Columbia Land Trust purchased the single largest property in its history—3,200 of forestland in a canyon rich with wildlife and cultural significance.
Today we’re thrilled to announce Columbia Land Trust’s single largest purchase of forestland to date—3,200 acres along the Klickitat River located in Klickitat County, WA. The Land Trust purchased the stretch of canyon, forest, and wildlife habitat from the Hancock Timber Resource Group.
The forested stretch of river, basalt canyon, and upland terrain connects the Yakama Nation Indian Reservation, the Gifford Pinchot National Forest-Mount Adams Recreation Area, and the Klickitat Canyon Washington State Natural Resource Conservation Area. It provides critical habitat for a wide variety of species, including salmon and steelhead, nesting peregrine falcon and golden eagle, mountain goat, and both mule and black-tailed deer.
The Klickitat River is Washington’s longest undammed river, free-flowing more than 90 miles to the Columbia River. This stretch of river features a unique combination of canyon, river-side, oak, conifer, grassland, and wetland habitat. It was highlighted recently as a climate resilient landscape by national research undertaken by The Nature Conservancy.
Phil Rigdon, superintendent, Yakama Nation Natural Resources says the “Klickitat River is Washington State’s longest wild river. A third of the river lies within the Yakama Nation reservation. It provides an essential artery that supports our culture and way of life. We support and depend on partners and owners like Columbia Land Trust that strive for good stewardship and understand the importance of enhancing and protecting these significant aquatic and ecological places. Because a watershed like the Klickitat is the last of its kind.”
This land purchase completes the second of three phases in the Land Trust’s Klickitat Canyon forest conservation project. Together, with phase one, 6,000 acres of a broader 10,000-acre goal are conserved. The land supports a key wildlife corridor between low-elevation landscape to the east and high-elevation forest habitat on the Yakama Indian Reservation and Mount Adams Recreation Area.
“Protecting this reach of the Klickitat River has long been our highest priority on the east side of the Cascade Mountains,” said Cherie Kearney, forest conservation director for Columbia Land Trust. “The beauty of this conservation achievement is how it connects to Yakama Nation and public lands in a way that ensures fish and wildlife habitat and access for all people.”
This phase of the Klickitat conservation area had to overcome significant hurdles including the stalled approval of Washington’s capital budget, which caused a year-long delay in the transaction closing. The delay resulted in an increased forestland value and additional fundraising making the success of this second phase particularly significant.
Funders included the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program, the Salmon Recovery Funding Board, The Nature Conservancy, The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, The Conservation Alliance, private donations made by generous individuals and lending by Craft3, a regional nonprofit providing loans through its Conservation Bridge Fund to increase the pace and scale of land conservation.
Columbia Land Trust has sights on completing the third and final phase of conservation of the Klickitat canyon forest in late 2019.