerry Island, drawing on input from the public. That plan will be made available on Columbia Land Trust’s website. (www.columbialandtrust.org/our-work/conservation-projects/kerry-island-1)

Kerry Island is the third acquisition for Columbia Land Trust in Columbia County. In 2012, working collaboratively with two separate families and with funding from BPA, Columbia Land Trust purchased 960 acres at Columbia Stock Ranch, a riverfront property located along Highway 30 near Rainier, Oregon. That acquisition contains some 590 acres of historic Columbia River floodplain. Over the next few years, Columbia Land Trust will work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to restore hundreds of acres of wetlands there.

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