Howe Conservation Easement
Conserved in 1997
- 10 acres located along Henderson and Dobbs Inlets, west of Johnson Point Road in northern Thurston County.
- The Howe Conservation Easement is a relatively small area of conserved land that protects a diverse and proportionally large number of important species. The property is made up of a patchwork of historic grazed pasture, upland forest, forested wetland, and tidal mudflats.
- The forested riparian area and the associated wetland provide habitat for coyote, raccoons, deer, pileated woodpecker, owls, songbirds, and many more species. The tidal mudflats and the riparian buffer allow for pristine habitat that shelters salmon traveling into Henderson and Dobbs’ Inlets, as well as terns, scoters, ducks, great blue heron and an assortment of shellfish.
Thank you to the following partners:
- Charles Howe Jr. and Flora Eleanore Long
- Darrell Howe
- Sound Native Plants
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
CLT Strategic Conservation Goal Achieved:
- Conserve wetlands, riparian areas and associated upland forests.
- Conserve marine shorelines and estuaries.
Notes from the Field: Howe Easement
by Shelley Kirk Rudeen (Issue 25 Fall 1997)
Early morning sun burnishes the wing strokes of a flock of Canada geese. Their honking heralds my arrival at a small meadow festooned with the giddy weavings of a thousand spiders. Before me lies the childhood haunt of Charles Howe and Eleanor Long, who have protected this corner of Henderson Inlet with a conservation easement in memory of their parents. I make my way across the meadow, and enter a shadowed forest. Great boughs droop from cedar trees and the trunks of fir and maple soar into the forest canopy. Beyond, I glimpse Dobbs Creek wandering over mudflats exposed by low tide. Salmonberry and devils club choke a wide depression in the forest and rich black mud forces a detour in my path. The depression and the mud cradle a spring; just downhill the mud releases its moisture in little rills that gather in a small stream spilling to the bay. The stream carves a sinuous path through mudflats, until its fresh water meets the salt of the turning tide. It’s an understated meeting, but one of great significance, for the convergence of fine organic forest material carried by streams and the nutrients flowing with the incoming tide creates the estuary – a habitat nearly unrivaled for productivity.
The mudflats of this estuary create a shining expanse when the tide empties Henderson Inlet and the mouth of Dobbs Creek. I cannot see the abundance of life in the mud – the mollusks and worms, or the microbes feeding on decaying organic matter. But I know it’s there, for shorebirds comb the mud with their beaks while mallards and green-winged teals dabble along the edges. Seven double-crested cormorants stand at water’s edge with beaks tilted up and wings spread to dry. Another dives in the shallow waters of the bay for the small fish that thrive in plankton-rich water. The rising tide slips across the flats, rearranging muddy expanses into ever smaller shapes. A flock of bufflehead sails by; I watch their striking black and white forms and then turn away from the inlet. Madrone trees add their sculpted forms to the forest, and a large bitter cherry towers near the western shore. Beneath it a host of young cherries form a moss-floored glade, like a secret opening in the tangle of undergrowth. Kinglets and song sparrows chatter among the branches, but they are mere echoes of the bird life that abounds here during nesting season.
A second depression holds another spring, and a slightly larger stream flows to the bay. A hollow maple stands on the bank, its huge cavity filled with the dusky ruffles of a mushroom colony and the earthy scent of slowly rotting wood. It won’t be long before the tree topples and adds its bulk to the other woody debris on this wild bit of shore.
I know baseline studies have documented the value of this property for wildlife. But how do you measure the ambiguities of mud slumping in spring-fed depressions in the forest and basking under open skies in the tideflats? How many chum and coho slip by uncounted in the murk of a rising tide? What hidden profusions of fungus grow in the forest floor? How many seeds lie dormant in the meadow? When the Trust protects places like the Howe property, perhaps its what we don’t know about them that is most important; and perhaps this is their real value for future generations.