Protecting One of the Most Important Rivers for Steelhead - Columbia Land Trust
85 acres conserved along Washington’s Wind River

Traveling upstream from where the Wind River flows into the Columbia River in Carson, Washington, the river quickly narrows into a canyon and the slopes become steep. In the early 2000’s Columbia Land Trust conserved 236 acres here through a generous donation by the late owner. That donation became the Wind River Double Bend Natural Area. In 2018 we worked with partners to conserve an additional 100 acres of old forest and river corridor, and our most recent conservation project extends this Natural Area to the north by another mile. 

The newly conserved 85-acre riparian forest includes 1.1 miles of the mainstem Wind River and brings the Land Trust’s conservation total in the river corridor to 2.7 miles. 

This stretch of the Wind River is within its most productive juvenile salmonid rearing reach, where they feed and grow strong before migrating to the ocean. It is ranked within the highest priority category for conservation by the Lower Columbia Fish Recovery Board. 

“This project is narrowly tailored to make an outsized contribution to recovery of lower Columbia River steelhead while responding to priorities of local communities,” said Conservation Lead Nate Ulrich. 

Ecologically, the site has intact aquatic habitat, riparian habitat, areas of old and young conifer forest, and a nearly seven-acre patch of remnant oak habitat. Oak patches like these, that are otherwise surrounded by conifer forest, are important biodiversity refuges that can foster climate resilience by helping sustain diverse ecosystems under climate change. 

The Cowlitz Indian Tribe provided funding for this project through the Cowlitz Tribal Foundation Statewide Fund. “We are immensely proud to partner in support of Columbia Land Trust’s 86-acre conservation project on the Wind River,” said Sarah Cooke, Cowlitz Tribal Foundation Officer. “From the conservation efforts of steelhead recovery to the protection of young forests for old forest growth, we are empowered by the work of Columbia Land Trust and their talented teams as they strive to recover our natural lands for generations to come. As we look toward the future of collaboration and growth throughout our region, it’s among the Cowlitz Tribal Foundation’s top priorities to rebuild and sustain the incredible environments that surround us.” 

Land Trust stewardship efforts at Wind River will work to enhance forested watershed processes that are essential for fish habitat. Our management will include weed surveys and control both in the forest stands and along the river, as well as monitoring of ecological processes to inform our long-term stewardship. We will actively manage existing younger conifer stands, encouraging them towards older stand conditions with substantial benefits for both aquatic and terrestrial species. Our team will utilize forest harvests and replanting to enhance habitat and create space for trees of diverse ages and species to grow over time.

Funding for this project was provided by the Cowlitz Indian Tribe, through the Cowlitz Tribal Foundation Statewide Fund, and Washington Salmon Recovery Funding Board, with additional support from the Hollis Foundation and the Felburn Foundation. We’d also like to thank The Conservation Fund and our partner, Lupine Forest LLC, for facilitating this work. 

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