Iconic Roosevelt elk are seen in part of what is to become the Hoh River Conservation and Recreation Area. (Joel Rogers)

New agreement: Large-scale restoration and renewal planned for 30 miles of Hoh River

FORKS — A new agreement between The Nature Conservancy and Hoh River Trust is a step toward restoration of more than 10,000 acres of habitat in the Hoh River Valley in the Olympic Rainforest.

With this agreement, the Hoh River Trust will transfer 7,133 acres to the Conservancy, joining the Conservancy’s 3,182 acres, which will connect more than 30 miles from the boundaries of the Olympic National Park to the Pacific Coast into a large contiguous Hoh River Recreation and Conservation Area.

A community meeting about the project is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday, at the Rainforest Arts Center, 35 N. Forks Ave.

Questions about the meeting can be sent to Garrett Dalan, Washington Coast conservation coordinator for The Nature Conservancy at garrett.dalan@tnc.org.

The combined Hoh River ownership will allow the Conservancy’s ability to work with local communities, tribes and state agencies to work for abundant salmon and a strong local economy, the Conservancy said in a press release.

The Conservancy plans to hire a forester and begin implementing tree-planting and road work.

Future projects will be restoration thinning, stream rehabilitation and stepped-up control of invasive weeds.

The volunteer Hoh River Trust board will continue to provide a local perspective on the Hoh River Recreation and Conservation Area.

The Trust is actively searching for additional board members from the West End.

The land the Conservancy will acquire was originally purchased by Western Rivers Conservancy, which sought to conserve the lower Hoh River and improve recreational access.

In 2001, Western River Conservancy partnered with the Wild Salmon Center to create the Hoh River Trust to own and steward the lands for the dual purposes of restoring wildlife habitat and providing a recreation corridor in the Hoh River Valley beyond the national park boundaries.

“The Hoh is one of the nation’s great rivers, renowned for its scenic beauty, healthy native fish runs and lush, towering rainforests,” said Western Rivers Conservancy President Sue Doroff.

“We set out to conserve over 20 miles of the river that wasn’t already protected in Olympic National Park to ensure the Hoh was protected in its entirety.

“We are excited to find a long-term steward like The Nature Conservancy, which can carry that legacy into the future.”

Since 2010, the Conservancy has worked closely with private and public partners to acquire key timber lands on the Olympic Peninsula to begin forest and river restoration.

“The Hoh River Trust is proud of our 15-year history of conservation, restoration and land management in the Hoh Valley,” said Roger Oakes, president of the Hoh River Trust.

“We are excited about the opportunity to partner with The Nature Conservancy and we have worked very closely with The Nature Conservancy on this transition, assuring the trust that the land will continue to be restored and well managed, while providing the same level of access for public use for appropriate recreational activities, such as hunting, fishing and gathering.

The land will continue to be open for public and tribal use for hunting, fishing, traditional gathering of plants and medicines, firewood gathering by permit, boating, birding, hiking, and other non-motorized outdoor activities, as is all Conservancy land on the Washington coast, said Dave Rolph, the Conservancy’s director of Forest Conservation Management for Washington.

The Conservancy has also purchased and is restoring forest lands on the Queets and Clearwater rivers. Together with the earlier acquisitions on the Queets and Clearwater rivers, the Conservancy will manage 16,532 acres of Olympic Rainforest lands.

Conservancy foresters and ecologists have developed long-term plans that include planting trees and restoring salmon and wildlife habitat, including rebuilding mature and old forest habitat through thinning harvests in young forest stands.

Beyond forest protection and restoration, the Conservancy is working with coastal communities on sustainable economic development. For example, the Washington Coast Works business competition, which is launching its third year, is providing seed funding and training for startup businesses on the coast.

The Olympic Rainforest is the southern anchor of the world’s most expansive temperate rainforest, stretching from Washington north through British Columbia and into Southeast Alaska.

Nature Conservancy aquatics ecologist Emily Howe and forest ecologist Ryan Haugo explore the Hoh River. (Joel Rogers)

Nature Conservancy Washington Forest Manager Kyle Smith in part of what is to become the Hoh River Conservation and Recreation Area. (Joel Rogers)

Nature Conservancy Washington Forest Manager Kyle Smith walks in part of what is to become the Hoh River Conservation and Recreation Area. (Joel Rogers)

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