Pristine estuary conservation increases habitat

Forterra and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) conserved in perpetuity 162 acres of estuary, freshwater wetlands and forested buffer in Chetlo Harbor along the southeast shore of Willapa Bay. Forterra purchased the property from Hancock Timber Resource Group using $350,000 in funding from U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, WDFW and Wildlife Forever. WDFW will manage the property long term.

The purchase was completed on Dec. 19, 2012.

Estuaries, with their mix of salt and freshwater, low and high tides, beaches, mudflats and marshes, are some of the most diverse and productive habitats in the Pacific Northwest. The Chetlo Harbor property provides habitat for a wide variety of fish and bird species including Green Sturgeon, Marbled Murrelet and Brown Pelican.

“Conservation of the Chetlo Harbor property benefits Pacific County’s environment and community.  It demonstrates what is accomplished when broad ranging partners like Forterra, WDFW and Hancock Timber Resource Group work together,” said Gene Duvernoy, Forterra president. “It is a great example of our Olympic Agenda in action.”

This conservation adds to the extensive existing network of WDFW Wildlife Management Areas on Willapa Bay. The property is in close proximity to other protected lands, including the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge, the Nature Conservancy’s Ellsworth Creek Preserve and other conserved properties near the mouth of the Naselle River.

“Willapa Bay in southwest Washington State is widely regarded as one of the most pristine estuaries in the United States and is the second largest estuary on North America’s west coast,” said Kyle Guzlas, WDFW Wildlife Area Manager. “WDFW has worked with Forterra for over a decade to protect, conserve and restore key wetland habitats throughout Willapa Bay for ecological and public benefit.”

The public will have year-round access to the site for various recreational activities including birding, hand-launch boating, waterfowl hunting, fishing and other watchable wildlife activities. This conservation will also help improve water quality thanks to the protection of shoreline and upland buffer. The improved water quality will provide benefits not only for public recreational use of Willapa Bay, but also its robust shellfish industry.  Williapa Bay is home to the largest commercial shellfish beds in the State of Washington and is one of the five most productive areas in the world for oyster cultivation.

“We are very pleased to reach an agreement with Forterra to permanently conserve this important parcel of land in Chetlo Harbor along the southeast shore of Willapa Bay,” said Dan Christensen, President of the Hancock Timber Resource Group. “We have a long history of working with Forterra in the Pacific Northwest and greatly respect their work and share their commitment to conservation.”

To date, Forterra has conserved over 7,616 acres of estuarine property on Washington’s coast.