A sound with a view

- Land Trusts at Work

The Nisqually Land Trust is pleased to announce that the Land Trust and their project partners have secured over $3 million to support their Marine Conservation Initiative – a strategic approach to protecting high-value coastal habitats within the South Sound/Nisqually Reach marine environment.

Federal, state and county agencies have awarded these funds to protect some of the area’s best-remaining coastal habitat – 1.5 miles of estuarine and marine shoreline surrounded by 175 acres of mature forests and freshwater wetlands.

This remains urgent work, as an informal survey of the South Puget Sound waterfront property market makes compellingly clear.

It’s telling that there are so few undeveloped waterfront properties still for sale in the region. Over 75 percent of Puget Sound’s estuary and nearshore habitat has already been developed or converted to non-natural uses.

The loss of this vital habitat is pushing salmon, orca and many other keystone species to the brink of extinction. The region’s commercial fish, shellfish, recreation, tourism and real-estate economies also depend upon a healthy Puget Sound.

A highlight of this work is the Sound View Camp, project, on Drayton Passage near Anderson Island. The site has mature forest and freshwater wetlands adjacent to a spectacular nearshore complex that includes a large barrier embayment and barrier beach and lagoon, feeder bluff, saltmarsh, tideland and other habitats.

Sound View Camp also hosts hundreds of youth and adult visitors every year. This unique partnership will support the Camp’s extensive environmental education and outdoor recreation programs and increase understanding of the importance of marine habitats and conservation.

Circling back to the survey of waterfront properties mentioned earlier, an even more compelling case emerges for the value contributed through their Marine Initiative: The average cost of the ten or so waterfront properties currently for sale in the region is $1,798 per “waterfront foot.” Viewed through this lens, within the coming year the Initiative would protect approximately $14 million in waterfront value.

However, it’s impossible to place a monetary value on the benefits this unique habitat provides for orcas, salmon and the region’s human inhabitants.

Essential support for their current Marine Conservation Initiative projects has been provided by the Washington Departments of Ecology, Fish and Wildlife, and Natural Resources, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Nisqually Indian Tribe, Pierce County Conservation Futures, Thurston County Conservation Futures, Ducks Unlimited and the Nisqually Delta Association.