Land Purchase Helps Protect Salmon Habitat

At a time when experts say salmon in the Pacific Northwest are “teetering on the brink of extinction,” local and regional salmon preservation efforts have taken on new urgency. A recent land sale by Ueland Tree Farm adds 40 new acres to the now 466-acre Rhododendron Preserve located in Kitsap County. The Preserve is home to the region’s largest chum salmon run. Annually it supports tens of thousands of chum and coho salmon, as well as steelhead and cutthroat trout.

Keta Legacy Foundation, also known as Mountaineers Foundation, owns the Preserve. The nonprofit organization has been acquiring land since 1986 to promote stewardship of the Chico Creek watershed and its miles of salmon-spawning habitat. The Preserve started as just 74 acres but has grown over the years.

“For nearly 40 years, the Foundation has been working with surrounding landowners so that we can improve our ability to protect salmon habitat and keep the region’s forests and waters healthy,” said Jeff Wirtz, the Foundation’s president. “UTF has been an incredible partner and shares our strong desire to promote stewardship and conservation. They see the need to protect this land for salmon, especially as development pressures increase in Kitsap County.”

“As two of the largest landowners in the Chico Creek basin, UTF is fortunate to partner with the Foundation to help protect the Chico Creek watershed and its wonderful salmon run,” said Craig Ueland, managing member of UTF. “The Foundation and its many benefactors deserve our heartfelt thanks for their leadership in preserving this wonderful ecosystem for future generations.”

The Foundation land purchase will help protect salmon habitat in one of our most important watersheds.

Rob Purser
Director of the Suquamish Tribe’s Fisheries and Natural Resources Division

The Foundation and UTF have a long partnership that dates to 2009 when they worked together to create a conservation easement on 100 acres of the tree farm near Chico and Lost Creeks. UTF sold 69 acres of land near Chico Creek to the Foundation in 2012, thanks to grant funding from the Suquamish Tribe, and another 37 acres in 2018 with funds provided to the Foundation by generous donors.

“The health of Chico Bay and Dyes Inlet are of crucial importance for the Suquamish Tribe,” said Rob Purser, director of the Tribe’s Fisheries and Natural Resources Division. “The Foundation land purchase will help protect salmon habitat in one of our most important watersheds. Tribal and non-Tribal fisheries, Southern Resident Killer Whales, and the Salish Sea ecosystem can only benefit.”

“These land purchases allow us to create a healthy forest buffer that protects the streams and habitat within the Preserve and Chico Creek watershed,” Wirtz said. “We’re seeing every day how interconnected our natural systems are. What we do locally to protect our salmon has far-reaching impacts throughout the Salish Sea region.”

Visitors to the Preserve can hike Big Tree Trail to see Kitsap County’s largest publicly-accessible Douglas Fir. The trail also provides salmon viewing opportunities this month as the salmon return for the fall spawning season.