A shady bend on Wind River
Recent success on Washington’s Wind River conserves healthy stands of old forest and a stunning stretch of river.

In mid-May, Columbia Land Trust conserved 101 acres of forest and nearly a mile of shoreline along the Wind River in Skamania County, Washington. The property adds to land to the north conserved by the Land Trust in 2012, resulting in a total conservation area of 340 acres.

Three years in the making, this project conserves roughly 25 acres of intact forest that is more than 200 years old and 75 acres of 120-year-old forest that mostly likely regenerated after the Yacolt Burn of 1902. The landscape compliments adjacent land conserved by the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for northern spotted owl habitat. The steep terrain, littered with blown-down trees, is no picnic to traverse on foot, but it provides ideal conditions for local wildlife. The healthy Douglas-fir and western redcedar forest is home to black-tailed deer, mountain beaver, bats, Vaux’s swifts, bald eagles, and a host of other plant and animal species.

The project includes a stretch of the Wind River with clear, blue-green waters and healthy banks lined with towering cottonwood trees and Pacific dogwood trees that sport white blossoms in the spring. This reach is also home to federally-threatened steelhead and salmon as well as waterfowl. Moving forward, the Land Trust’s stewardship staff will focus on monitoring the site and controlling weeds to ensure the landscape stays intact and healthy.

This portion of the Wind River watershed is a conservation priority in the Land Trust’s Conservation Agenda, supporting objectives to halt the net loss of older forests and protect rivers for salmon and steelhead. There are few shortcuts to re-creating old-growth forest conditions, which are increasingly rare across the Pacific Northwest, but conserving stands of forest that are already well on their way is one of the best strategies we have.

This project was made possible through a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service endangered species habitat protection grant (Section 6), along with support from our partners at Washington DNR, and from individuals like you who make all of our conservation work possible.

In early May, members of the Land Trust’s stewardship and communications teams explored the project area to get a sense of the terrain. Follow along with this photo essay by Dez Ramirez and Jay Kosa.

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