Forterra and partners conserved nearly 700 acres of wildlife habitat in the Upper Kittitas Valley in December 2014. On December 20th, Forterra purchased the 640-acre Cole Creek property from Plum Creek Timber Company and transferred it to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) for permanent conservation. Three days later, Forterra purchased the Martin property—another 57 acres owned by Plum Creek—and transferred it to Washington State Parks & Recreation Commission. Located south of I-90, not far from the town of Easton, both properties contain critical wildlife habitat that enhance the benefits of Washington State Department of Transportation’s (WSDOT) I-90 Wildlife Bridges project.
Forterra purchased the properties using funds from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to support endangered species, through their Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund (also known as the Section 6 Grant Program).
As is often the case with conservation efforts such as these, the projects were complex and involved a diverse range of partners including Forterra, WDFW, Plum Creek, Washington State Parks, Washington Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Kittitas County.
“Cole Creek and Martin are valuable demonstrations of outcomes we can accomplish through successful collaborations between private and public partners,” said Gene Duvernoy, Forterra President. “Conservation of these critical properties benefits wildlife, benefits the community and advances the aims of the Cascade Agenda, a long range vision and action plan for sustaining our region’s lands, communities and economies.”
Cole Creek provides habitat for a variety of animals including bear, cougar, elk, spotted owl and others. Cole Creek and Cabin Creek run through the property providing habitat for salmon and Bull Trout. The creeks are part of the broader Yakima River Basin watershed.
“We are thrilled by the conservation of Cole Creek,” said Mike Livingston, Regional Director for WDFW. “It enhances the value of WDFW’s adjacent conservation holdings to better serve the wildlife that depend on it for habitat. In addition, it is a valuable resource for the outdoor enthusiasts who will continue enjoying access for hunting, fishing, hiking and more.”
The Martin property lies adjacent to the popular John Wayne Pioneer Trail in Iron Horse State Park and will help to maintain the natural, forested setting along the trail. The John Wayne Pioneer Trail is managed by the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission for non-motorized recreation, including hiking, biking and horseback riding in the summer and cross-country skiing and snowshoeing during the winter. The trail runs from North Bend to the Columbia River, with future development that will extend it to the Idaho border.
“The John Wayne Pioneer Trail is one of our state’s most precious recreation assets,” said Don Hoch, State Parks Director. “Conservation of the Martin property protects the natural beauty and wildlife of the area and helps to ensure the long-term public benefit and unique recreation experience the trail provides.”
Washington Department of Natural Resources managed the grants and will ensure the requirements of those grants will be maintained. Peter Goldmark, Commissioner of Public Lands said, “Collaboration with Forterra and our sister agencies has produced a winning combination that protects habitat effectively and efficiently for today and the future.”
The wildlife protected in these conservations enhances the impact of wildlife bridges being constructed on I-90, by WSDOT I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project. WSDOT is building several under and over passes in the 15 mile project between Hyak and Easton to allow animals to safely cross I-90. Conservation of wildlife habitat along the I-90 corridor maximizes the bridges’ effectiveness, which, in turn, increases safety for drivers and animals alike. These recent acquisitions have brought Forterra’s conserved lands to more than 2,700 acres in the I-90 Corridor.
Conservation of Cole Creek and Martin are part of a broader wildlife habitat conservation effort, by numerous conservation groups and agencies, including the Forest Service, Mountains to Sound Greenway, Sierra Club, and Conservation NW, which has resulted in more than 10,000 acres conserved in the corridor over the past two decades.