Preserving for future generations
Upper Kachess River dewaters most years cutting off bull trout in Kachess Lake from important reproductive habitat.
KCT is the only local land trust that has a unique role in conservation and restoration efforts in the upper Yakima River basin. The Central Cascades is home to a diversity of habitat types that support a similarly diverse array of critical habitats for endangered wildlife from bull trout and Mid-Columbia Steelhead to northern spotted owl and wolves. The upper Yakima Watershed provides much of the water that supports fish, agriculture, and communities within the Yakima Basin. Through protection and restoration of essential habitats and maintaining critical wildlife migration corridors, there can be a pathway towards species recovery.
Being “just a latte away” from the booming Puget Sound region and its location in the geographic center of Washington State both contribute to Kittitas being the 10th fastest growing county in the country. The current I-90 corridor project that encompasses Stamped Pass to Easton will encourage more growth and development in the upper Yakima Basin, furthering the risk to critical habitats and migration corridors. The county’s population is estimated to increase from approximately 42,500 people to 65,000 in the next 20 years. Of that growth, 40% is estimated to take place in rural areas (around 9,000 people), which has the potential to greatly impact our ecosystems.
Conversions of former landscapes, such as private timberlands and agriculture lands to private development, have a long history in Kittitas County, and there is still significant threat to ensure that important ecosystems are conserved. These are key areas of unique habitat types that support the diversity of species that thrive in our basin and provide critical movement corridors that connect forests, floodplains, rivers, and shrub step habitats. KCT recognizes its role in the community and pays property taxes on the lands it owns. This allows KCT to partner with private and public stakeholders to work on important acquisition projects in the upper Yakima Basin with County support. Through these efforts, critical fish and wildlife habitat, species migration corridors, and ecosystem function and values can continue to be protected in the upper Yakima Basin.
KCT protects fish and wildlife and their habitat using a diversity of tactics including:
- Acquiring fee simple properties and conservation easements
- Identifying and implement restoration projects
- Partnering with federal, state, local and private stakeholders
Protecting the Unique Landscapes of Kittitas County
KCT holds easements along several miles of the Cle Elum River corridor.
KCT works with interested and willing landowners to protect lands and waters with high conservation values from development and alteration that could compromise their natural functions. Tools for accomplishing this include direct purchase of land or acquisition of conservation easements.
Land purchase funding typically comes from a variety of sources, including government and foundation grants, and private donations. At the time of purchase, KCT sets aside funds in the form of a land stewardship endowment that ensures we can maintain and enhance the conservation values of this land, as well as provide educational and recreational access to the public where feasible.
KCT manages over 3,000 aces of easement land in the Suncadia Resort.
Conservation easements are restrictions voluntarily placed on a piece of property by the property owner and are designed to protect specific conservation values. Donated or sold by the landowner to KCT, conservation easements are negotiated and agreed to by the property owner and KCT. Conservation easements “travel with the land” meaning the restrictions apply to current and future owners of the easement property. Easements allow land to remain in the hands of a landowner who can continue to utilize the property subject to the restrictions agreed upon.
Take a look at some of our featured protection projects on our Projects Page.
Creating Habitat Where Wildlife Can Thrive
Washington Conservation Corps workers planting vegetation for a riparian restoration project.
Degradation and alteration of river and stream habitat are some of most pressing challenges facing salmon, steelhead, and bull trout populations in the upper Yakima River Basin. KCT focuses on identifying priority projects that can restore natural processes that in turn create habitat for these species.
Restoration project areas range from river, floodplain, riparian, wetland, and upland ecosystems. They can consist of replanting stream banks with native trees, reconnecting floodplains and side channels, and adding large wood and other in-stream structures to slow water and create “resting” pools. Working with neighboring landowners along rivers and streams, KCT’s work can often help decrease flood risk and create added opportunities for wildlife viewing as fish, birds, and elk begin to make use of newly created habitat.
Some projects require the use of large machinery such as diggers and helicopters to move the trees and boulders needed to improve habitat.
Projects are often tied to regional planning efforts like the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan, Yakima River Steelhead Recovery Plan, and the Bull Trout Action Plan. These plans focus on implementing significant projects in critical watersheds. Through partnerships with local agencies, landowners and stakeholders, KCT brings needed capacity to successfully plan and implement largescale restoration projects to address regional recovery goals.
You can learn more about our restoration projects on our Projects page.
Creating Connections with Our Lands and Empowering People to Take Action
Participants touring a project that demonstrate the impacts of the work and the benefits for wildlife.
Without local community and public support our work is not possible. Through outreach and education with local school districts, non-profits, and public events we inform our community and visitors about the diversity and beauty of landscapes in the upper Yakima Basin and their role in its protection and management. Because of KCT’s unique history and ability to mobilize resources, our organization is able to meet community and resource needs effectively.
An example of this took place in 2017 when KCT took the Cle Elum School Districts middle school students to a restoration site for release of their Spring Chinook Salmon for their “Salmon in Schools Program.” It was through our relationship that KCT staff learned of their need for updated equipment for their salmon rearing tank in the classroom, which was then purchased and sent to help with the continuation of the program in 2018.