In the Thick of It - Columbia Land Trust
The land trust conserves more forested wetland habitat along the small but mighty Chinook River.

This month, Columbia Land Trust expanded an area of conserved forests and wetlands in the Chinook River floodplain near Baker Bay in Pacific County, Washington. In some parts of the floodplain, the trees and shrubs are so dense, and the wetlands are so soggy that it’s nearly impossible to explore on foot. Sitka spruces, found only near sea level along the Pacific Norwest Coast, stand out in a thick patchwork of red alders. While these conditions are less than stellar for hiking, they’re ideal for area wildlife species that have seen this kind of habitat dwindle rapidly over the past century.

In early February, the Land Trust acquired 23 acres of dense upland forest and scrub-shrub wetlands, directly adjacent to 285 acres it conserved in 2017. Combined with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s nearby Chinook River (Johns River) Wildlife Area and the 600-acre Fort Columbia State Park, more than 1,700 acres of the critical habitat are now conserved for the benefit of local fish and wildlife.

The Chinook River floodplain, which transitions from tidal wetlands to upland forests, provides critical habitat for a suite of wildlife species, including shorebirds, waterfowl, deer, elk, river otter, and weasel. Perhaps most significantly, the area supports federally-threatened Lower Columbia River salmon and steelhead runs. Moreover, Sitka spruce on the forested uplands support nesting marbled murrelet, bald eagle, cavity-nesting birds, and many other species. Beaver are important players in the condition and function of the wetland channels by building ‘check dams’ that hold water during low tides.

Moving forward, the Land Trust plans to focus stewardship efforts on weed control and planting in areas previously impacted by forestry activity. The Land Trust is grateful for the support of its funding partners, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in collaboration with the Washington Department of Ecology.

Read more about the history, cultural context, and the landscape in the Chinook River area.

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