Mahncke Road, a quiet dead-end road that traces the north shore of the Filucy Bay in Longbranch, begins with a sharp incline –– a wooded stretch where no houses are visible for nearly a quarter mile, then it flattens into a leafy straightaway.

A few years back a sign appeared on the waterfront side of the road, halfway up the hill.

A development group in Seattle had purchased the land and was planning to turn it into the site of eight new homes. A map on the sign showed how the houses would line the waterfront, carving nearly 50 acres of unspoiled second-growth forest into eight privately-owned lots. There was a number to call if you were interested in buying a house.

Apparently, the idea didn’t sit well with everyone. A few months after the sign appeared, an anonymous donor purchased all 46 acres of land with the intention of finding a way to conserve it.

Great Peninsula Conservancy was thrilled to help.

The pristine, intact land is home to a variety of animals and has tremendously high ecological value.

“We had actually targeted this property before the landowner came to us,” said Scott Pascoe, Conservation director for Great Peninsula Conservancy.

He said the parcel is a high priority for conservation because of the habitat it provides. “Our plans are to preserve it to perpetuity,” Pascoe said.

Great Peninsula Conservancy is a private, non-profit land trust. They work to identify areas around the peninsula that protect water resources and retain high-quality habitat. These become their highest priority for conservation, Pascoe said.

With a pebbly shore shaded by maples and conifers 60 or more years old, and edged by a shallow tidal channel, the land makes a natural refuge for salmon fry. A great variety of birds make their homes in the tall trees and small mammals utilize the cover of brush to hide from predators.

According to the Conservancy, this arrangement of nature is surprisingly rare in the South Sound. In a recent report analyzing the Gig Harbor, Key Peninsula and Nisqually shorelines, the pristine, intact acreage of Filucy Bay’s north cove was cited as being within the top 3 percent of nearshore areas for habitat value.

Erin Ewald, KGI Watershed Program Manager for Pierce Conservation District, sees the newly-donated land as part of a larger effort to influence landowners to be good stewards to their land.

“This gift, not only to Great Peninsula Conservancy, but the community, will give a huge boost to ongoing efforts by partners including the Pierce Conservation District to work with nearby property owners to implement best management practices on their own lands.

“This news by Great Peninsula Conservancy was a tremendous morale lift. I hope that we can all continue to work together to see this vision of stewardship and wise land use grow,” Ewald added.

The Conservancy continues to look at properties around the Key Peninsula, including non-waterfront land, for conservation purposes. The group is very interested in land located in the Filucy Bay watershed.

In the end, credit goes to the anonymous donor. “I cannot say enough ‘thanks’ to the generous donor for making this happen,” Ewald said.

For information about Great Peninsula Conservancy,visit greatpeninsula.org. For information about Pierce Conservation District, visit piercecountycd.org.

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