Remember the Steamboat Conservation Partnership in Your Year-End Giving

This time of year, many of us are receiving requests to make year-end contributions to various worthy causes. With the Steamboat Conservation Partnership there exists a unique opportunity to give in a manner that will directly benefit those of us living here in the Griffin area. If your year-end planning includes making contributions to non-profit organizations, consider this your invitation to learn more about the SCP.

The Steamboat Conservation Partnership is a unique-in-the-nation collaboration between a local neighborhood group and the very successful Capitol Land Trust. The mission of the Steamboat Conservation Partnership is “to conserve the rich and diverse natural landscapes of the Steamboat Peninsula region.” Since this collaboration took effect, we have been able to protect more than 300 acres in the Steamboat Peninsula region.

The Capitol Land Trust has a proven record of working with land owners, businesses, and government to identify and preserve shorelines, rivers, forests, prairies, and working lands. You can learn more about the Steamboat Conservation Partnership on our web page at  You will find a video there, that describes the work of the Capitol Land Trust.

We welcome contributions of any size.

Should you choose to make a contribution to the Steamboat Conservation Partnership, you will find a link on our web page and you can make a secure donation using a credit card. If you prefer, you may mail a check directly to the Capitol Land Trust. Insert “SCP” or “Steamboat Conservation Partnership” in the memo part of the check so we can receive credit. Your check should be mailed to Capitol Land Trust, 4405 – 7th Ave SE, Suite 306, Lacey, WA 98503. In reply you will receive a letter, for your tax records. And thank you, for supporting the Steamboat Conservation Partnership.

Annual Report of the Steamboat Conservation Partnership

The Steamboat Conservation Partnership recently released its latest annual report. As many of you know, the SCP’s fiscal year begins July 1st of each year. Among the highlights are an eighth successful year of operation, continued planning, and collaboration with the Capitol Land Trust to identify important parcels in our area, for preservation. Here are excerpts from the CLT’s annual report:

Donations: During our 2016 – 2017 fiscal year (July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2017), we raised $20,727 for Capitol Land Trust, earmarked to finance part of their activities within the Steamboat Peninsula Region where most of us live and/or own property. Donations during the month of June were enhanced by three of our donors matching, dollar for dollar, any donations not exceeding a combined total of $1,500. This allowed us to exceed our annual goal of $15,000 in collections by more than 33.3%. This matching program was a first for the Steamboat Conservation Partnership.

Over the eight years of our existence, we have raised $134,129 for Capitol Land Trust, which is $14,129 above our goal of $120,000 for that eight-year period. We should all be very proud of generating these funds to ensure that many of our natural areas will be available to our children, grandchildren, and beyond.

Activities: This spring many of us in the Steamboat Conservation Partnership, along with friends and neighbors, began restoring a remnant portion of Schneider Prairie. The remnant is located on the north side of the Highway 101 overpass, where the majestic oak tree stands on the SW corner of Steamboat Island Road and Sexton Road. Many of us pass this site on our daily commutes.

We removed blackberries, scotch broom, and invasive non-native trees. Later, 4th Grade classes from the Griffin School worked the site to prepare for fall plantings of native prairie wildflowers and grasses. The project is led by Stephanie Bishop, a parent of Griffin School kids who works for the Thurston Conservation District. Long-time Steamboat Conservation Partnership participants Jack Sisco and Joanne Schuett-Hames helped organize the efforts.

This special project builds on past efforts of the Griffin Neighborhood Association. Years ago, members of the Griffin Neighborhood Association planted Gerry oak trees and other native vegetation in this and other areas after the freeway overpass was built on Steamboat Island Road. At that time Griffin School teachers initiated a long-term monitoring project on the nearby Schneider Creek. This newly restored area will be will now be used as a second outdoor educational site where students learn about our local prairie, and the traditional uses of prairie plants by Native Americans.

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Land Stewardship, The Second Phase of Conservation

Three Land Stewards

Land Stewards Mark Hendricks, Deanna Frost and Jack Sisco at Oakland Bay County Park.

Nothing is quite as sweet in the conservation world as completing that land deal to protect a special habitat for generations to come. Whether it’s finalizing a conservation easement or the outright purchase of a piece of critical shoreline, wetland or intact forest, the news is met with much celebration and sense of satisfaction – that more land is protected into the future.

But acquiring the land is just the first step in conservation. The next step is making good on the commitment to keep the land in as good condition – or better – than it was when protected.

Good habitat stewardship is key so the plants and animals that depend on that piece of natural world will continue to thrive. Good stewardship may include restoration, such as removing shoreline armoring and non-native invasive plants, or replanting an old field with native trees and shrubs to recreate a once-existing forest or wet meadow. Often, good stewardship includes visiting a site to ensure that agreed-upon easement conditions are being adhered to, checking for encroachments, or picking up trash.

Dedicated Volunteers Make it All Happen

Capitol Land Trust relies on dedicated members to ensure that our protected lands remain in good condition. As more of the protected sites we manage become open with trails and facilities for the public, it will take more work to ensure that sensitive habitats are maintained and the “human footprint” isn’t having a negative effect on them.

Land Steward at North Fork Goldsborough Creek Preserve

Land Steward Jacqueline Winter monitors North Fork Goldsborough Creek Preserve.

That is why we are always looking for volunteers willing to spend some time and energy to visit and monitor our sites as stewards or occasional workers; to ensure that we are keeping our commitment to landowners and our community to be good stewards of the lands we manage.

Can I become a Volunteer Land Steward?

Yes! We’d love your help.

At the center of Capitol Land Trust’s mission is the perpetual stewardship of the properties we have conserved – into the future. We visit even our more remote properties at least once a year to document their condition, check for dumping and trespassing, and visit with neighbors. For private properties on which CLT holds a conservation easement, we also meet with the landowner to be sure they are fulfilling the terms of the conservation easement.

Volunteer Land Stewards are key to our long-term success. They monitor sites, usually with a CLT staff member. During annual monitoring visits, Land Stewards observe, take notes and photographs, and may act as guides. After visits, they fill out monitoring report forms that help us create final monitoring reports.

Land Stewards who live near or travel to a CLT-conserved property provide a critical service throughout the year by alerting CLT to any problems. Depending on the needs of the property and the volunteer, a Land Steward also may add visits and do other activities (such as removing invasive plants or organizing a volunteer work party). We match volunteer stewards with a property that fits their interests and physical abilities and (if possible) is near where they live or travel.

Land Steward at Bayshore Preserve

Planting live stake cuttings at Bayshore Preserve. Photo by Bruce Livingston.

A Land Steward’s time commitment depends on the CLT property and the volunteer. An hour is needed prior to the monitoring visit to review the previous year’s report; part of a day is needed for the visit and an hour or so after to fill out the monitoring report form. Typically, new Land Stewards are trained during their first visit to their assigned property – or they may join a monitoring visit to another Land Steward’s property to observe the protocol.

The reward for being a Land Steward is that you get to visit unique and beautiful natural areas, farms, ranches, and timberlands – most not open to the public. You also know you are giving back to your community.

Call our office if you are interested in being a Land Steward and we will match you with a suitable property. Thank you to all of our current, and past, volunteer Land Stewards for your ongoing support towards our efforts to preserve natural and working lands in southwest Washington!

Reprinted with permission from Issue 62, Fall 2016, of the Capitol Land Trust News.

The Capitol Land Trust and Griffin Neighborhood Association created the Steamboat Conservation Partnership in order to conserve the natural areas that make the Eld and Totten Inlet watersheds so special. Click here to learn more about how you can support the efforts of this unique partnership. And click here to learn more about preserved habitat right here in the Griffin/Steamboat Peninsula area.

2016 Annual Update from the Steamboat Conservation Partnership

Steamboat Conservation Partnership logoWe just completed our 7th year of successful operation. It’s time to look back on our accomplishments and ahead to the future.

During our just ended 2015-2016 fiscal year (July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2016), we raised $13,905 for the Capitol Land Trust (CLT). This is $1095 below our annual goal of raising $15,000. Over the seven years of our existence, we have raised $113,382 for the CLT, which is $8382 above our goal of $105,000 for that period. We should all be very proud of generating these funds to ensure that many of our natural areas will be available to our children, grandchildren and beyond.

Since the SCP was formed in 2009, with our help, CLT has been able to add several areas to its bank of conserved properties within the Partnership boundaries, including:

  • The Adams Cove Preserve, 35 acres and a pocket estuary in Totten Inlet.
  • The Lower Eld Estuary Preserve, 55 acres along southern Eld Inlet.
  • The Schmidt Conservation Easement addition, 5.5 acres near Hunter Point, adding to 29 acres already conserved.
  • A stewardship fund established to protect the remaining 175 acres of the Wynne Tree Farm that was conserved last year. The 530 acre Wynne farm has now been conserved. This jewel of a farm is located in the Schneider Creek Valley with the headwaters of the creek.

These properties join many other properties in our area conserved in prior years:

Wynne Tree Farm. Image credit: Capitol Land Trust.

Wynne Tree Farm. Image credit: Capitol Land Trust. Click for a larger image.

The SCP has three committees: 1) Fund raising; 2) planning or technical committee; and 3) general operations. We are always seeking members to serve on these committees. Let us know if you are interested.

The fund raising committee solicits continuing, monthly contributions, as well as periodic contributions, including end of the calendar year contributions in December and hosts tables at the annual Capitol Land Trust Conservation Breakfast every February.

The planning committee is our most active committee and, with the assistance of CLT staff, researches properties within the Steamboat Peninsula region that would be appropriate for long-term conservation. Contacts are made with property owners explaining the SCP and our relations with CLT, and inquiring if these property owners are interested in conserving or preserving their properties. As you know, all conservation or preservation efforts are entirely voluntary with the property owners. Through these efforts, CLT is in discussions with several property owners who may seek to conserve their property.

The general committee consists of all members of the fund raising committee and planning committee. This committee basically runs the SCP.

We thank our past contributors to the Partnership. Please once again make an annual contribution to ensure natural areas continue to be conserved. While many of you like to make your donations at this time, the beginning of our program year, others donate at the end of the calendar year or at the Annual Capitol Land Trust Breakfast in early February.

If you have never made a donation to the Steamboat Conservation Partnership before, we hope you will remember us when planning your tax deductible donations for the year. Donations are welcome in any amount and at any time convenient to you.

We are currently embarking on an effort to further publicize SCP and solicit additional members. The July 16th bike ride on the Steamboat Peninsula and notices on Nextdoor are part of this effort.

You are invited to attend Capitol Land Trust’s annual summer gala and auction at Ralph Munro’s home on Saturday, August 13, from 5-9 pm. General admission tickets are available at $85 per person as well as deluxe tickets at $175 per person. Click here for more details.  This is a great event and an opportunity to meet many other contributors to CLT.

Thank you for your past support,

Peter Reid 360-259-3591

Steve Lundin 360-866-1214

Co-Chairs, Steamboat Conservation Partnership

Click here for more information regarding the Steamboat Conservation Partnership.

Why Conserve Marine Shorelines?

Capitol Land Trust (CLT) and our many partners play a key role in protecting natural marine shorelines of Puget Sound by identifying productive and sensitive habitats, and by working with willing landowners to protect these areas using methods such as purchase, conservation easements, and restoration. We strive to maintain our shoreline heritage so that future generations will also be able to enjoy a meal of fresh salmon and shellfish, a day of clam digging and beachcombing, and see a great blue heron stalking fish along the water line, or glimpse an otter scampering down the beach.

Our extensive marine shorelines are a special feature of the southern end of Puget Sound. They formed when, during past ice ages, huge glaciers from the north plowed through lowlands between the Cascade and Olympic mountains, carving out a series of narrow fiords (inlets) separated by higher peninsulas. When the glaciers retreated, the low areas were connected with the Pacific Ocean, creating the complex of inlets and marine shorelines we see today.

Our shorelines provide inspiring views of glistening mountains across sparkling water. We enjoy and share many recreational and educational pursuits such as clam digging, fishing, crabbing, boating, bird watching, beach combing, and nature study made possible by access to shorelines and beaches.

Twin Rivers Ranch Preserve on Oakland Bay in Mason County. Photo by Bonnie Liberty.

Twin Rivers Ranch Preserve on Oakland Bay in Mason County. Photo by Bonnie Liberty.

Natural shorelines consist of beaches of sand and gravel, which are replenished by erosion of adjacent banks and bluffs. These beaches provide spawning habitat for small fish such as surf smelt, sand lance, and herring. They also provide productive habitat for shellfish such as littleneck clams and Olympia oysters, as well as other intertidal organisms like sand dollars and moon snails. Steep banks and high bluffs adjacent to the water provide habitat for kingfishers and pigeon guillemots that nest in burrows in the bluffs. Trees leaning out from the shoreline provide cover for fish and perching sites for kingfishers, bald eagles, and crows. Near-shore waters adjacent to the shoreline are used by salmon, sea-run cutthroat trout, and seals, as well as diving ducks such as goldeneyes and buffleheads while they over-winter in Puget Sound.

In estuaries, fresh water from rivers and streams mix with salt water, producing a rich environment for fish and wildlife. Estuaries range in size from small coves or “pocket estuaries” like Allison Springs, where CLT has done extensive restoration, to those associated with large rivers and streams, like the Nisqually River. Regardless of size, estuaries and their associated salt marsh and mudflat habitats are important rearing areas for young salmon leaving our rivers and streams. Here they acclimate to salt water and put on rapid growth, feeding in the rich salt marsh sloughs and shallow waters. Estuaries are also important stopovers for shorebirds on their migrations, where they rest and feed on invertebrates to replenish the fat that will fuel their long flights to northern breeding areas in the spring, and back south in the fall.

The abundant fish and shellfish available in our inlets were key to supporting Native American communities along the shores of Puget Sound, and the linkage between salmon, shellfish, and Native American culture remains strong today. The shellfish and salmon were also a foundation for the economy of the pioneers and settlers. Totten and Little Skookum Inlets, and Oakland Bay are still some of the most productive shellfish-producing areas in the country.

Our shorelines provide many important ecological, economic, social and aesthetic values.

Triple Creek Farm Conservation Easement on Eld Inlet. Photo by Capitol Land Trust.

Triple Creek Farm Conservation Easement on Eld Inlet. Photo by Capitol Land Trust.

Ecologically, shorelines provide diverse habitats, including estuaries, mudflats, and beaches. These are dynamic places, where the land meets and interacts with the sea. Our attraction to the many wonders of shorelines can also be a threat – we are in danger of loving them too much. Shoreline home sites are highly valued because of the beautiful views, natural setting, and ready access to the water. Consequently, many of our shorelines have been overtaken by residential development. The combined impacts of bulkheads, tree and native vegetation removal, and runoff from driveways and yards, can reduce and alter beach habitat.

That is why Capitol Land Trust, with your help, has been protecting these vital places. While proper planning and stewardship can reduce the impact of development, it is critical to maintain natural areas with highly functioning habitat if we are to ensure shoreline health and productivity. We have protected over 14 miles of Puget Sound shoreline and continue to work with private landowners, public agencies and others to ensure we have shorelines abounding with life into the future.

By Dave and Joanne Schuett-Hames

Text reprinted with permission from Capitol Land Trust News, issue 61, Spring/Summer 2016.

In 2009, the Capitol Land Trust and Griffin Neighborhood Association formed the Steamboat Conservation Partnership. Since this collaboration took effect, we have been able to protect more than 300 acres in the Steamboat Peninsula region. Click here to learn more about this first-in-the-nation partnership between a neighborhood group and land trust.

Bike Ride on Steamboat Peninsula – July 16

Beach at Schmidt Conservation Easement.

Beach at Schmidt Conservation Easement.

Join us on Saturday, July 16, for a bike ride around the Steamboat Peninsula.

“Don your bike shorts,” reads a web page for the Capitol Land Trust, “grab your bike and head out to the Steamboat Peninsula for a short (15.5 miles) or long ride (21 miles) with Capitol Land Trust and the Steamboat Conservation Partnership.”

Saturday, July 16, 2016
10 AM
Steamboat Peninsula, Olympia

The ride will start at the Wynne Tree Farm, a 530-acre working tree farm at the base of the Steamboat Peninsula. If you haven’t seen this property, you’re in for a real treat. It’s located up Whittaker Road NW, which is what Steamboat Island Road turns in to, south of the US-101 overpass. Schneider Creek flows through the parcel, then alongside US-101, and on to Oyster Bay.

Riders will travel along Whittaker Road, and will be able to see the beautiful, and vast, forest and fresh water areas that comprise the Wynne Tree Farm, and that are permanently conserved by Capitol Land Trust and the Wynne family.

The short ride travels up the Peninsula and will stop at Frye Cove Park. Riders can take a short (approximately 1/3 mile) walk to the beach, and will enjoy the scenery while having a snack at the picnic tables. Riders will learn about conservation on the Steamboat Peninsula, especially about a hopeful addition to CLT’s conserved areas which is next to Frye Cove and is home to a half mile of Frye Cove Creek, the stream that drains to Frye Cove and that contains important salmon spawning habitat. After this stop, riders will ride back to the Wynne Tree Farm.

The long ride travels up the Peninsula, and will take a short stop at the entrance to Frye Cove, but will then continue to ride to the Schmidt Conservation Easement towards the tip of the Peninsula. Riders can then stop and will learn about this beautiful 35-acre property along with a walk (approximately 1/3 mile) to the beach. Also enjoy a snack and learn about conservation on the Steamboat Peninsula. As an optional addition, riders can choose to continue their ride out to Steamboat Island, approximately 5 miles more to the overall ride. Or riders will ride back to the Wynne Tree Farm.

This is a free event. However, registration is required, so event organizers can prepare to host the event. When you register, you’ll be asked for your email address. You will receive event directions and other event details to this email address.

To register, click here to visit the Capitol Land Trust’s web page. Scroll down to the bottom and fill out their form.

Click here to read a reprint of an article about Tom and Charlene Wynne’s rescue of Schneider Creek. This article was published in the January 1998 issue of the Griffin Neighborhood Association’s “Neighbors” newsletter.


Successful Steamboat Conservation Partnership Extended for Another Five Years

The Board of the Griffin Neighborhood Association joined this last month with the Board of the Capitol Land Trust to extend the term of the Steamboat Conservation Partnership for another five years.

The Steamboat Conservation Partnership is a unique agreement between a neighborhood association and a land trust.

We are happy to report the SCP has generated more than $80,000 during the first five years of the Partnership. This sum exceeds their five-year, $75,000 goal. All contributions are tax exempt, because they are made directly to Capitol Land Trust, which is a 501(c)(3) organization.

jamie_glasgow_lower_eldea61a327598cFunds collected by the SCP are used by Capitol Land Trust to pay for staff time related to properties in the Steamboat Peninsula Region. This work in the Steamboat Peninsula Region includes developing agreements with owners of significant natural areas and working lands to conserve their property, maintaining relationships with property owners who already have given or sold their property or development rights to Capitol Land Trust, periodically meeting with a committee from our area on potential areas to conserve, and leading tours of protected areas.

Since 2009, Capitol Land Trust has conserved the following important or significant natural areas within the Steamboat Peninsula region:

In addition, an agreement will soon be signed conserving an additional 175 acres as part of the Wynne Conservation Easement, located in the Schneider Creek Valley with the headwaters of the creek. This will add to the existing 355 acres that are part of the Wynne Conservation Easement.

How does the Steamboat Conservation Partnership work? Capitol Land Trust places contributions to the SCP into a segregated trust account and uses the funds to finance a portion of its efforts to develop relationships with property owners in the Steamboat Peninsula Region, write habitat acquisition grants, negotiate agreements with property owners, and manage properties or easements within the Steamboat Peninsula Region. Defined as the watersheds of both Eld Inlet and Totten Inlet, the Steamboat Peninsula Region includes the Steamboat Island/ Griffin Peninsula, western Cooper Point draining into Eld Inlet, the eastern part of Mason County draining into Totten Inlet, and areas draining into Kennedy Creek or McLane Creek. A priority focus is made on lands located within the boundaries of the Griffin School District.

The Land Trust has a proven record of success, and has permanently conserved more than 5,000 acres in four southwest Washington counties, including more than 14 miles of south Puget Sound shoreline.

The map below shows the natural areas and working lands conserved by Capitol Land Trust within the Steamboat Conservation Region. Discussions are underway with other property owners to conserve additional lands within our Region.

Click here for a complete description of all conserved lands.

If you would like to learn more about how you can support the Steamboat Conservation Partnership, click here to read their web page.

The Board of the Griffin Neighborhood Association is proud of its partnership with the Capitol Land Trust and we hope you will join us in actively supporting the efforts of the SCP.

Yuma Myotis One of the Bats Living Near Us

There are 15 bat species native to Washington, one of which is Yuma myotis (Myotis yumanensis). This little bat is medium dark brown with a darker brown face and ears. Yuma myotis can live up to 20 years and have an average weight of 6 grams. They are about 3-5 inches long with a wing span of about 9 inches.

Yuma myotis love to live near calm or “slack” water, where they can fly swiftly just above the water’s surface to catch small insects like mayflies, midges and mosquitoes. Places with extensive open freshwater lakes and wetlands provide ideal foraging habitat.

Summer roosts for Yuma myotis bats include crevices in cliffs, old buildings, mines, caves, bridges, and abandoned cliff swallow nests. Here locally, that means thousands of Yuma myotis can be found roosting at Woodard Bay, the largest known colony in Washington State and only 1.5 miles from the Lonseth Preserve.

Bats are the only flying mammals and are extremely beneficial because of their ability to eat enormous quantities of bugs. Yuma myotis is an important riparian species, but likely has been eliminated along many streams in western states by habitat loss and disturbances to colonies while they are hibernating or when mothers are nursing offspring.

Sources: Bats About Our Town, Bats Northwest, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Idaho State University.
See Michael Durham’s amazing bat photography and more at

Reprinted with permission from the Fall newsletter of the Capitol Land Trust. 

Click here for more on the nature around us.

In other news regarding the Capitol Land Trust, we learn of the successful completion of a restoration project in our neighborhood:

For over 50 years, the Allison Springs property, located near the southern terminus of Eld Inlet, contained dikes that blocked fish from spawning. This past year, we worked with South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group (SPSSEG) and other partners to remove all six dikes and to revegetate along the new creek channel. On the adjacent Randall Preserve, we removed three structures and decommissioned a road before planting the area. The total planted area from both projects is over two acres, with about 3,000 native plants installed!

Restoration project partners were Washington Department of Ecology, South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group, U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington Conservation Corps, Sound Native Plants, People for Puget Sound, Ralph Plowman – Black River Farm LLC, Thurston County, Shelly Bentley, City of Olympia, South Sound Green, WSU Extension Native Plant Salvage Project, Mason and Thurston Conservation Districts.

Capitol Land Trust is celebrating 25 Anniversary. Mark your calendars for their 8th Annual Conservation Breakfast, Tuesday February 12, 2013, 7:00 to 8:30 AM at St. Martin’s University.
The Griffin Neighborhood Association is proud to have creates the Steamboat Conservation Partnership with the Capitol Land Trust. The Partnership was created to conserve the rich and diverse natural landscapes of the Steamboat Peninsula region. Click here to learn more about the Steamboat Conservation Partnership and how you can help conserve habitat right here in the Griffin area.

Conservation of Pocket Estuary Identified by Gayle Broadbent-Ferris, Acquired with Assist from Steamboat Conservation Partnership

In early June 2011, Capitol Land Trust acquired a 34- acre property on the northeastern shore of Totten Inlet on the Steamboat Island Peninsula. The site has a small pocket estuary with critical salmon habitat, 1,400 feet of waterfront, steep bluffs that replenish natural gravel beaches, and small streams flowing from mature forests that cover most of the property.

Major grants from US Fish and Wildlife/WA Dept. of Ecology’s Coastal Wetlands Grant program and the state’s Salmon Recovery Funding Board helped finance the project. Other funds came from Taylor Shellfish, the Squaxin Island Tribe and the Steamboat Conservation Partnership.

“This is a relatively small piece of shoreline, but it has enormous biological value that will now be preserved and enhanced,” said Capitol Land Trust’s conservation projects manager Laurence Reeves.

According to Laurence, the project was originally championed by local resident and south Sound conservationist Gayle Broadbent-Ferris who died in an accident in 2009. She introduced the property to the Trust and helped keep interest in its preservation alive during a period when development was contemplated. “Gayle, more than anyone, would have been thrilled to know the property is now under conservancy,” Laurence said.

Dave and Joanne Schuett-Hames, local residents who provided marine habitat expertise for the project, also mentioned Broadbent-Ferris’s dedication to conservancy of the Adams Cove area. “She lived near the property,” Dave said, “and felt it was not suitable for intensive development. She had great appreciation for the natural values of the wetlands and the estuary.”

“This was a very complex project,” said Laurence, “but eventually, through a lot of hard work on the part of many organizations and individuals, it all came together. We have skilled and dedicated staff, but we can’t do it all. As with many of our projects, we relied on contributions of time and expertise from many members and volunteers. Their involvement was absolutely critical.”

Near the start of the project, Laurence visited the site with Dave and Joanne to assess its potential. What they found was a pocket estuary in relatively pristine condition, with many acres of neighboring forest and wetlands that provide clean fresh water. The property, known locally as Adams Cove, includes a protective sand spit at the estuary entrance, a beach used by spawning forage fish, an intertidal salt marsh, and mudflats providing habitat for Puget Sound coho, winter steelhead, chinook, summer chum, and coastal sea-run cutthroat.

“This is a pretty special piece of the south Puget Sound ecosystem,” said Dave. “Our job was to capture the nature of the place in language that biologists would understand, to provide heft for the technical and scientific aspects of the grant applications. We helped explain why this particular place, in its current state, is so beneficial to fish and other marine populations.”

Dave and Joanne do this kind of work professionally, but they did it as volunteers for this project. They have helped Capitol Land Trust with several other projects as well.

The threat of commercial development above the shoreline bluffs accentuated the sense that the property should be conserved in its entirety. According to Dave, “The upland area is a forested wetland system that provides habitat for birds and plants, and is the main source of cool, clean fresh water for the estuary. Anything built on the bluffs would more than likely degrade water quality and the entire system’s ability to sustain plant and animal life.”

The estuary is also the mixing zone for fresh and salt water, and it’s especially important for the very large native chum run that spawns each year in Kennedy Creek at the southern end of Totten Inlet. According to Dave, “The fry come out of the freshwater creek in the spring as very small fish, only a couple inches long. The open water of Totten Inlet can be dangerous for them. The salinity presents a huge physiological adjustment, and it helps to have places like Adams Cove where they can find relatively fresh water to reduce that shock. The estuary, with its protective spit, shallow water, and overhanging trees, is a refuge from wave action and from predatory birds and fish. It’s also a source of small organisms for them to eat.”

There is also evidence that young Chinook salmon from central and even northern Puget Sound forage in Totten Inlet and its estuaries before migrating out to the ocean.

One other important feature of the Adams Cove habitat, Dave said, is its undeveloped shoreline, with intact forest. “You have well-developed shoreline vegetation to feed the nutrient food chain,” he said. “Some of the trees will fall into the estuary, providing good cover habitat in the water. And trees hanging over the water provide shade and help keep the water cool.”

The other benefit of conserving this piece of land is the preservation of natural “feeder” bluffs, which help maintain the viability of beaches that are the spawning ground for sand lance, pacific anchovy, herring, and other “forage” fish on which salmon feed.

According to Dave, “When this kind of shoreline becomes highly developed, people often build bulkheads because they don’t want the erosion. Eventually, over time, as that erosion is eliminated or controlled, the gravel can get scoured out, leaving nothing but clay. It’s important to have unarmored bluffs with some erosion to provide gravel and sediment to replenish the beaches.”

The Totten Inlet coastal shoreline is a permanent or migratory home to more than 100 bird species, including eagles, owls, ospreys, plovers, sandpipers, woodpeckers and loons, and the property has potential as a possible restoration area for the native Olympia oyster, Laurence said.

Both Laurence and Dave emphasized that Adams Cove is a particularly unspoiled pocket estuary. Many similar estuaries, especially those with spits, have been dammed up in the past to create freshwater ponds.

Dave stressed that each pocket estuary is part of a larger ecosystem that is important to newly hatched fish. “They don’t just function in isolation,” he said. “You get more benefit if there are a series of them along the shoreline that the fish can move into. Maintaining a network of them would be much better than just preserving one.”

The main purpose of this project was to conserve the estuarine habitat. A corollary to that is recognition that human visits to the property, especially on land, are not necessarily beneficial to that purpose. “As with many of our projects,” Laurence said, “we encourage thoughtful and respectful visitation for educational and scientific purposes. We want people to remember that hands-off is probably the best policy. Our five-year management plan for Adams Cove is to just let it do its own thing. And that’s in keeping with the intent of the funding agencies.”

Steve Kelso is an Olympia writer, photographer, and painter who appreciates the work of Capitol Land Trust.

Capitol Land Trust Would Like to Thank These Project Partners:

WA Department of Ecology
US Fish and Wildlife Service
WA State Salmon Recovery Funding Board
Squaxin Island Tribe
Taylor Shellfish Farms
Steamboat Conservation Partnership
Dave and Joanne Schuett-Hames
ADESA Environmental Services
Michael and Lorrie Asker, William and Bonita Asker, Michael and Tracy Evans.

Article reprinted with permission from Capitol Land Trust. This article and accompanying photographs was originally printed as “Pocket Estuary on Totten Inlet Conserved” in the Summer 2011 issue of the Capitol Land Trust Newsletter.
The Griffin Neighborhood Association formed the Steamboat Conservation Partnership with Capitol Land Trust “to conserve the rich and diverse natural landscapes of the Steamboat Peninsula region.” Help us to preserve habitat, now and forever, right here in our neighborhood. Click here to learn how you can support the Steamboat Conservation Partnership.