News

County buys land for salmon habitat

PRESTON _ King County has acquired 53 acres of undeveloped

land near Preston in an effort to preserve the salmon habitat of the Raging River.

The county bought the land, located about a mile north of

Preston, for $900,000. The purchase was funded through the King County

Early Action Endangered Species Act and state Department of Natural

Resources Forest Legacy programs.

The land will be protected as permanent open space under the

county's Earth Legacy 2000 Initiative, and includes more than one-half mile

of property along the river. According to King County Executive Ron Sims,

the land was close to being developed for residential use.

"We know that one of the keys to saving salmon in King County is

the protection of prime fish habitat along our rivers, lakes and streams,"

Sims said in a statement. "If we had not acted, this property was at risk of

being developed with five new homes.

"This acquisition will preserve another 53 acres of critical

salmon habitat in the Snoqualmie River watershed, which supports the

largest chinook salmon run in King County."

In addition to the land along the river, the site also contains

two streams, four wetlands and areas of mature, second-growth coniferous

forest. Al Dams, spokesman with the King County Park System, said in

the future the land could be used for trails and interpretive opportunities,

but salmon habitat would retain priority over any other uses for the land.

The Park System will be responsible for managing the site.

"We'll go in and take a look at it and find out what the natural

features are and the things we need to

protect," he said. "But typically, there are

opportunities for some walking trails, and we've got some really great

interpretative [efforts] going on in King County."

A number of different salmon species can be found in the Raging

River, including chinook, coho, pink, chum and steelhead. According to Sims,

the lower six miles of the river once provided many diverse spawning

habitats, but much has been lost over the years to river diking.

Dams said the Earth Legacy 2000 Initiative, the program under which

the purchase was approved, aims to improve the quality of life for people

and wildlife in King County. Besides land acquisition, the program honors

individuals and companies working to clean up the environment.

The initiative has helped protect other land for salmon habitat.

Earlier this year, Nestle USA donated approximately 60 acres of land along

the Snoqualmie River to the county.

"That piece that Nestle donated to the county was our No. 1 priority,"

said Richard Corff, project administrator in the Resource Lands and Open

Space Section of the King County Department of Natural Resources. He

added that Valley landowners have been receptive to efforts to preserve

salmon habitat.

"We've had just terrific dealings with folks in the Valley," he said.

The county has also purchase 9.5 acres along the Tolt River east of

Carnation and is working to acquire more. Corff is currently trying to buy

several tracts of land north of Fall City. He works in conjunction with

the Snohomish Basin Salmonid Recovery Technical Committee to select

sites that have the best potential for salmon restoration.

"It's an assemblage of about 50 acres, and God it's beautiful

salmon habitat," he said of the Fall City land.

The county's efforts already show promise. Corff said state Fish

and Wildlife officials recently stated the reach of the Snoqualmie River

below Carnation has the highest density of salmon spawning in King County.

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