In 2013, a 46-acre parcel of land at the head of Filucy Bay was on the market. A neighbor, who loves the area, feared that a buyer might decide to log it. She purchased the land and gave it to the Great Peninsula Conservancy.
Last December, the conservancy added 21 acres to the preserve just across the bay from the original gift. That land, called the Easter Parcel, was purchased with grants from Pierce County Conservation Futures, the Salmon Recovery Program of the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office, and with the help of eight people who filled a $48,000 funding gap.
“It shows how passionate people here are about protecting our land,” said Sandra Staples-Bortner, conservancy executive director.
The Great Peninsula Conservancy is a private, nonprofit land trust dedicated to permanently protecting the natural habitats, rural landscapes and open spaces of Kitsap, north Mason and west Pierce counties. The organization conserves pristine shorelines, like those remaining in Filucy Bay: critical salmon streams, evergreen forests and wildlife-rich wetlands. A small staff of six oversees the conservancy’s work, partnering with individuals, public agencies, tribes, community groups and other conservation organizations to protect lands and care for them.
Staples-Bortner explained why the conservancy is excited by the potential of the new preserve. It provides excellent wildlife habitat. Mother bears with cubs trailing behind frequent the preserve—likely foraging for berries and salmon. When the tide is in, osprey hunt for fish from the air and great blue heron stalk small prey at the water’s edge. Owls, woodpeckers and songbirds thrive in the preserve’s mature forest of fir, cedar, maple and alder. The initial parcel has little easy access and will likely remain undeveloped. The second parcel has a road that goes to the beach and is more amenable to public access.
Staples-Bortner said the conservancy takes its responsibilities very seriously: A preserve is forever. “We need to be sure we have plans in place to sustain the land and that often means a team of community members willing to help,” she said.
Before opening the preserve to the public, the conservancy wants to hear from Key Peninsula residents and others about how they might like to enjoy it while protecting its natural habitats for wildlife. In addition, the conservancy hopes to partner with residents to help with upkeep of the preserve—an important consideration given the small staff and the large amount of land.