A new agreement between The Nature Conservancy and Hoh River Trust is a step forward for restoration and renewal in more than 10,000 acres of vital habitat in the Hoh River Valley in the Olympic Rainforest.
With this agreement the Hoh River Trust will transfer 7,133 acres to the Conservancy, joining the Conservancy’s 3,182 acres, which will connect more than 30 miles from the boundaries of the Olympic National Park to the Olympic Coast into a large contiguous Hoh River Recreation and Conservation Area.
The combined Hoh River ownership will dramatically improve the Conservancy’s ability to implement large scale restoration and partner with the local communities, tribes and state agencies to work together.
A community meeting to hear recommendations and answer questions about this project will be at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 17, at the Rainforest Arts Center, 35 N. Forks Ave.
The land the Conservancy will acquire originally was purchased by Western Rivers Conservancy, which sought to conserve the lower Hoh River and improve recreational access. In 2001, Western River Conservancy partnered with the Wild Salmon Center to create the Hoh River Trust to own and steward the lands for the dual purposes of restoring critical habitat and providing a recreation corridor in the Hoh River Valley beyond the Olympic National Park boundaries.
The Hoh River Trust has built a strong positive record in its restoration efforts and creating recreational opportunities with local community involvement, using best forest management practices.
“The Hoh is one of the nation’s great rivers, renowned for its scenic beauty, healthy native fish runs and lush, towering rainforests,” said Western Rivers Conservancy president Sue Doroff. “We set out to conserve over 20 miles of the river that wasn’t already protected in Olympic National Park to ensure the Hoh was protected in its entirety. We are excited to find a long-term steward like The Nature Conservancy, which can carry that legacy into the future.”
Since 2010, the Conservancy has worked closely with private and public partners to acquire key timberlands on the Olympic Peninsula, to begin forest and river restoration and build a new model for how conservation lands can bring tangible benefits to the local community and beyond.
“The Hoh River Trust is proud of our 15-year history of conservation, restoration and land management in the Hoh Valley,” said Dr. Roger Oakes, president of the Hoh River Trust. “We are excited about the opportunity to partner with The Nature Conservancy and we have worked very closely with The Nature Conservancy on this transition, assuring the trust that the land will continue to be restored and well managed, while providing the same level of access for public use for appropriate recreational activities, such as hunting, fishing and gathering. The Trust is hugely indebted to Mike Hagen, our executive director for many years, who has been largely responsible for the restorations on Trust lands.”
“With this agreement, we are working with many partners to bring forward a community vision for the Hoh River Valley that includes abundant salmon, a majestic rainforest and thriving local economies that can rely on these natural resources for generations to come,” said Mike Stevens, Washington state director for The Nature Conservancy. “We’re grateful for the commitment of the Hoh River Trust, Western Rivers Conservancy, Wild Salmon Center and many local partners to get this important work underway.”
The land will continue to be open for public and tribal use for hunting, fishing, traditional gathering of plants and medicines, firewood gathering by permit, boating, birding, hiking and other non-motorized outdoor activities, as is all Conservancy land on the Washington coast, said Dave Rolph, the Conservancy’s director of Forest Conservation Management for Washington.
The Conservancy will move quickly to hire a forester and begin implementing active management plans, including tree-planting and road work. In the future the Conservancy plans for restoration thinning, stream rehabilitation and control of invasive weeds to be stepped up.
The volunteer Hoh River Trust board will continue to provide a local perspective on the Hoh River Recreation and Conservation Area. The Trust is actively searching for additional board members from the West End community.
The Conservancy also has purchased and is restoring forest lands on the Queets and Clearwater rivers. Together with the earlier acquisitions on the Queets and Clearwater rivers, the Conservancy will be managing 16,532 acres of Olympic Rainforest lands.
Conservancy foresters and ecologists have developed long-term plans that include planting trees and restoring important salmon and wildlife habitat, including actively rebuilding mature and old forest habitat through carefully planned thinning harvests in young forest stands. All these activities generate jobs in coastal communities.
Beyond forest protection and restoration, the Conservancy is working with coastal communities on sustainable economic development. For example, the Washington Coast Works business competition, which is launching its third year, is providing seed funding and training for startup businesses on the coast.