President’s Budget Includes Pysht Forest Conservation
Protecting Olympic Peninsula Coastline
Efforts to conserve forestland along the Strait of Juan de Fuca could get a $3 million boost next year from the federal Forest Legacy Program. Pysht Coastal Forest, west of Port Angeles, is one of just 20 projects nationwide slated to receive funding if Congress approves this part of the President’s FY13 budget. Forest Legacy grants are important tools to retain private working forests, while providing wildlife habitat and other environmental services.
If the funds are approved, Forterra, formerly Cascade Land Conservancy, will use the grant to acquire the development rights on a large portion of the Merrill & Ring Pysht Tree Farm. Washington Department of Natural Resources will hold a conservation easement. The land owners will retain the land for forestry while realizing the value of the development potential. The terms and final value of a conservation easement remain subject to negotiation and agreement among all the parties.
In addition to its economic value, the Pysht forest land and watershed provide incredible wildlife habitat and salmon spawning streams. This conservation program will also protect the adjacent shore lands from development. The Pysht River and Strait of Juan de Fuca are popular among fisherman. A county park provides public access to the shoreline.
Sustaining Private Working Forests
“As one of only twenty projects across the country, this proposal by the President speaks to the area’s value and importance – both for the local timber economy and the waters and wildlife,” said Forterra President Gene Duvernoy. “Conserving this land would mark an important step forward for The Olympic Agenda, a community developed, 100-year vision for sustaining and enhancing the economies, communities, and lands of the Olympic Peninsula.”
“Merrill & Ring has managed these lands for timber for over 125 years and this program will insure that will continue into the future,” said Merrill & Ring President Richard Stroble. “The Forest Legacy Program is attractive to us, because it keeps the land in private ownership, while compensating the landowners for forgone development value.”
Stroble added, “We are excited to work with Forterra on this win-win solution for business and the environment.”
Importance for Salmon and Marine Mammals
The Pysht River is heavily used by spawning salmon and steelhead, while the adjacent marine waters are habitat for the resident pods of orcas. Carefully managed forests will sustain the salmon runs, the primary food source for these whales, and help protect marine wildlife habitat. The near-shore waters adjacent to the project area are habitat for sea otters, and the tidelands support Dungeness crab and shellfish.
Risk of Development
With river and marine shore, and fantastic views of Puget Sound, all easily accessed from the highway, the Pysht Coastal Forest is at high risk of residential and recreational development. Development often results in armoring of the shore which degrades beaches and associated tidal areas and removing trees on the top of the bluff when houses are built. Recreational development spreading west from Port Angeles focuses on lands with water features, views and easy access to highways. This land is vulnerable in all three categories.
About Forterra and the Olympic Agenda
Forterra fills a unique and important niche as the largest conservation and community building organization dedicated solely to this region. As a national leader, Forterra is shaping a future that will flourish environmentally and economically. We partner with thousands of leaders and residents across the region to create healthy, livable and prosperous communities. For over 20 years, Forterra has led efforts to conserve more than 173,000 acres of forests, farms, shorelines, parks and natural areas and restore critical landscapes. More at http://www.forterra.org
The Olympic Agenda is an emerging long-range plan for the Olympic Peninsula that will help shape a future of great communities and healthy landscapes. Forterra will identify and help implement strategies that will provide a non-regulatory guide to conservation and community growth. It will ensure the Olympic Peninsula’s working landscapes and rural economy continue to thrive, its communities grow in a sustainable fashion and quality of life is maintained over the next 100 years.
About Merrill & Ring
Merrill & Ring is a privately-owned forestry and land management company headquartered on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. Company partners hold 75,000 acres of productive timberland in western Washington, British Columbia and New Zealand. The largest tract Merrill & Ring manages is the Pysht Tree Farm which they have owned since 1886. The partners are descendents of the company founders; T.D. Merrill, R.D. Merrill and Clark Ring. The family groups owning the timberlands include R.D. Merrill Company, Ring Family L.P. and JLCG LLC.
Merrill & Ring employs forty people who direct company operations and between five and fifteen contractors who perform the work on the ground.
About the Forest Legacy Program
The Forest Legacy program is a grant program designed to retain private working forest lands that are at risk of conversion to other uses, such as residential or recreational development. Forest Legacy grants are administered by the Forest Service and Washington Department of Natural Resources. The land owner is paid for the development potential of the land as determined by an appraisal. Washington Department of Natural Resources retains a conservation easement on the land that prevents it from being developed. Projects are selected through scoring system at the state, regional and national levels. Those within this year’s budget were the top twenty in the country. The President’s budget includes $60 million for the entire program. That must be approved by Congress through its appropriations process.
Previous Forest Legacy grants in Washington State have protected forest lands near Mt. St. Helens, in the Green River watershed in King County, Skykomish Valley and on the Kitsap Peninsula.