From summit to sea, find out how we're preserving the Olympic Peninsula's vibrant salmon runs.
A new conservation acquisition on the Washington coast lays the foundation for a major initiative to bring back wild salmon to historic levels of abundance. We’ve purchased 3,088 acres in a corridor along the Clearwater River from Rayonier Timber.
Forests here have been managed to produce timber for generations. Timber remains a significant part of the Washington coast economy. At the same time, bringing salmon back is very important for local cultures and economies. So in this stretch of forest along the Clearwater River we will bring back giant trees—so wild salmon can thrive again.
A Force for Nature
Nature here runs on salmon. Salmon need clean, cold water to survive. Forests that surround the rivers provide shade and filter water so it will run cool and clear. By restoring these forests, we’ll be able to secure a healthy future for salmon and the people who depend on them.
This is not a rapid fix. Over the next century, your continued support will enable us to restore the forest so that it resembles more and more its former magnificence – and provides all the habitats needed by wildlife. This is active conservation that will provide jobs for generations. We can now also ensure that these lands remain accessible to local communities and visitors.
The Heart of Washington's Salmon Coast
Why this purchase on the Clearwater? The Clearwater is a major tributary of the Queets River and a salmon stronghold in its own right. The Hoh, Queets and Quinault rivers all have a vital role to play in salmon recovery. The Conservancy is working together with government, tribal, environmental and community partners throughout the region for thriving salmon and thriving communities.
The Conservancy's new acquisition lies squarely between protected public lands higher up and the coastline. We will use what we've learned at places like Ellsworth Creek to restore this lower-elevation forest and river.
Your support is crucial to the success of this mission! Thank you.
Science Guides Us
On Washington’s coast there are more than 130 distinct salmon and steelhead runs. There is great variety, but also great loss. Salmon numbers are now a mere fraction of their former abundance.
The Hoh, Queets-Clearwater and Quinault Rivers represent some of the best opportunities to conserve and restore thriving populations of wild salmon left in the lower 48 states. But their salmon stocks are at less than 10 percent of historical levels — with some as low as 2 percent. Conservancy scientists here in Washington tackled some big questions: Could we reverse this downward trend if we began to restore the forests? And if so, which forests?
The team looked at the privately held timberland that may come up for sale, and broke it into small parcels. They then used a habitat model to prioritize 162 stream reaches and predict how salmon populations would respond to various forest management activities on those reaches. Ultimately, the team identified the forestlands that the Conservancy should buy and restore to old-growth conditions, forestlands where we hope to encourage sustainable management, and forestlands where management practices have little impact on salmon.
Bringing Back the Forest
Looking at photos from the Conservancy’s Clearwater restoration site, you see thousands of acres of felled trees crisscrossed by logging roads – a landscape covered in stumps, with little seedlings of replanted Douglas-firs beginning to show green. This does not look like a typical “nature preserve.” But it’s a great place for conservation.
The Conservancy for decades used the slogan “Saving the last great places.” Today, we have to begin restoring great places, to heal the natural world.
In brief, this project is about buying critical forestland, beginning to restore old-growth forest conditions around the river, relocating roads that threaten water quality, limiting development and maintaining connected habitat for salmon. We will improve all the habitats needed by salmon and wildlife.