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Land trust agreements add to Siebert Creek conservation
by Michele d’Hemecourt
North Olympic Land Trust
When Robyn Miletich was a child, she worked on her family’s berry farm. As she grew older, the land that her parents, Eloise Johnson and the late George K. Johnson, bought in 1955, and where she’s lived with her husband, John Miletich, for 20 years, came to have deeper meaning for her. She has fond memories of walking to the creek, watching the fish and enjoying the beautiful forest around her.
Now the lifelong Clallam County resident and owner of Country Aire Natural Foods in Port Angeles has taken a step that will assure the qualities she loves about the property always will be protected.
She and John signed papers earlier this month for a permanent legal agreement, officially termed a conservation easement, with the North Olympic Land Trust. They can continue owning the 21.14 acre property in the easement as long as they wish and then sell it or pass it along to others. The agreement protecting the land’s conservation values will remain in place “in perpetuity.”
Through that agreement and another with Verna Adolphsen to purchase 4.36 acres of her land along Siebert Creek, NOLT has achieved a decade-long goal of giving the stream protection for 2 miles, starting with its estuary at the point at which it enters the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
The Miletich property contains 1,500 feet of Siebert Creek and the easement purchased from the Adolphsens is 1,300 feet.
Benefits of protection include a riparian buffer of trees providing shade to keep water temperatures cool enough for salmon. Vegetation helps stabilize soils, filter rain and runoff and keep sediment out of spawning gravels. Mature trees eventually will fall into the stream, helping to slow water and create pools important for spawning habitat and sites where juvenile salmon can rest, feed and be protected from predators.
The value of the Siebert Creek watershed has been well documented by numerous specialists, including Fred Sharpe, Ph.D., who contributed his extensive biological knowledge and experience to the application to the state Salmon Recovery Board that enabled NOLT to purchase.
The stream begins in the mountains of Olympic National Park at 2,800 feet of elevation and enters the Strait of Juan de Fuca at Green Point, renowned for nearby halibut fishing. Its length, counting tributaries, is 31 miles.
Although studies show fish runs below historic levels, the stream currently possesses healthy populations of winter steelhead trout and coho salmon.
More information is available at www.nolt.org and from its office at 417-1815.