The Nisqually Land Trust is an independent, private, nongovernmental organization incorporated in 1989 and federally recognized as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation in 1990.
Our mission is to acquire and manage critical lands to permanently benefit the water, wildlife, and people of the Nisqually River Watershed.
In August of 2013, we were awarded national accreditation by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, a mark of conservation excellence achieved by fewer than 20 percent of land trusts nationwide.
Our conservation priorities are guided primarily by the Nisqually Watershed Stewardship Plan, developed and managed by the Nisqually River Council in response to a 1985 legislative directive, and by the Nisqually Chinook Salmon Recovery Plan and Nisqually Steelhead Recovery Plan, which are coordinated by the Nisqually Indian Tribe. All three plans rate protection of wildlife habitat a highest priority. The Nisqually Land Trust was formed with the recognition that the Nisqually Watershed needed a conservancy organization to accomplish many of the goals of these plans.
As the lead nongovernmental conservation organization in the watershed, we have built a reputation for working collaboratively with partners throughout the watershed and the Puget Sound region to protect land and water for the benefit of wildlife and our local communities in Pierce, Thurston, and Lewis counties.
Today, we own, protect, and steward over 5,800 acres in the watershed and have planted 253,531 native trees and shrubs on our properties. Our work is enhanced by partnerships with state and federal natural-resource agencies, the Nisqually Indian Tribe, and a network of nonprofits, businesses, individuals and community partners. Our guiding ethic is cooperative conservation — we acquire land only from willing sellers and donors, we work closely with local communities, we cultivate partners, and we strive to connect people to our land.
Our Early Years
In our early years, we focused on acquisition of wildlife habitat in the lower, or salmon-producing, portion of the Nisqually River — the 42 miles from Tacoma Power’s LaGrande dam to the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. The Land Trust continues to play a central role in the watershed’s recovery plans for threatened Chinook salmon and steelhead. All told, the Land Trust and its partners have permanently protected 76 percent of the lower river’s shoreline.
In addition to acquiring priority conservation lands, we work with our many partners to steward those lands and wherever possible to restore them to their highest level of conservation value – such as our Ohop Creek Restoration Project, one of the largest stream-restoration projects in Washington State, which has completely re-meandered and restored some 2.4 miles of Ohop Creek, the second-largest salmon producing tributary to the Nisqually River.
Moving into the Upper Watershed
In 2006, in response to requests from residents of the Upper Nisqually Valley, the Land Trust expanded its work into the upper watershed. In particular, we focused on protecting timberlands, endangered-species habitat, recreation lands, and scenic vistas near Mount Rainier National Park, where the Nisqually River has its source.
In 2012, we completed our Mount Rainier Gateway Reserve, a 2,500 acre wildlife corridor connecting federal, state, and county lands in the upper watershed, near Ashford and the main entrance to the national park.
That same year, in cooperation with the National Park Service and a 26-member advisory group from throughout the watershed, we launched the Nisqually Community Forest Project, to explore the potential to create a landscape-scale working forest managed specifically to provide sustainable economic, environmental, and cultural benefits to the people of the Nisqually Watershed.
In 2014, the Nisqually Community Forest was incorporated as a subsidiary of the Land Trust. In 2015 it received federal recognition as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and in 2016 the project acquired its first property, 640 acres of timberlands adjoining the Mount Rainier Gateway Reserve. The property includes over a mile of upper Busy Wild Creek, which in 2016 was declared federal critical habitat for steelhead trout and forms the headwaters of the Mashel River, the largest tributary to the Nisqually River.
Pressures on the Nisqually River and its tributaries continue to intensify and further threaten our salmon and other wildlife. Climate change, revived real estate development, and increased industrial logging call for renewed urgency in protecting the quality of our land, water and air and the economies of our local communities.
We are currently working to:
- Enhance and expand projects like the Mount Rainier Gateway Reserve and Ohop Creek Restoration, which protect and restore forests, shoreline and scenic vistas and benefit fish, wildlife, and local communities.
- Achieve large-scale conservation through the Nisqually Community Forest, which will benefit people and the environment by providing clean air and water; tourism, forestry, and recreation jobs; and protected habitat.
- Make good conservation good business through projects that combine habitat protection with economic development – such as our Road to Rainier Scenic Byway Project, in which we are working with our local communities on the route to Mount Rainier to attract the many visitors from around the world who come to our region each year in pursuit of recreational amenities, historic sites, and visitor services.
- Build new partnerships and innovative approaches to meet increased threats to our water and land. Our Environmental Services Project is just one example of work underway to protect local water quality, a growing issue for communities like Olympia that get much of their water from the Nisqually Watershed.
Our Plan for the Future
The Land Trust is governed by a Board of Directors and guided by a five-year strategic plan implemented by a professional staff of six. We completed our first plan in 2014 and have recently adopted a new plan to take us through 2020. View highlights of the 2016-2020 Strategic Plan.
The Land Trust began as an all-volunteer organization and volunteers remain essential to advancing our mission. Volunteer roles range from leadership and governance by our Board of Directors to service as committee members, event volunteers, and stewardship volunteers.
We also collaborate with the Northwest Trek Nature Mapping program, the Nisqually Stream Team, and the Nisqually River Education Project to engage volunteers and students in environmental stewardship and citizen-science activities.