As Washington continues to grow, many of our most beautiful areas are threatened with development. In addition, native ecosystems are receding, and important wildlife habitat and migratory pathways are being cut off. The Natural Areas category helps combat this by funding projects that protect wildlife habitat and rare geological features while also preserving public access for back-country recreation.
The project includes acquisition of three high-priority parcels, in Mason and Thurston Counties, comprising 173 acres within the 1,460-acre Kennedy Creek Natural Area. Acquiring these parcels into the Natural Area will contribute to the permanent protection of one of the few remaining high-quality salt marsh communities and one of the most abundant fall chum runs in southern Puget Sound.Kennedy Creek is one of the most productive chum salmon spawning streams in Washington, with average fall runs of 30,000 fish. Kennedy Creek also supports runs of Coho salmon, coastal and resident cutthroat trout and winter steelhead. After spawning, the salmon carcasses provide important marine-derived nutrients to the surrounding riparian and estuarine ecosystems. These nutrients supplement the diets of 120 different wildlife species, including northern river otter, bobcat and red-tailed hawk.The mudflats protected within the natural area provide critical feeding habitat for more than 150 species of birds. In a single day, 10,000 migratory shorebirds have been counted in the Kennedy estuary. About 2,000 to 5,000 dunlin winter there each year — the largest concentration in central or southern Puget Sound. Each November, more than 5,000 people, including 3,500 students, visit the Kennedy Creek Salmon Trail, which is located within the Natural Area and between the acquisition properties. The Trail offers the best salmon education option for school children in southern Puget Sound.