CHIMACUM — The U.S. Navy has partnered with the Trust for Public Land and the Jefferson Land Trust to conserve more than 3,100 acres in the Chimacum Valley.
The conservation efforts are part of the Defense Department’s Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) program, which sets aside land for preservation, public recreation and naval operations, according to a press release from Phillip Guerrero, a spokesperson for Navy region Northwest.
“We have figured out how to make this work in the Pacific Northwest,” Richard Corff, Trust for Public Land project manager, said in a press release.
Locally, the program has been used to conserve 3,156 acres in the past year along the west side of Puget Sound, from the Hood Canal Bridge to Naval Magazine Indian Island.
The conservation areas include 854 acres along Chimacum Ridge, 154 acres at the historic Yarr dairy farm and 2,302 acres along Mats Mats Bay.
The Navy paid a land easement fee of $4.92 million for the now preserved land.
According to Sara Spaeth of the Jefferson Land Trust, conserving this land protects open spaces for the natural habitat to thrive and protects recreational opportunities for the public.
“It was critical for us to have the opportunity to restore Chimacum,” Spaeth, the trust’s director of conservation and strategic partnerships, said in the press release. “Jefferson Land Trust was always very interested in keeping Yarr Farm a working farm. We worked with the Trust for Public Land to make this happen.”
The conservation effort around Hood Canal is the first of its kind due to the partnerships with local organizations.
“This is probably the most successful REPI program in the nation,” Corff said in the press release.
“We work with our partners to identify areas with common interest and protect working forest, agricultural lands and high-value habitat,” said Lynn Wall, the Naval Base Kitsap community planning liaison, whose areas of operation include both Kitsap and Jefferson counties.
“In the Chimacum Valley, our partnership supports agricultural lands and helps further and develop agribusiness, while protecting the watershed and the Navy mission.”
The land along Mats Mats Bay will be open as a recreation area for non-motorized public activities such as hiking and mountain biking.
The Mats Mats easement purchase from Pope Resources, a land and timber company in Poulsbo, includes a working forest easement, said Corff.
“Pope Resources continues to own the property while the Navy owns the restrictive easement,” Corff said.
According to Corff, the Chimacum Ridge land will most likely be operated with a community focus, which would include recreation opportunities and educational opportunities for local school districts.
The Chimacum Ridge land is entirely within the Chimacum Creek watershed. The watershed’s tributaries feed Chimacum Creek, a main waterway for several species of salmon, as well as Pacific lamprey, steelhead and cutthroat trout, said Corff.
The Chimacum Ridge forest is surrounded by agricultural operations and rural private residences along the valley floor, and mostly commercial timberland operations at the higher elevations.
“We can raise money working the forest for the community, giving local people jobs cutting trees and transporting the lumber to the mill,” he said.
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 55052, or at [email protected].