Conserving land along our waterways protects important habitat and helps keep our rivers healthy, clean, and more resilient to drought. Riparian Protection projects conserve and restore fresh and saltwater habitat while protecting fish habitat. In doing so, the grants help provide our families, farms, and fisheries with clean water across the state.
The Nisqually Land Trust will acquire, in fee simple, approximately 444 acres of forested uplands and 1,849 acres of Riparian Protection habitat along approximately 20 miles of the Mashel River and its tributaries, in Pierce County. The goal of this project is to permanently protect priority habitat for two federally listed species, Chinook salmon and steelhead trout that are threatened by timber harvest and real-estate conversion. The Busy Wild Creek acquisitions target the headwaters of the Mashel River, located one mile north of Ashford, Washington, and three miles west of the main entrance to Mount Rainier National Park. The subject property includes 1,920 acres of timberlands with both banks of 2.41 miles of upper Busy Wild Creek and 12.92 miles of feeder streams. It has been managed as industrial timberland since the 1940s and will be acquired to remove the immediate threat of further timber harvest and stream siltation. The Busy Wild sub-basin is identified as a high priority in the Nisqually Chinook Recovery Plan and a highest priority in the Nisqually Steelhead Recovery Plan. The Middle Mashel acquisitions, located near Eatonville, target 313 acres of Riparian Protection habitat and 60 acres of forested upland with 2.49 salmon-producing river miles and 2.29 tributary miles. Should circumstances prevent successful acquisition of the priority target property in Mashel Middle Reach 1, or should funding allow, the Nisqually Land Trust proposes to acquire, in fee simple, 1.22 salmon-producing river miles, 1.65 tributary miles, 181 acres of Riparian Protection habitat and 139 acres of forested uplands in Mashel Middle Reach 2. The Nisqually Chinook Salmon Recovery Plan ranks protection and restoration of the Mashel River basin a Tier 1 priority, just after the Nisqually estuary and mainstem. Within the Mashel basin, the Nisqually Steelhead Recovery Plan ranks Mashel River Middle Reach 1 and Middle Reach 2 as highest priorities for restoration and protection. All of the Mashel has been designated as federal critical habitat for steelhead trout. The Mashel River is the largest tributary to the Nisqually River. The target properties have steep, unstable slopes and are included within larger ownerships of industrial forestland. Acquisition would prevent further habitat degradation; connect two substantial blocks of Mashel shoreline protected in earlier phases of the Mashel Shoreline Protection Initiative, creating a nearly continuous protected river corridor of some 5.7 miles; and provide for future Riparian Protection habitat and in-stream restoration. Acquisition would also extend and buffer federal, state, and local protected habitat for threatened northern spotted owls and marbled murrelets; provide for expansion of the Mashel Greenbelt Trail; and protect a key section of the popular Mount Tahoma Trails public cross-country ski trail.