Land conservancy buys Boneyard Ridge

By Lyra Fontaine for The Daily Astorian
Published July 29, 2016  |  Original source article

Conservationists have acquired Boneyard Ridge on Tillamook Head. [Submitted photo]

North Coast Land Conservancy will permanently conserve Boneyard Ridge, a former commercial tree farm on Tillamook Head, with the goal of helping the property mature into a high-functioning temperate rainforest.

The nonprofit organization finalized the $1.3 million acquisition of the 340-acre parcel on Wednesday.

The land is adjacent to Elmer Feldenheimer State Natural Area and Ecola State Park and west of the land conservancy’s Circle Creek Habitat Reserve in the Necanicum River floodplain west of U.S. Highway 101.

“The whole ecosystem gets to flourish when you have that scale and connectivity,” North Coast Land Conservancy Executive Director Katie Voelke said. “It’s one of those spots in the world where a small purchase makes a huge difference.”

By linking 3,500 acres of conserved areas, Boneyard Ridge — which encompasses an entire watershed — creates a habitat corridor, connecting wildlife populations separated by human activities.

“The way we will manage it, the trees will get bigger and older and there will be a greater diversity within the forest understory,” Voelke said.

After decades of commercial logging, the property’s current forest has trees from 10 to 60 years old, Voelke said. The land conservancy plans to take “stewardship actions that lead to an old, complex rainforest” where native plants and animals can thrive.

Boneyard Ridge is home to 2 miles of salmon-bearing streams, amphibians such as red-legged frogs and Columbia torrent salamanders, and mammals that include black bears and elk. About 90 bird species — including pileated woodpeckers, olive-sided flycatchers, bald eagles and rufous hummingbirds — live or make a migration stopover at Boneyard Ridge.

Wildlife species at Ecola State Park, including black bears and flying squirrels, could use the Boneyard Ridge habitat as well.

The purchase was funded with a $524,000 grant from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, $500,000 from an anonymous donor, and contributions from more than 120 additional donors.

North Coast Land Conservancy has worked to conserve Boneyard Ridge in partnership with Lewis and Clark Timberlands since 2011.

In March, North Coast Land Conservancy signed a purchase and sales agreement with GreenWood Resources and had raised $1.1 million.

Since then, they have raised the last $200,000 needed to make the purchase.

Voelke emphasized the land’s accessibility — one can see it driving on Highway 101.

Within the next few years, the land conservancy will work to create a system of trails.

“We’re really excited about being able provide trails and recreation so close to town for residents,” Voelke said. “We feel like this can be a new, super special place for people who call it home … This is something we all get to have now forever.”