(Source: 2016 Summer Newsletter, page 5)
After 27 years of focusing on the Nisqually Watershed’s freshwater systems – its rivers and streams – the Land Trust has launched the Nisqually Marine Initiative, which will expand our conservation efforts into Puget Sound.
“This is a natural extension of the work we’ve been doing all along,” said Lands Committee Chair George Walter. “The freshwater and marine environments are really one big system. We’ve worked very successfully with freshwater habitat, but marine conditions have steadily deteriorated and are growing more urgent by the day.”
The Land Trust has had a long but limited presence in the marine waters, through its land purchases in support of the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually Wildlife Refuge, at the mouth of the Nisqually River.
In 2011, the Washington Department of Natural Resources established the Nisqually Reach Aquatic Reserve, a designation assigned to approximately 19,000 acres and 39 miles of marine shoreline habitat in southern Puget Sound adjacent to the Refuge.
The Reserve extends from the Nisqually River Delta across the Nisqually Reach to the shores of McNeil Island.
In 2014, with support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Land Trust completed a preliminary assessment of conservation needs and potential opportunities for protecting priority marine habitats in support of the Reserve.
Last year, we extended that research by hiring consultant Eric Erler to lead an assessment of strategic opportunities and challenges across the entirety of the Nisqually marine environment. More than 20 watershed stakeholders contributed insights and recommendations for the assessment.
And in September, as part of adopting our 2016-2020 Strategic Plan, the Land Trust Board of Directors voted to expand our mission to include conservation of marine habitats as a strategic priority.
The Marine Conservation Initiative will build upon the work of the Land Trust’s watershed partners and establish its strategic focus in cooperation with them. “We can bring unique resources to the table,” said George Walter. “Our capacity has grown, and I’m confident that we can expand beyond the Nisqually Watershed.”
Over the past two years the Land Trust has had the good fortune to engage consultant Eric Erler to handle some of our most complex projects, including the creation of the Eatonville School District STEM campus (cover) and the launch of our Nisqually Marine Initiative
Many people know Eric as the former executive director of Capitol Land Trust, which he led for fourteen years and helped build into one of the most effective and respected land trusts in the state.
Since stepping down from that position, in 2014, Eric has divided his time between consulting for organizations and private landowners and indulging his passion for biking, kayaking, skiing, and general revelry in the outdoors.
“Eric’s experience, intelligence, and commitment are unmatched,” said Land Trust Executive Director Joe Kane, who has collaborated with Eric on many projects over the years, including the founding of the Washington Association of Land Trusts. “He’s a natural resource unto himself, and we’re lucky to have him.”