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Nonprofit to save land along Washougal River; Columbia Land Trust to secure 300 acres on West Fork

By Doug Flanagan, Camas-Washougal Post-Record
Published: February 17, 2024, 6:05am

Columbia Land Trust has reached an agreement to purchase and conserve 300 acres along the West Fork of the Washougal River.

The Vancouver-based nonprofit received grants from the Salmon Recovery Funding Board, the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program, The Conservation Alliance, and the Washington State Department of Ecology in partnership with the city of Washougal to secure the property.

“This is a property we’ve known and cared about for more than two decades,” said Cherie Kearney, Columbia Land Trust’s forest conservation director. “We’ve known the family all this time and understood their interests in ensuring their property of old forest … stayed wild.”

The site’s old forest and riparian habitats are increasingly rare and threatened in the West Cascades, according to Columbia Land Trust’s website.

“The forest here is believed to have regenerated following the Yacolt Burns of the early 20th century, making it more than 100 years old,” the website states.

The conserved area includes more than 1 mile of the West Fork of the Washougal River and more than a half-mile of Jackson Creek, both of which are salmonid-bearing streams. Because of the older trees that shade the two waterways and cool the water, the site carries cold water into the main stem of the Washougal River, “which is important for maintaining a water temperature beneficial to salmon,” according to the website.

The forest is noteworthy for its tall, old trees, the cool water flowing from the hills, the diverse native vegetation, and the massive old snags created in the Yacolt Burn that are interspersed across the landscape, the website states.

The West Fork forest and the 1,200-acre Wildboy Forest, which Columbia Land Trust purchased in 2020, will protect a network of waterways that connect the Cascade foothills to the Columbia River, according to the website. The Columbia Land Trust is collaborating with the Cowlitz Indian Tribe to remove Kwoneesum, an approximately 50-year-old, unused 55-foot dam, to create a summer camp swimming hole at Wildboy.

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