olympic peninsula

Supporting Communities on the Big Quilcene

Written by Beth Geiger

The residents of Quilcene, Washington are used to living close to nature. Logging and shellfish production have long been the core of this small Olympic peninsula town’s economy.

But for some of those residents who live along the Big Quilcene River, flooding may seem a little too natural. At least once every year or two the river rises, swamping about 30 homes. “The flooding is getting more frequent,” says Tami Pokorny with Jefferson County Public Health. “The houses are moldy. People are tired of rescuing muddy kid’s toys from the yard.”

The Big Quilcene also floods sweetly-named Linger Longer Road, which crosses the river. Linger Longer Road is the only access to 70 homes as well as the town’s largest employer, Coast Seafoods Shellfish Hatchery. The hatchery is the world’s largest supplier of juvenile oysters. It operates 24 hours per day so when access is cut off, it’s high impact.

What’s more, the levees extend into the marshy tide flats in the Big Quilcene’s estuary. Removing them may alleviate flooding, but less predictability about where the river channel might go afterwards concerns shellfish producers, whose beds have been successfully cultivated and harvested with the dikes where they are. Meanwhile, habitat for chum salmon in the estuary is also of critical concern. Dikes cut off channels and water flow that link the bay and river and provide important habitat for juvenile salmon.

Community, business, nature: Is there one solution here for all?

An essential element of the lower Big Quilcene project is engaging community and other stakeholders. The Conservancy, in support of the project lead, Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group, and partner Jefferson County, is working closely with key stakeholders in the community to plan the project. Community input has been important in developing the project’s six goals (flood risk reduction, habitat restoration, compatibility with shellfish, educational opportunities, recreational access and economic vitality) and in developing three alternative project concepts.  “The thing that stands out about this project is that it’s presenting ideas to the communities and saying “what do you want to do?” says Jared Keefer, Director of Environmental Health and Water Quality for Jefferson County.

The lower Big Quilcene project gives the Conservancy the opportunity to bring skills and knowledge to the table in a strategic, rather than a managing role. The Conservancy provides key support and knowledge to local project sponsors to advance community-supported, multi-benefit projects around Puget Sound. “This is a newer direction for the Conservancy,” says Jenny Baker, restoration manager for the Conservancy. “By playing more of a strategic role, we can have a bigger impact over a larger area.” 

After Sunset: April Photo of the Month

Written and Photographed by Jason Neuerburg, Northwest Photographer

Curiosity fuels a lot of my adventures. I love driving forest service roads just so I know what's at the end of them. Same goes for hiking trails or a campground space. There's so much to discover in the Northwest and last year, I made over 40 trips to go find what's out there.

It was February of 2015 and if you remember – there wasn't any snow. It wasn't difficult to convince my friend Kit to join me for a few nights of backpacking. The forecast was set for mid-70's near the coast. We took an early ferry to the peninsula and made our way to Port Angeles to pick up our bear bin and camping permit. Then off to Rialto Beach to hike up the coast to Hole-in-the-Wall Camp. We spent the weekend in front of these two huge sea stacks, which were great subjects to photograph – both during daytime and nighttime.

Since I love to shoot night photography, I always try to look for a campsite with open sky or a subject to light up or silhouette like the sea stacks. This shot combined light from the late evening sky, our campfire, and my headlamp laying inside the tent. When you don't have the powerful sun to contend with, it's much easier controlling the lighting. You can use headlamps, flashlights, glow sticks or even your phone to add light to a scene.

The coast is a wild place to explore and experience its powerful vastness. I plan on more excursions to the coast this year and anticipate capturing a lot more photographs at night around campfires with friends. 

Jason grew up in the Driftless Region of Southwest Wisconsin. He's a freelance photographer in Seattle and enjoy coffee, hiking, camping, and going to see live music. Visit his website for more nature and music-centric photography and join him on his adventures here: www.driftlessphotography.com. Follow Jason on Instagram: @driftless_photographer


Bringing Back Wild Salmon

Photos and Video Recording by Kyle Smith, Washington Forest Manager
Video by Cailin Mackenzie, Globe Intern
Narration by Lauren Miheli, Volunteer Coordinator

The Nature Conservancy worked with the Quinault Indian Nation and other partners to install six engineered log jams on a tributary of the Clearwater River. Kyle Smith, our Forest Manager, relocated fish from the stream to protect them during construction. 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.



Nothing says “Pacific Northwest” like a salmon sizzling on a barbeque in the summer. Salmon is an iconic food in the Pacific Northwest and we can’t seem to get enough of it. From 2000 to 2004, Americans consumed an average of about 284,000 metric tons of salmon annually. They’re willing to pay a high price for special runs such as Copper River salmon from Alaska.

But wait – aren’t salmon endangered? Should we be even be eating them at all?


The answer is yes, especially if you’re buying wild Alaskan salmon. Runs of wild salmon in Alaska are over and above their historical levels. Eat all the wild Alaskan salmon you can find—they’re good for you, and the fish populations are not in trouble.

Salmon fishing is an important part of our economy and eating salmon connects us to our heritage. Salmon have sustained human communities for generations, fueling entire ecosystems as they swim up to 1,000 miles upstream to where they hatched, lay their eggs and then die, continuing the cycle of life in healthy rivers and streams.

In the lower 48 states, salmon populations have been drastically reduced by over-fishing, dams, logging and water diversions. This has led to listing some species of salmon on the endangered species list.

Salmon need cold, clear water to thrive. In Washington state, The Nature Conservancy is working to restore forests on the Olympic Peninsula so that they provide shade and filter the water for our rivers and streams. In time, this conservation work will lead to recovery of wild salmon populations.


Some salmon you see in stores is actually farmed salmon, rather than wild. What exactly is the difference? Farm-raised salmon live their whole lives in pens, can breed disease, and are fed fishmeal that can be highly contaminated with PCBs or polychlorinated biphenyls. The name itself should let you know that these chemicals are not a good thing to ingest!

On the east coast, the only real wild Atlantic salmon are currently in Nova Scotia, so if you’re seeing Atlantic salmon in the store, unless it says Nova Scotia wild salmon, it’s probably farmed fish.


Salmon is chock full of omega-3 fatty acids, the good kind of fat, which means it’s not only good for your heart but can reduce excess inflammation in our bodies that can cause chronic illness. Even one small serving of salmon contains a full day’s dose of Vitamin D, along with a whole host of other nutrients.

Canned salmon is a good option, since it’s usually wild caught. And both wild and farmed salmon typically contain low levels of mercury. In short, salmon is good for you. Eat up and enjoy!