These Thurston County landowners participated in voluntary conservation projects. Read about their experience working with local organizations to manage areas along streams, rivers, and wetlands on their property.
Failing Culvert in Eld Inlet
In 2015, Sheilah contacted the Thurston Conservation District for assistance. She wanted to create a safe home for her family, restore her waterway, and establish permanent native vegetative cover. Sheilah and TCD collaborated to create a conservation plan that addressed her needs.
In planning, Sheilah and TCD determined that the waterway needed restoration. They needed to manage invasive vegetation and develop a planting plan that improved the waterway, enhanced wildlife habitat, and protected water quality.
Previously, Sheilah’s driveway had a corroding culvert that was failing. The driveway had fallen into the waterway. During flooding events the waterway would top the driveway making her home inaccessible.
Together Sheilah and TCD worked on these tasks to improve Sheilah’s property. In 2018, The Thurston Conservation District assisted Sheilah in securing funding to replace the failing culvert. “Thanks to the tireless efforts of the staff at the Thurston Conservation District we now have a safe sturdy bridge and no longer worry about our driveway washing out and blocking vehicle traffic.” This new bridge benefits Sheilah’s property and allows chum salmon, Chinook salmon, coho salmon, coastal cutthroat trout, and winter steelhead trout to access previously blocked upstream habitat.
During the past five years, Sheilah worked with TCD staff and South Sound GREEN, a k-12 watershed education program to restore the land along her waterway. “Working with the conservation district has benefited my family and property in many ways. We have worked with [TCD staff] to enhance riparian buffers along McLane Creek to provide habitat for native wildlife. Many local school groups have visited to install plants and conduct water testing.“
When asked what some of the benefits of implementing conservation on her property are, Sheilah says “We have noticed an increase in the diversity and population of wild birds over the past few years since we started our riparian restoration project. The plantings provide shade, beauty, and privacy to our property.”
Sheilah has worked diligently at conserving her land for several years. She plans to continue maintaining her property to create a better place for the local wildlife, her family, and her community.
Blackberry Wall on Henderson Inlet
Susan contacted the Thurston Conservation District for technical assistance in 2017. She was looking to remove invasive plants and restore her waterway within Henderson Inlet to a healthy functioning native-forested ecosystem.
TCD gave Susan a thorough planting plan, best practice recommendations, and practical advice to assist her with beginning the project. South Sound GREEN a k-12 watershed education program assisted Susan by bringing school class groups to her property to remove invasive weeds and plant donated native vegetation. “School groups are great, their energy is amazing!” says Susan.
Since 2017, Susan has made a huge beneficial impact on her property. What once stood as a wall of invasive Himalayan Blackberry is now attractive native trees and shrubs. Native vegetation is growing to create shade for Susan’s waterways, which keeps water temperatures low and allows important species like salmon to thrive. Since beginning this project, Susan has noticed many advantages to restoring her waterway. “Blackberries make such a jungle, it is hard for deer to get around and for native shrubs to flourish. Eliminating the blackberries has helped restore the stream area. It also makes it easier for me to walk around! I am hoping it also improves the water quality of the stream, which eventually goes into Puget Sound.” Creating a healthier waterway has improved water quality and created vital habitat for wildlife.
Several years into this project, Susan has great advice to offer those beginning their waterways projects. “Plan to do a little bit every year and think of it as a long-term project, take photos along the way, and get help when you can.” Susan plans to continue restoring her waterway and looks forward to the added benefits it will provide her property, the surrounding community, and the environment!
Preserving Farmland on Spurgeon Creek
In 2011, Capitol Land Trust (CLT) and Shelly worked together to place a conservation easement on her farm. A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust that permanently limits uses of the land to protect its conservation values. Shelly and her late husband wanted to protect and restore an ecologically important patch of land close to town, while also protecting the agricultural values of this historic farmstead and providing food to the local community. They also wanted to provide a place where people of all ages can visit, work together, and learn side by side about nature.
CLT and Shelly collaborated on a conservation easement that protects 13.85 acres of the 16+ acre farm, including 1,800 feet of Spurgeon Creek, a 2-acre wetland, and 2-acre pond. While the easement conserves most of the farm, it does allow for her residence, two large barns, and a studio. Three of the 13.85 acres are conserved specifically for agricultural purposes which includes green houses, chickens, orchards, beehives, pasture and a biointensive demonstration/teaching garden.
“It is important to balance conservation, agriculture and development. This property is unique because many ecological resources can be protected and restored. This easement allows for the conservation of important habitat, provides a space for people of all ages to experience hands on learning and witness successful food production.” Shelly
US Fish & Wildlife Service Landowner Incentive Program, the Salmon Recovery Funding Board, and a donation made by Shelly provided funding for the conservation easement and the replacement of a bridge with two failing culverts. The old culverts restricted fish passage on Spurgeon Creek and caused Shelly’s driveway to flood during storms. When the bridge was replaced in 2012, 5.2 miles of unimpeded spawning and rearing habitat for several species of anadromous fish, including steelhead, coho, Chinook, and coastal cutthroat trout, was opened in the Deschutes River watershed.
Prior to the conservation easement, Shelly worked with Wild Fish Conservancy, Thurston Conservation District, Squaxin Island Tribe, and South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group to assess riparian issues on the farm and create a riparian planting plan for her stretch of Spurgeon Creek. In the past, the stream banks had been over grazed by cattle and horses and very little vegetation remained.
Shelly has been working with a variety of schools and environmental organizations to restore the riparian habitat at the farm for years. Washington Conservation Corps, South Sound GREEN, Thurston County Stream Team, Komachin Middle School, Boy Scout troops, CLT, and many others, have all contributed to restoration and water quality monitoring efforts.
“The more people that are connected to the land, the better we can take care of it. I enjoy getting kids at young ages outside with their parents and schools and build up those little moments you can look back on. This property can provide those moments.” Shelly
Today, the riparian habitat is so restored that the creek is no longer visible from the farm. Shelly has noticed an increase in passing critters like fox, deer, coyote, waterfowl, songbirds, freshwater mussels, and even a herd of 19 elk!
Looking to the future, Shelly hopes to get the garden running at full speed and begin offering internship opportunities again, while working with partners and students to maintain riparian habitat along Spurgeon Creek.