- Forterra and its partners are continuing their work in the Chehalis Basin, Washington’s second-largest intact watershed
- It’s part of a multi-stakeholder strategy to restore habitat and reduce flood damage
- Forterra worked with a landowner to move out of the floodplain at Wynoochee River
- Forterra also transferred the 28-acre Wishkah Gardens property to the Chehalis River Basin Land Trust, who will continue stewarding the area
GRAYS HABOR COUNTY, Wash. – Forterra and its partners are continuing conservation work in the Chehalis Basin as part of a larger strategy to reduce damage from flooding, restore aquatic species and protect and restore critical habitat.
At Wynoochee River near Montesano, Forterra worked with a local landowner to relocate after they experienced extreme flooding that resulted in property damage and restricted access to the area. This has been in the works since 2019, with the goal of allowing the landowner to stay on their property safely and to permanently conserve 26 acres of riparian and floodplain habitat.
To best accommodate the restoration and the needs of the landowner, the home was lifted from its location in the floodplain and moved upland. Forterra completed a boundary line adjustment allowing the landowner to retain six upland acres, and then purchased the remaining property. Forterra also created a special pedestrian access license that will allow the landowner and her family to continue to access the river and shoreline.
“Heartbreak, pain, anxiety, fear and uncertainty are a few of the words that had colored the scene at my home for 23 years or so while I experienced the loss of 30 acres of family property with the potential of losing my home,” said landowner Becca Robison. “I am fortunate to have a front row seat to experience the restoration benefits of the Aquatic Species Restoration Plan efforts, along with Forterra and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and to witness the recovery of the beautiful Wynoochee River ecosystem in the years to come.”
Funding for the acquisition came from the Office of the Chehalis Basin. This is an Early Action Reach project, part of the Aquatic Species Restoration Plan (ASRP), which is a comprehensive strategy to restore ecological health throughout the Chehalis Basin. Forterra works with key partners on restoration efforts, including the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), Grays Harbor Conservation District and Capitol Land Trust.
At nearly 2 million acres, the Chehalis River Basin is the second-largest intact watershed in the state, with hundreds of miles of tributaries feeding the main stem of the Chehalis River and others draining into Grays Harbor. The basin, second only to the Columbia River watershed, stretches from the foothills of Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier to the Pacific Coast, on the ancestral lands of The Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation and the Quinault Indian Nation.
“This project is an excellent example of how the ASRP can not only benefit aquatic life, but also people who live and work in the floodplain. The Chehalis Basin is an important habit for fish and wildlife, as well as a home to rural communities,” said Leanne Weiss, Forterra conservation transactions director. “This project would not have happened without this collaborative effort and the variety of expertise shared amongst project partners like WDFW, the CD and the landowner.”
Forterra is also assisting with efforts in the Chehalis Basin outside of the ASRP. Forterra recently transferred the 28-acre Wishkah Gardens property to the Chehalis River Basin Land Trust (CRBLT), who will steward the crucial salmon habitat.
The property is approximately six miles upstream from downtown Aberdeen, where the majority is floodplain and wetland habitat. It’s home to several species, including juvenile fall Chinook, coho and chum. The area is adjacent to the Wishkah River, which is a tributary to the Chehalis River that drains into more than 100 square miles of rural land south of the Olympic Mountains. Wyman Creek, a tributary to the Wishkah River, meanders on the property adding to the rich diversity of salmonid habitat.
Several organizations have been working on this transfer since 2017, when Forterra initially acquired the property. The Salmon Recovery Funding Board at the Recreation and Conservation Office and Quinault Indian Nation funded the purchase. Quinault Indian Nation provided restoration funds to Forterra and stewardship funds to CRBLT. After treatment for invasive species and planting of native species, the property was transferred to the CRBLT.
“The Quinault Indian Nation is heavily involved in the Chehalis Basin Strategy and has a seat on the Aquatic Species Restoration Plan Steering Committee as they have Treaty Rights and Resources in the Chehalis Basin,” said David Bingaman, Director of the Quinault Indian Nation Division of Natural Resources. “It is paramount to their members to arrest the continuing decline of aquatic species and projects Forterra has been involved with aid in this effort. The Nation is pleased to be of assistance in the acquisition and stewardship of the Wishkah Gardens property and hopes it can provide additional financial support for future similar acquisitions.”
“The Chehalis River Basin Land Trust is excited to acquire this critical wetland, as it realizes our vision and mission to preserve habitat in the basin in perpetuity,” said CRBLT President Pete Hammer. “We are equally excited to work with such dedicated and creative partners to make projects like this work. This collaboration between a variety of stakeholders is one that will ultimately benefit everyone who lives in the region.”
Learn more about Forterra’s work in the Chehalis Basin here.
Forterra is an unconventional land trust that works across Washington’s communities and landscapes, from the ranches and shrub-steppe of the Yakima basin, to the estuaries, farms and forests of Washington’s coast, reaching more than 100 counties, cities, towns and rural communities. Working cooperatively with people and nature, Forterra drives land stewardship, management and planning; innovative programs and policies; farming and forestry approaches; community ownership opportunities; and development solutions. Visit Forterra.org.