Nisqually Land Trust completes US$10.5M, 2,500-acre wildlife corridor near Washington's Mount Rainier National Park with purchase from HTRG of 520 acres using federal land-acquisition grant through state DNR

Allison Oesterle

Allison Oesterle

Oct 31, 2012 – Washington State Dept. of Natural Resources

OLYMPIA, Washington , October 31, 2012 (press release) – Purchase from Hancock Timber caps $10.5 million project

The Nisqually Land Trust today announced the successful completion of a 2,500 acre, $10.5 million wildlife corridor connecting local, state, and federally protected lands near the main entrance to Mount Rainier National Park.

The Land Trust completed the corridor with the purchase of 520 acres of environmentally sensitive land in Pierce County, Washington, from the Hancock Timber Resource Group. The purchase was one of the largest in the Land Trust’s history.

Known as the Mount Rainier Gateway Initiative, the Land Trust project is located directly north of the community of Ashford, between Gifford Pinchot National Forest and Elbe Hills State Forest.

“The areas connected by this corridor are home to spotted owls, marbled murrelets, bald eagles, elk, cougar, and many other species,” said Joe Kane, Executive Director of the Nisqually Land Trust. “Protected corridors are critical to their survival, especially in the face of threats like climate change. They allow wildlife to adapt to habitat changes by traveling from low country to high, from east to west and north to south, and from timberlands to river bottoms.”

The Land Trust purchased the property with a federal land-acquisition grant through the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR). As part of the multi-party transaction, DNR will hold a conservation easement on the property in perpetuity, ensuring its use as habitat and preventing future development.

“A conservation easement in one of many tools that DNR has in the tool box to preserve lands,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark. “But it is the collaboration and the leadership of the Nisqually Land Trust and the Nisqually Tribe that are making it possible to protect critical habitat, like this, near the entrance to Mount Rainier National Park.”

The Nisqually Indian Tribe, which helped provide funding for the project, will assist the Land Trust in managing the site’s natural resources.

“We are proud to be able to help acquire and preserve this vital environmental resource,” said Cynthia Iyall, chair of the Nisqually Indian Tribe. “This partnership further illustrates the Nisqually’s strong commitment to protecting and enhancing environmentally sensitive lands and habitats. Our tribe is honored to be part of this effort.”

The purchase is the third the Land Trust has made from Boston-based Hancock Timber to build the corridor. “Conservation transactions require a lot of patience,” Kane said, “and we are grateful to Hancock Timber for working so diligently with us on all of these acquisitions.” All told, the Land Trust has purchased 1,840 acres from the company over the past four years.

“We have great respect for Nisqually Land Trust, a respect that has only grown over the past four years, as we’ve worked with them to complete the protection of this important wildlife corridor,” said Mike Wolf, President of Hancock Timber’s Forest Management Operations across North America. “We take great satisfaction in knowing that our shared, deep commitment to protecting environmentally sensitive land has resulted in this land being conserved and enjoyed for generations to come.”

The Land Trust’s purchase represents Phase III of its Mount Rainier Gateway Initiative, which has as its goal the protection of critical wildlife habitat while also supporting the local economy. The Land Trust launched the initiative in 2006 in response to local concerns about the impact of timber harvests on scenic vistas vital to the tourism economy.

“To protect habitat in perpetuity, you have to make it part of a sustainable system,” said Kane. “In the Ashford area, that system includes working forests, recreational opportunities, and a commitment to the long-term health of the community.” Kane said the purchase includes a portion of the Mount Tahoma Trails Association’s hut-to-hut cross-country ski trail, the largest no-fee hut system in the country.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service funded the transaction with a grant from its Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund. Winning the grant was the result of a partnership that included the Nisqually Land Trust, the Washington Department of Natural Resources, the Nisqually River Council, and the Nisqually Headwaters Coalition, an Ashford-based citizens group.

The Nisqually Land Trust completed a 2,500-acre, $10.5 million wildlife corridor that connects protected lands near Mount Rainier National Park.

About the Nisqually Land Trust
The Nisqually Land Trust acquires and manages critical lands to permanently protect the water, wildlife, natural areas, and scenic vistas of the Nisqually River Watershed. Since 1989, the Nisqually Land Trust has acquired, for permanent protection, over 4,500 acres of superior wildlife habitat—from threatened, old-growth forest near the Nisqually River’s source to critical salmon habitat along its shoreline and delta.

About the Nisqually Indian Tribe
Drawing on its rich cultural heritage and its entrepreneurial spirit, the Nisqually Indian Tribe is a national leader in environmental stewardship and economic development. The Nisqually Tribe is known for its innovative programs to restore and protect the Nisqually River and Puget Sound as well as its efforts to build a vibrant economy and create jobs for its members. The Tribe has a long history of working closely with its neighboring communities to find solutions to shared issues, form partnerships and improve people’s lives. While honoring its past, the Nisqually Tribe is working hard to secure a bright future.

About the Hancock Timber Resource Group
The Hancock Timber Resource Group, founded in 1985, is a division of Hancock Natural Resource Group, Inc., an operating company of Manulife Asset Management. Based in Boston, it manages approximately 6.6 million acres of timberland across the United States and in Brazil, Canada, New Zealand and Australia on behalf of investors worldwide. All of the Hancock Timber Resource Group’s timberlands in the U.S. are managed by its wholly-owned subsidiary, Hancock Forest Management.

Through its Sensitive Lands Program, Hancock Timber has helped preserve and protect more than 430,000 acres of environmentally sensitive lands globally. Its largest, single, sensitive-lands transaction was the protection of approximately 90,000 acres of timberlands in King County, Washington, in 2004. Under its agreement with the county, Hancock sold the development rights on the vast majority of the Snoqualmie Tree Farm, just east of Seattle, ensuring that the land will remain a working forest in perpetuity. Additional information about Hancock Timber may be found at

About the Washington State Department of Natural Resources
The Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) manages about 5 million acres of state-owned lands and resources. Of these, 3 million acres are trust lands—forests, agricultural and range lands, wind farms and other commercial properties that earn income to build public schools, universities and other state institutions, and help fund local services in many counties. In addition to earning income, trust lands provide habitat for native plant and animal species, protect clean and abundant water, and offer public recreation and education opportunities statewide. DNR is steward of the 2.6 million acres of aquatic (mostly submerged) land beneath the navigable marine and fresh waters of the state; and manages the Natural Resource Conservation Areas and Natural Area Preserves, which protect unique and threatened native ecosystems and offer educational and research opportunities.

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