Forty-one acres of forests and wetlands near California Creek in Custer are now under the protection of the Whatcom Land Trust (WLT).
The WLT purchased the land in April for about $170,000, said Eric Carabba, the conservation director with the group. Carabba said the WLT had been waiting for the price of the plot of land to come down for about one year.
The 41 acres lies next to another 40 acres of protected land, which is owned by the Washington state department of transportation, Carabba explained. The creation of 81 total acres of protected land around California Creek influenced the WLT’s decision to purchase their portion of the land, he said.
The protection of the California Creek wetlands is important because the creek is one of two major freshwater streams that flows into Drayton Harbor, Carabba said. The fresh water is vital to the harbor’s shellfish farming operation.
The creek itself, 1,800 feet of which flow through the 41 acre parcel, also serves as habitat for coho and steelhead salmon and cutthroat trout.
The WLT worked off of information from Washington state department of ecology studies that investigated what effects the health of the creek has on the health of Drayton Harbor, Carabba said. Department of ecology studies will often influence what lands the WLT considers purchasing and eventually protecting.
Carabba explained the WLT eventually wants to restore the 41 acres to the stand of mature forest it once was. This work will include recruiting volunteers to plant trees in the area and thin some existing trees that may be packed in too closely.
Carabba said thinning tightly crowded trees will improve plant and animal species diversity in the area.