Wilcox Reach: The River at its Most Dynamic

In November, the Land Trust acquired 9.86 acres and one-third mile of salmon-producing shoreline at the confluence of the Nisqually River and Toboton Creek. And we were hustling to remove a small log cabin before winter floods washed it into the river.

The property is located in the Wilcox Reach, one of the most dynamic stretches of the Nisqually River. Two years ago, just upstream, the river blasted away a hundred horizontal feet of riverbank in a matter of months and destroyed a family home.

Toboton Creek contains extensive coho salmon habitat, and the Nisqually Salmon Recovery Program rates the Wilcox Reach high priority for protection of Chinook salmon habitat and highest priority for protection of steelhead trout habitat. Both Chinook and steelhead are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Save for the cabin, the property is undeveloped and includes wetlands and second-growth conifer and deciduous forest.The purchase was ranked to be funded through a 2017 Salmon Recovery Board grant. However, salmon recovery funds are bottled up in the 2017-2019 capital budget, which the state legislature still has not passed. The Land Trust had to scramble to deploy internal cash reserves ahead of the oncoming winter.

“The Nisqually River won’t wait for the legislature,” said Executive Director Joe Kane. In recent winters the river has chipped away at the property and flooded around the cabin. Last winter a cedar log stove in the front porch. “If we don’t get that cabin out now,” Kane said, “the river will surely take it this winter. That would be a real mess.”

Judy Arp and her husband, Sammy, purchased the property 21 years ago, camped there with their kids, and built the cabin, which includes a stately granite fireplace erected by Sammy, a renowned stonemason.

“Our favorite activity was just to sit by the river and watch the wildlife,” Judy said during a visit to the Land Trust office. “We saw bears, salmon, beautiful herds of elk and deer. It was a very special place for us.” But Sammy passed away two years ago, and the Arp children grew up and moved north. “It’s time for this land to go back to what it was,” she said.

The cabin cannot be moved intact. We hope to re-purpose the timbers and granite, which remain in good condition. And the site’s ready access to Toboton Creek makes it a good location for environmental education.

Land Trust Receives Historic Mount Rainier Property

The Walker Family, whose deep ties to Washington State and Mount Rainier National Park go back to the turn of the twentieth century, has donated to the Land Trust a historic 14-acre property near the park’s main gate.

Situated along Highway 706, the property’s towering fir and cedar trees have long lent a cathedral-like atmosphere to the approach to the park. The property is bisected by Tenas Creek, whose crystalline waters cascade out of the park on their way to the Nisqually River.

Five generations of the extended Walker Family have grown up using the property. It was first purchased in about 1900 by Calvin Heilig, who was based in Tacoma but made his fortune building and operating theaters in the major cities of the West Coast.

Toward mid-century, John A. Cherberg married Calvin’s niece, Betty, and together with Heilig’s nephews, Gile and Edward Walker and John Walker, M.D., they purchased the property and later made it the first property to be enrolled in a statewide greenbelt program that permanently protected its stately trees.

Cherberg served as Washington’s lieutenant governor for more than thirty years, and the building that houses the Washington State Senate is named for him. John Walker was an early partner with the Virginia Mason clinic in Seattle and was chairman for twelve years, until his retirement.

Robert Walker, president of the family corporation created to hold the property and an adjoining 38-acre parcel, said that his family donated the property “because we know that the Land Trust will manage it just as we always have – to protect its natural beauty, which has been so important to our family for so long.”

The Land Trust will manage the property as part of its Mount Rainier Gateway Reserve, which now totals some 2,500 acres of high-priority, permanently protected wildlife habitat between the national park and Elbe Hills State Forest, near Ashford.

Carbon Credits To Fund Restoration Of Nisqually Land Trust Via California Exchange

Microsoft is helping to preserve forests at the foot of Mount Rainier by investing in the potential of trees and restored forests to soak up carbon pollution. The value of absorbed greenhouse gas emissions will be set through California’s cap-and-trade exchange and the income used to grow the asset, through new plantings and road removals. Listen to audio and read more here…