Hoh valley residents not happy with new neighbor - Owners balk at Western Rivers Conservancy, Hoh River Trust's involvement with river

Posted on Tuesday 22 June 2004
by George McCormick
Forks Forum

Forks, WA - About 100 citizens, many residents of the Hoh River Valley, attended an informational meeting held by the newly formed Hoh River Trust and its parent organization, Western Rivers Conservancy at the Forks Middle School June 16.

The meeting was called by Jenny Nixon, director of the trust, and Jeff Kling, of the conservancy. The purported purpose was to gather input in preparation for the trust to acquire the Hoh River property owned by the conservancy and the preparation by the truth of a land management plan.

Nixon had said she wanted to hear people’s concerns and be able to tell people about our project and vision.

She got an earful about residents concerns about their new neighbor.
The WRC has acquired about 3,700 acres of former Rayonier land along the river specifically Schmidt Bar (757 acres), Watermarker at Spruce Creek (1,617 acres) and Nolan Creek property (1,325 acres).

Nixon’s statement that The Hoh River Trust will not deny public access to our lands except for motorized vehicles and camping, was greeted with distrust and objections.

Kling said concern about campfires prompted the no camping restriction.
A target of the resident’s ire was closed gates with signs posted by the conservancy that listed restrictions to the use of the property.
The way I was introduced to Western Rivers was by going up to where we’ve always launched our boats and being greeted with a wall of signs, said Anna Matsche, who operates a kayaking business on the river. The whole Hoh Valley is dependent on tourism. It’s a primitive area that’s friendly to camping and recreation.

It sounds to us like you’re saying you’re the only one who can manage the land, Glenda Peterson said. We’ve managed this land for over 100 years and have done a good job of it.

Other audience members expressed concern about boat landings, camp sites, rafting and that the land would be out of the tax base. We’re a non-profit organization and legally we don’t have to pay taxes, but we’ve chosen to pay taxes to avoid an impact on the tax base, Kling said.

Kling also told the group that originally they had considered having Olympic National Forest manage the acquired lands. We are no longer looking to work with the Forest Service, he said.

Instead Western Rivers Conservancy and the Wild Salmon Center, both of Portland, Ore. are in the process of forming the Hoh River Trust.

Of the 10,000 acres within this proposed conservation corridor 8,000 are privately owned, Kling said. Two willing sellers own ninety percent of these lands targeted for protection by the Hoh River Project. The Hoh River Trust, a separate not-for-profit conservation entity, will hold title to and manage all acquired lands for the benefit of wildlife and people. The land will be available for hunting, hiking, fishing, and other appropriate public uses. The Trust will continue in the future to purchase available lands and work with the local community to ensure the protection of corridor lands.
Any land management plan is in the future when the trust gets the property so discussions about access are theoretical, Nixon said. When we have the property we’ll need to discuss some of these issues.
We think you’re on a fishing expedition, said Rob Capelle, of the Hoh River Resort.

One member of the audience complained, All we’re hearing is I don’t knows.

We all wonder what our future is in the valley, Matsche said. Every restriction you place on the land hurts us.

After the meeting, Matsche said, They didn’t answer our questions and weren’t able to give us any idea of their direction, Matsche said. It’s hard to trust them (see related story).

What they’re doing is going to change the open atmosphere of our valley and that’s not what we want in a neighbor, she said.

They weren’t prepared, said Gary Peterson, owner of Peak 6. Western Rivers has built an entity to acquire the property that has no assets.
We don’t know who’s funding this project, he said. Things are not transparent and that makes some local people suspicious.

Closing the river — that’s never been done historically, he added. We’ve always had 100 percent access.

Watermaker — Spruce Creek — had always been a camping spot, said Candice Steed, of the Hard Rain Cafe. It’s one of the most used primitive sites we have.

It’s not at all friendly to have property we’ve accessed for years for boating and camping closed off, she said. I don’t know how many times we’ve sent people there when the regular camping sites weren’t available.

Creating a Salmon Sanctuary
(Excerpted from the Western Rivers Conservancy website www.westernrivers.org))

Hoh River, Jefferson County, Washington
The Hoh is one of the nation's great rivers. The Hoh basin is world-renowned for its beauty and receives millions of visitors annually. The Hoh also presents an unprecedented opportunity to protect and maintain salmon and steelhead strongholds. With healthy salmon runs, pristine and protected headwaters, an absence of fish passage problems, and no significant hatchery influences, the Hoh only requires habitat protection along the lower river system. Western Rivers Conservancy's goal is to assemble a continuous conservation corridor from the Park boundary to the Pacific Ocean, placing nearly the entire length of the Hoh into protective status. This corridor will serve as a sanctuary for the famed Hoh River salmon and steelhead. Many species of wildlife will benefit from large-scale habitat protection. In addition, outdoor enthusiasts of all types will realize a wealth of opportunities along the Hoh.
Western Rivers Conservancy is working to acquire the vast majority of lands along the lower Hoh. The first steps were taken in 2001, when Western Rivers Conservancy, with a loan from the David & Lucile Packard Foundation, purchased the Schmidt Bar property from Rayonier Timberlands Operating Company. This 757-acre property includes not only gravel bars important for mainstem spawning by chinook salmon, but also the lower portions of two key tributary streams to the Hoh: Elk and Winfield Creeks. These are considered to be two of the most productive salmon spawning and rearing tributaries in the entire system. Schmidt Bar also contains extensive red alder floodplain forests laced with vital off-channel waterways. Above the floodplain, beautiful wetland meadows are framed by old growth big leaf maple and sitka spruce.
Western Rivers Conservancy's second acquisition, in 2002, from Rayonier was the 1,617-acre Spruce Creek Bottom property. Spruce Creek Bottom contains the lower sections of five important tributaries to the Hoh as well as over four miles of river frontage along the Hoh itself. Throughout the property there are numerous wetlands that are vital rearing areas for young fish. Rayonier owns another 1,209 acres of riverlands along the lower Hoh that Western Rivers Conservancy will acquire after the Schmidt Bar transaction. In addition to the Rayonier lands, we anticipate purchasing 3,967 acres of land from various landowners along the river. Another $15,000,000 is needed to purchase these corporate-owned properties on the lower Hoh. Lastly, Western Rivers Conservancy must raise an additional $1,000,000 for purchase options, down payments and project expenses. Western Rivers Conservancy's effort to create a salmon sanctuary will provide the best contribution possible to Hoh River salmon and steelhead. Upon the project's completion almost thirty miles of river and 10,000 acres of forest will be protected. This achievement will complement the existing protected lands within the National Park, creating a fifty-six mile conservation corridor from the interior of the Olympic Mountains to the Pacific Ocean.


Public meeting is set on Hoh River Project
Posted on Tuesday 18 May 2004

by George McCormick
Forks Forum

A public meeting will be held the first week of June on the Hoh River Project.
As Director of the Hoh River Project and Hoh River Trust I would like to personally invite the Forks community to the public meeting we will be having in early June, Jenny Nixon said. This will be a wonderful opportunity to hear more about the project and ask questions. I will work with The Forks Forum and local radio stations to announce the time and location once it is finalized.
I can be contacted at 206.340.1701 or via email: jnixon@hohriverproject.org, she said. I welcome comments and questions.

We’re hoping to hear people’s concerns and to be able to tell people about our project and vision, Nixon said. We hope to work together with the community to make this a project everyone can feel invested in.
The project was envisioned and created by two non-profit organizations, Western Rivers Conservancy and Wild Salmon Center.
We are wanting to work with the community in creating a conservation corridor for the Hoh River Project, she said. We’re setting up a land trust called the Hoh River Land Trust that will hold the lands we acquire in the Hoh River Basin.
Currently, the trust does not own land within the basin so discussions on access are theoretical, Nixon said. However, once the trust does take ownership to lands, public access for hunting, fishing and other recreation will be allowed.
Of the 56 miles of the Hoh River, 30 miles are outside the protection of Olympic National Park. The Hoh River Project seeks to purchase these last 30 miles at fair market value to ensure the Hoh basin are permanently protected, Nixon said. We’re working in partnership with residents, local businesses, community groups, tribes and the state and federal governments to raise $25 million in public and private funds.
The Hoh is one of the last strongholds for several fish species that are listed as ‘threatened’ or ‘endangered’, Nixon said. Many species flourish in the area and the Hoh has an unusually high diversity of salmon and char species.
Nixon said the group will not turn the land over to the Olympic National Park.
Nixon who was raised in Port Angeles and graduated from Port Angeles High School said, I love to spend time with family and we like to do that outside whenever possible hiking and backpacking.
Nixon oversees the project and is in charge of the day to day administrative work and of outreach to the community. I coordinate every aspect of the project, she said.
Currently Nixon is working out of a Seattle office and can be reached at 1-866-799-1702. In the short term I’ll be in Seattle, she said. But it is our vision to have a Forks office in the future.
Nixon has been working with willing sellers on the acquisition of Hoh River property, We’ve been working with timber companies in the basin, she said. We only work with willing sellers.
We’re hoping to not only preserve and protect the biological assets but also the cultural and historical assets in the basin, she said.
We’re excited about this project, Nixon said. It’s a great area to be working in and I feel very fortunate to be working out



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