ellsworth creek

The 'cutting edge' of forestry practices

Writing and photos by Ryan Haugo, forest ecologist

On a misty December morning, an esteemed group of forest ecologists from across the Pacific Northwest met with our staff along the shores of Willapa Bay to talk science and restoration. This group had driven through dark morning hours in order to spend the day tromping around the forest and building and strengthening science partnerships, while gaining a first-hand experience with The Conservancy’s “Ellsworth experiment.” 

The Ellsworth Preserve is best known for protecting some of the largest remaining stands of coastal old-growth rainforest in southwest Washington. Towering forests of Western red cedar, Sitka spruce, western hemlock and Douglas fir support a number of endangered and threatened species as well as coastal cutthroat trout, chum and coho salmon. However, the preserve doesn’t just protect old-growth forest. In fact, the preserve is predominately young, dense forests that for many decades were heavily harvested for timber. In 2006, we launched the audacious goal of conserving and restoring the ecological integrity of these former industrial forest lands. 

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  Ellsworth science tour participants descend into a thinned forest stand to examine forest vegetation and structure a monitoring plot.

Ellsworth science tour participants descend into a thinned forest stand to examine forest vegetation and structure a monitoring plot.

At the time, moving from the protection of small preserves to entire watersheds and diving headlong into active forest management was a huge step for The Conservancy. The best available science suggested that forest thinning (logging!) and repair or decommissioning of forest roads would be important tools to aid recovery of coastal watersheds and restore old-growth habitats. However, across the Pacific Northwest coast, there were few examples of full-bore ecological restoration at such a scale. Our Ellsworth experiment applied a rigorous design and an extensive monitoring network to test and evaluate the best approach. Before the first forest treatments began, we conducted detailed measurements of forest structure and vegetation, birds and amphibians and stream habitats to establish a baseline.

Often we describe science as “cutting edge.” This might make it seem that data, the fundamental building block of science, have a limited lifespan and easily spoil if left too long on the counter. Sometimes this is true. But when science is done well, using experiments designed for the long haul, data are more like fine wines that get better with age. Do our original 10-year-old measurements from Ellsworth still have value? Absolutely. Ecosystems change slowly, and our pre-treatment data are just now ready to pair with updated findings on the state of the preserve today.

This will allow us to start answering the fundamental questions of the Ellsworth experiment. But we need to identify creative collaborations and funding opportunities to ensure a return on our investments in healthy forests (consider donating to help continue this work). Through outreach and an open invitation to the science and conservation communities, we hope to foster an extended shelf life for our data. The insights yet to be revealed have the potential to inform future forest restoration within and beyond Ellsworth.

As we concluded the Ellsworth science tour in the early December twilight, our boots were heavy with mud but our spirits were buoyant and enthusiasm was high. The pre-treatment data provide a tremendous foundation. New technologies are emerging to aid in our efforts and exciting new partnerships are on the horizon. The second decade of science at Ellsworth is looking very promising.

Read more about the Ellsworth experiment


Here come the Chum!

Written and photographed by Dave Ryan, Field Forester

On Thursday, October 20th four hopeful adventurers wended their way down to Ellsworth “Beach”, that small, rocky shore at the terminus of our old growth trail.  The hope was that the recent rains and some applied positive mental attitude could summon the Chum salmon to make their annual run up Ellsworth Creek that day.  Alas, our intrepid adventurers found no salmon that day; although a walk in the forests of Ellsworth is never wasted. 

On Friday, October 21st a sole wanderer ventured back to the beach and welcome to Ellsworth Creek Chum Run 2016!  At some point in the intervening 24 hours, the salmon made their push several miles up Ellsworth Creek.  It is always a powerful experience seeing a salmon run; whether in Alaska, The Bonneville Dam fish ladders, at Klickitat Falls, or anywhere else in the world. However, there is a solitude, a solace, and an intimacy to the Ellsworth Creek Chum run that is especially powerful to me.  Perhaps it is due to, rather than in spite of, the small scale.  It is a favorite time of year in what is one of my favorite places in the world. 

View the photo slideshow above to see the impressive chum run!

Learn more about Preserves like Ellsworth


From Trees to Seas: Marine Team Visit Ellsworth Creek

Written and photographed by Claire Dawson, Hershman Marine Policy Fellow

On our way to the Marine Resource Committee Summit in Long Beach, Washington, several members of the Marine Team here at The Nature Conservancy got the chance to visit forester, Dave Ryan, at Ellsworth Creek Nature Preserve. This 7,600 acre preserve encompasses an entire watershed, and links with the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge. Together these provide more than 15,000 acres of refuge to species like nesting marbled murrelets, cougar, black bears, elk, amphibians, and salmon.

Our visit began with a tour of the recent log jams that have been installed upstream on Ellsworth Creek. These jams, while appearing to be no more than piles of brush and logs thrown haphazardly across a stream, are in fact an important natural feature of creeks and rivers. For decades, woody debris was removed from rivers and streams to promote navigation, recreation and beautify river beds. However, recent research has shown us that removing debris is detrimental to fish habitat. Recent creek restoration efforts have therefore focused on rebuilding these essential features.

By forcing the water over, under and around them, log jams slow the water and allow historical flood plains around creeks and rivers to fill and pool with water, providing a more favorable environment for returning adult salmon and growing fry. Slowing water flow also allows the deposit of larger sediment like rocks and rubble further upstream, creating the habitat needed for salmon to build redds and lay their eggs. These newly established woody areas also lower stream temperature by providing shaded environments, and somewhere to hide. Properly engineered, they also serve to reinforce creek beds, preventing erosion.

The Ellsworth Creek Preserve also encompasses an area of old growth Sitka spruce and Western red cedar. Following a one-mile trail down into the valley, we walked among giants, some over 800 years old to what’s known as Ellsworth Beach.  With the recent rains and cooler weather, the group had hoped to see that the Chum had arrived in this part of the creek. Alas, the Chum prefer to arrive in solitude, and waited until the following day to show up in droves.

Our visit to Ellsworth served as a wonderful reminder of the interconnectedness of nature – and the various elements that work together to create habitat that is ‘just right’ for some of our region’s most beloved species. Conservation progress has implications far beyond the lands we walk on, and progress made on land has rippling effects all the way out to the deep blue sea.

Visit Ellsworth Creek Preserve


Pleasantly Prickly

Written & Photographed by David Ryan, Field Forester, Willapa Bay

Earlier this month I was scouting a project that we are planning with our Willapa NWR partners when I came across this prickly fellow.  Porcupines are relatively common denizens of forests across America. Historically, many states across the nation paid bounties for these slow moving rodents.  However, this one had no qualms about walking right up to me and placing his nose on my toes to determine whatever it is that porcupines need to know about human feet.  After a few minutes’ assessment, it learned what it needed to about my feet and went back to the more important business of munching vegetation.

The common name of the porcupine is derived from the Latin porcus, pig, and spina, quill or spine;essentially meaning quill pig.  A common myth is that porcupines can “shoot” their barbed quills at potential predators. This is untrue and the quills only become problems for those intrepid and foolish enough to actually make contact with the porcupine.  The defense mechanism is so effective that porcupine have few predators.  Although bobcat, cougar, coyote, wolf, or other predator may attempt to make a meal of our rodent friend, the repercussions are severe enough that few make a second attempt.  Although some stubborn domestic canines refuse to learn the lesson the primary consistent and persistent predators are fishers and humans.

Why would states pay for exterminating these docile creatures?  Since the inner bark of trees proves to be an important food source for porcupines, especially in winter, many forest managers sought to eliminate these rodents in an effort to reduce porcupine induced tree damage.  In the early and middle 20th century, bounties were paid by the nose, ears, or feet as proof of a porcupine kill.  Depending on the area, bounties were about 25 to 75 cents per porcupine.  By the 1980’s porcupine bounties had largely ceased throughout the country.  Not for any ecological or humanitarian reason; they were deemed to be an ineffective policy since they amounted to a subsidy of activities which some people were already doing and the fee was not high enough to induce more people to hunt more porcupine.
   

At Ellsworth Creek Preserve, porcupines are accepted on the landscape.  And based on this encounter, I look forward to another meeting … as long as I don’t have my dog with me.
 

Forest Restoration Spotlight

Photographed by Chris Crisman

Restoring our forests, streams and all the habitat in between.

Our work making Washington’s forests and streams healthier is spotlighted in two vastly different landscapes – the temperate coastal rainforest of Ellsworth Creek, and the dry ponderosa forests of the Central Cascades.

These two stories highlight the restoration work taking place on the ground, as well as paint a picture of the long term vision for these very special places.

From the Chinook Observer, a beautiful story that captures the breadth and depth of the work we’re doing in Ellsworth Creek. Link below. 

Chinook Observer - Towering Titans: Nature Conservancy Restoration Breathes Life Into Forest Stream

And a front page spread on the Yakima Herald that showcases our work with the Yakama Nation on the North Fork Taneum Creek. Link below.

Yakima-Herald: Creek Restoration Vital to a Healthy Forest.



Unmaking and Remaking History

Written & Photographed by David Ryan, Field Forester; Kyle Smith, Washington Forest Restoration Manager

   In the early 1940’s a cedar tree standing in the Ellsworth Creek watershed and measuring approximately 6 feet in diameter was felled by loggers from the Brix Logging Company.  The bottom 110 feet of that tree was bucked into two 55 foot lengths and laid parallel on either side of Ellsworth Creek.  Those two pieces formed the foundation for a bridge that spanned the creek until July 2016 when The Nature Conservancy, with the help of Ohrberg Excavation, removed that bridge, used the timbers to enhance stream structure, and restored the stream banks in an effort to improve our freshwater ecosystems and salmon habitat.

   It was with mixed feelings that I watched this bridge retire from service.  The design and materials were simple, efficient, and obviously effective.  It was a tribute to ingenuity.  Removing this bridge was necessary for many reasons; the environmental benefits are undeniable and, after over seven decades, its utility and integrity were eroding.  Retiring this bridge from service supporting logging helps us to once again recruit Ellsworth Creek into service supporting salmon.  But its history, and remembrance, are important.  Not only was the bridge used to haul logs and loggers for almost 80 years, it was a remnant and a reminder of the history of the Pacific Northwest, of the men and women who resolutely toiled under arduous circumstances to help build this country.  For better and for worse, these people worked the land and shaped it into what it is today.  While some may debate about the logging history of the Pacific Northwest and the legacy that it left, I cannot dismiss the value of people who worked so hard under perilous conditions to achieve such monumental feats.

   That same spirit and innovation, combined with modern machinery and technology, was apparent as the Ohrberg crew expertly removed the bridge, rebuilt the natural historic gradients, and decommissioned the road approaches as we unmade the human history and remade the natural history of Ellsworth Creek.  The large diameter cedar that was used to make the bridge was returned to Ellsworth Creek in the form of a new log jam designed to foster salmon habitat.  Given historic logging practices and “stream cleaning” activities from years past, it is unusual to be able to contribute wood of this size and type back into the system.  When the work was completed my feelings were no longer mixed.  Working with the crew, I experienced the same stalwart work ethic of those who built the bridge long ago; and I felt the absolute joy of seeing the namesake creek of this preserve take another positive step in our restoration goals.

   At Ellsworth Creek Preserve we are striving to maintain and restore the forests and waters, we are striving to stay true to the natural history of the Willapa Hills.  So that when salmon at sea answer the primordial call and resolutely undertake their own monumental feat of returning home to spawn, the home they return to looks like that of their ancestors who answered the same call long before there were roads and bridges in the neighborhood. 

LEARN MORE ABOUT ELLSWORTH CREEK


Fish of the Forest: Large Wood Benefits Salmon Recovery

Written by Emily Howe, Aquatic Ecologist
Photographed by Hannah Letinich, Volunteer Photgraphy Editor
Graphics by Erica Simek-Sloniker, Visual Communications

Boots. Any aquatic ecologist worth their salt needs a collection of boots. Rubber knee boots, lug-soled hiking boots, felt-soled stream boots, chest waders, and caulks.  Caulks? Before last week, a sturdy pair of spike-soled logging boots had not made my inventory list as a fisheries biologist.  Flippers, yes.  Wet suit booties, sure.  But generally speaking, spikes are left to those scaling glaciers or trees. 

My recent trip to Washington’s coastal rainforests changed my footwear paradigm. 

After a 3-day four-wheel drive tour of Ellsworth Creek, the Hoh, Quinault, and Clearwater Rivers, it is clear that active forest management goes hand in hand with salmon and river recovery.  Rolling back a century of damage from industrial logging requires active logging operations to thin and replant monocultural tree plantations, decommissioning and rerouting roads, and reintroducing large wood into streams and rivers.  The caulks come in handy on that last one.

You see, to enhance natural river processes critical to salmon and watershed recovery, The Conservancy and its partners are reintroducing fallen trees to streams and floodplains throughout coastal Washington, Puget Sound, and the Central Cascades. This restoration technique ranks as one of the most urgent actions needed for the recovery and future resilience of salmon because it promotes a complex portfolio of aquatic habitats. Once in the water, large wood initiates log jams that in turn increase natural scour, create new pools and deepen existing ones, provide slow-water refuge for juvenile fish, create gravel beds for nesting, trap nutrients in streams, and increase food availability.

The Conservancy’s coastal forest preserves embody the integration of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems- right down to the boots.

Black Bears Roam at Ellsworth Creek

Written & Photographed by Kyle Smith, Field Forester

Late Spring at The Nature Conservancy’s Ellsworth Creek Preserve in Southwest Washington is a magical place for wildlife viewing.  Spring rains bring out amphibians in huge numbers such as the tailed frog, ruffed skinned newts, Columbia torrent salamander, pacific giant salamander. In fact, a survey conducted by the Washington Natural Heritage Program and TNC scientists found that Ellsworth Creek had on of the highest populations of amphibians in Washington State. Amphibians aren’t the only things that roam the misty forest floors in Ellsworth Creek. 

Black bears come out of their winter torpor to forage on grasses, berries and the fresh sapwood of actively growing trees. Southwest Washington and in particular Ellsworth Creek have some of the largest numbers of black bears in the lower 48.  We were lucky to come across these beautiful black bears at the preserve recently!

The huge old growth forests of Ellsworth Creek offer excellent denning sites and the productive soils and over eight feet of annual prescription grow huge thickets of huckleberries, salmon berries and salal berries that bears plump up on all summer long. High among the forested trees tops a small robin sized bird called the marbled murrelet flies in at over 60 mph to nest up in the old growth canopy with in the Ellsworth Creek. These small robin sized birds rare birds spend most of their life at sea but in late spring and early summer they can be seen flying in over Ellsworth Creek to use the large old growth tree branches to nest and raise their young before returning to the sea in late summer.  Just off to the west looking down on to Willapa Bay, tens of thousands of dunlins and sandpipers swarm to Willapa Bays pristine waters to feed upon invertebrates with in the mudflats of the Bay.


A Quick Peek at Ellsworth Creek

Written by Jeff Compton, Conservancy staffer and sometime tree hugger

It’s been more than a decade since I first stepped foot in The Nature Conservancy’s Ellsworth Creek Preserve. That first visit was an introduction to an ambitious new project full of promise, challenge and uncertainty. We were talking about owning an entire coastal watershed, not just to protect it, but to use it as a laboratory for forest restoration – a place where we could collaborate on long-term trials that we hoped would deliver far-reaching benefits for nature and people.

But what really captivated many of us then were the serene patches of forest that were home to the few true giants that remained. In select spots above or beside the creek we met massive, ancient Western red cedar and Sitka spruce. We were dwarfed by those awe-inspiring trees, the mightiest of which were older than the Magna Carta.

Over the years I had the privilege of visiting this preserve many times, and always thrilled to spend a few peaceful moments in the tranquil forest with those enduring titans.

After a several year absence, I recently headed to southwest Washington with a group of colleagues and stepped once again into the Ellsworth Creek watershed. I am thrilled to report that the preserve is still there. The restoration work continues. The vision and optimism about our future forests is alive. And those giants still stand – old-growth trees that now feel like old friends.

The Conservancy’s efforts at Ellsworth Creek are about the future and the big picture. But the place offers something personal for me today. I sometimes feel overwhelmed, even intimidated, by the pace of change in my life, my city, my world. I take great comfort in knowing that some things – and some places – remain steadily, beautifully the same.

From the Field: Log jams at Ellsworth Creek

Video by David Ryan, Field Forester

Check out this video from the field showcasing how we construct log jams!

In the late 1970's and early 1980's, many northwest streams were completely logged - log jams restore the woody debris salmon need. This project helps reach our restoration goals for the nearly 10,000 acres of Olympic land and water we protect. 

Learn more about our work at Ellsworth Creek

Ellsworth Rain Garden Project

Written and Photographed by Tricia Sears, Julian Lawrence, and Megan Fishpool

We have volunteered for The Nature Conservancy, doing projects on the Ellsworth Preserve, for five years. Therefore, we are very familiar with the frequency and intensity of the rain in this area. Ellsworth Preserve is a thriving and beautiful landscape - logged and reforested over many years. There is a small building on a hill at the elevation of 800 ft. that receives over 100 inches of rain per year. The large amounts of rain in this area can cause erosion. To help alleviate erosion problems, we wanted to provide a better method for water to infiltrate into the soil. Being familiar with rain gardens, we were inspired to construct a rain garden by the small building.

Over the course of four days in October and November 2015, we dug the 15 ft. x 6 ft. rain garden out. We then installed small and large well rooted plants so the rain garden would be immediately functional. The plants, known as the common rush or Juncus effusus, were transplanted into the rain garden from an area adjacent to the small building. We also planted one sitka spruce, Picea sitchensis, in the rain garden. The small building has a water tank and its overflow is now directed to the rain garden using old gutters stabilized by strong support branches and cairn style rocks. Since we constructed the rain garden in heavy rain, the immediate effectiveness of the rain garden was clearly demonstrated as it quickly handled large amounts of water!

Learn more about our work on the coast

The Conversations & Community at Ellsworth Creek

Written by David Ryan, Field Forester
Photographed by Larry Workman, Quinault Indian Nation

We are standing in a creek bottom with water around our feet.  It’s raining.  It’s cool, but not too uncomfortable.  As the old saying goes: “There’s no such thing as bad weather; just bad clothing.”  I am fortunate that my guests seem to understand that.  My guests are several members of the Quinault Nation and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

They are here to look at the work we are doing at Ellsworth Creek Preserve.  This year we have decommissioned roads, upgraded roads, implemented a forest restoration thinning, and worked on an in-stream restoration … among other things.

As a field forester for The Nature Conservancy one of my duties is to participate in meetings, tours, and workshops pertaining to forestry and ecology.  I thoroughly enjoy when those events are held at Ellsworth Creek.  I love meeting people who are interested enough to visit and look at the forest and I always learn every time guests arrive. 

As a temperate, coastal rainforest Ellsworth can be a challenging place to visit.  It is steep.  It is brushy.  It is wet.  Those logistical challenges increase when coupled with management activities on the landscape.  Again, I am fortunate that my current guests understand that as well.  They are game for inclement weather, rough ground to walk over, and heavy machinery to coordinate around.

The rewards are rich.  We visit log jams installed this summer that are already re-engaging historic floodplains and channels.  We look at forest stands that were recently managed, historically managed, and others that will not see human management again.  We checked roads that no longer exist due to our work.  And most importantly, we talk.  We discuss.  We question.  We answer… or we don’t.  We think critically.  We don’t always agree.  One course of action here may or may not work for other land managers elsewhere.  But the discourse is always respectful.  And we all seem to enjoy the conversation.

We have now spent many hours walking, talking, and wending our way through the rain and the woods; certainly a physically uncomfortable day for many people.  Eventually a discussion arises of whether people want to continue downstream to look at some bigger log jams and another forest stand treatment or go back and get warm and dry.  I hear a colleague call out for “a coalition of the willing to venture further downstream” to continue the discussion.

Almost everyone walks downstream.  The conversation continues.  I am grateful when people take the effort to really look at our work.  I am grateful for my guests.  And this place.

FORESTRY FRIDAY: WORKING FOR THE FOREST

Written and Photographed by David Ryan, Field Forester, Willapa Bay

We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.
— Aldo Leopold (1887-1948). A Sand County Almanac: With essays on conservation from the Round River.

I will start off by saying that A Sand County Almanac changed my life.  It is packed with quotably profound thoughts and ideas on every page.  I could have chosen a hundred (or more) different quotes to riff on.  Leopold is astute, prescient, and an excellent writer.  If you haven’t already done so, get this book, read it, then read it again, and encourage your friends and family to read it.  If you did nothing else with rest of your life but read this book, you would be better off for it. 

   Leopold does not seem to espouse the utilitarian vision of natural resource management that Gifford Pinchot did.  Neither does he reject pragmatic uses of natural resources.  Use of the land is appropriate, as long as that use comes from a place of respect rather than dominance.  The belief in dominance over a landscape is delusional.  As human beings we may seemingly be able to impose our will on the land, but if that mindset leads to arrogance and abuse in our treatment then we as a community will suffer for our hubris.  The term “land ethic” as expounded on by Aldo Leopold involved the recognition of, and respect for, the communities of which we are part.  The dominant feature of any community is the land base and its interconnected parts.  We must learn to balance our roles within that web.  This is not a new idea and was one fostered by many cultures throughout history.  Leopold managed to adroitly articulate this concept and carry it forward to a wider audience.

   Ellsworth Creek Preserve is my best chance to manifest the ideals espoused by Aldo Leopold on a significant scale.  As a forester I am, by definition, a steward of the land.  And, as a forester, my impact on this planet is quantifiable.  The metrics vary; board feet, basal area, dollars, canopy cover, crown ratio, trees per acre, rings per inch, species composition, and miles of road are among a long list of the units we track.  Some units denote commodities for human use while others are biological/ecological traits that we must understand in order to be an effective steward.  All of these metrics ultimately measure an impact on acres of land and the communities surrounding that land.

   One may think of those metrics as the language of the land spoken in terms understandable to human beings.  The ability to measure and comprehend those ecologic parameters is an important part of showing our love and respect; and balancing our role in the community.  Just as when visiting a foreign country where English is not spoken, the local people often appreciate it if we make the effort to understand the basics and try to converse with them in their language.  It is indicative of a respect for the indigenous cultures and our travels are often much better for the occasional discomfort or embarrassment as we reach out with an earnest desire to learn.

   One key way I try to be a part of the community and treat it with love and respect is by learning the language, thereby learning the properties, the needs, and how to better care for that landscape.  Ultimately, rather than making the forest work for me, I try to work for the forest. 

Next: Chief Seattle.

Forestry Friday: Creating a healthy ecosystem and a healthy community

Written by David Ryan, Field Forester, Willapa Bay

Conservation is the foresighted utilization, preservation and/or renewal of forests, waters, lands and minerals for the greatest good of the greatest number for the longest time.
— Gifford Pinchot (1865-1946), Breaking New Ground

This famous quote of our first U.S. Forest Service Chief is regularly heard by any student of forestry or natural resource management.  In my mind, this statement primarily encompasses two philosophical concepts of natural resource management.  First, that our forests, waters, lands and minerals are essentially resources to benefit humankind.  Second, for these resources to benefit humankind they must be managed in a way that will not deplete them over time, i.e. sustained yield.  Pinchot’s philosophy put him at odds with preservationists such as John Muir, with whom he shared a friendship until a disagreement over the Hetch Hetchy Project created a permanent rift.  Other conservationists, such as Aldo Leopold, would refine, and in some ways reject, Pinchot’s utilitarian conservation philosophy.

Treating our forests as if they were agricultural commodities has led to some silviculture practices which may reasonably be considered questionable, e.g. terracing.  Practices that were meant to increase the productivity of a landscape often altered the natural succession, or ecologic pathway, of many forests.  These foresters were not malicious, nor were they necessarily incompetent.  They believed in what they were doing; that increased forest productivity was a benefit to the people and to the landscape.  For them, utilitarian based land management was not only good for the economy and their communities, but for the forests as well.  I have found myself using the similar utilitarian arguments while explaining my own management actions.

Ellsworth Creek Preserve is a landscape whose succession was altered from its natural, original, unmanaged course and put on an artificial trajectory consisting of simplified, essentially monoculture forests.  The ramifications of these stands continuing on that artificial course are homogenous forests with limited biodiversity and limited ability to recover to their original successional state.  I now have the honor of trying to help this landscape recover and restore it to an old-growth trajectory.   In so doing I also have the honor of being a member of the community that surrounds Ellsworth Creek Preserve and to help that community in the form of good work and positive economic activity.

Ellsworth is an example of a working forest.  In the past it was a working forest under industrial style management with a primary goal of economic returns based on an agricultural model.  Now it’s still a working forest, the main purpose of which is not one of anthropocentric utility but environmental health based on an ecosystem restoration model.  Under this model, we are still putting people to work.  In the few short months I have been at this preserve, I have worked with many men and women in the interest of furthering Ellsworth’s goals.  One may reasonably say that the forest ecosystem itself is “working” to create a diverse and healthy region; and with the help of these working men and women, this forest will continue to do so for many generations.

Helping create a healthy ecosystem and a healthy community feels like the “greatest good of the greatest number for the longest time” to me.          

Next week: Aldo Leopold.

Important Timberlands Preserved at Ellsworth Creek

Acquisition of inholding adds to big conservation project near Willapa Bay

Written by Robin Stanton, Media Relations Manager
Photograph by Bridget Besaw

The Nature Conservancy has purchased 79 acres of timberlands that are completely surrounded by the Conservancy’s existing Ellsworth Creek Preserve, filling in an important piece of the puzzle in restoring this watershed that feeds into Willapa Bay.

The property has big timber and is visible from Highway 101. Stands of old-growth rainforest are nearby, and endangered marbled murrelets have been identified in the area. All these factors make it an important piece of land for conservation.

“This acquisition is a milestone in our work to restore rainforests on the Washington coast,” said Mike Stevens, Washington director for The Nature Conservancy. “At Ellsworth Creek we’re advancing the science of forest restoration in an entire watershed. I look forward to seeing the forest filled with towering moss-laden hemlocks, spruce and cedars, and streams alive with salmon.”

The Conservancy began buying land in the Ellsworth Creek watershed in 1998. With this latest acquisition, the Conservancy now owns and manages more than 8,000 acres adjacent to the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge. The Conservancy also partners with the Refuge for restoration on refuge lands.

The preserve includes pockets of real old-growth forest as well has forests that have been harvested for timber. The Conservancy is modeling different methods of restoration to discover what will most quickly put the forest on the path toward old-growth conditions. Read more here.

Timber fallers working on restoration thinning at Ellsworth Creek preserve on the Washington Coast. © Chris Crisman

The property was sold to the Conservancy by Vic and Debbie Boekelman. “We bought this land 26 years ago as an investment for our retirement,” said Vic Boekelman. “Over the years the Conservancy has bought the land around us, and we’ve been really impressed with the work they’ve been doing to manage and restore the forest. This is a win-win for us, to know that the forest will be here and we can bring our grandchildren out to see it.”

The Boekelmans have always permitted hunting on their property, and it will continue to be open for hunting in compliance with state fish and wildlife regulations, as is the rest of Ellsworth Creek Preserve.

Funding for the acquisition and ongoing stewardship of the property was provided by a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Coastal Wetlands Conservation grant and a generous private donor.