In 2011, Capitol Land Trust (CLT) and Shelly worked together to place a conservation easement on her farm. A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust that permanently limits uses of the land to protect its conservation values. Shelly and her late husband wanted to protect and restore an ecologically important patch of land close to town, while also protecting the agricultural values of this historic farmstead and providing food to the local community. They also wanted to provide a place where people of all ages can visit, work together, and learn side by side about nature.
CLT and Shelly collaborated on a conservation easement that protects 13.85 acres of the 16+ acre farm, including 1,800 feet of Spurgeon Creek, a 2-acre wetland, and 2-acre pond. While the easement conserves most of the farm, it does allow for her residence, two large barns, and a studio. Three of the 13.85 acres are conserved specifically for agricultural purposes which includes green houses, chickens, orchards, beehives, pasture and a biointensive demonstration/teaching garden.
“It is important to balance conservation, agriculture and development. This property is unique because many ecological resources can be protected and restored. This easement allows for the conservation of important habitat, provides a space for people of all ages to experience hands on learning and witness successful food production.” Shelly
US Fish & Wildlife Service Landowner Incentive Program, the Salmon Recovery Funding Board, and a donation made by Shelly provided funding for the conservation easement and the replacement of a bridge with two failing culverts. The old culverts restricted fish passage on Spurgeon Creek and caused Shelly’s driveway to flood during storms. When the bridge was replaced in 2012, 5.2 miles of unimpeded spawning and rearing habitat for several species of anadromous fish, including steelhead, coho, Chinook, and coastal cutthroat trout, was opened in the Deschutes River watershed.
Prior to the conservation easement, Shelly worked with Wild Fish Conservancy, Thurston Conservation District, Squaxin Island Tribe, and South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group to assess riparian issues on the farm and create a riparian planting plan for her stretch of Spurgeon Creek. In the past, the stream banks had been over grazed by cattle and horses and very little vegetation remained.
Shelly has been working with a variety of schools and environmental organizations to restore the riparian habitat at the farm for years. Washington Conservation Corps, South Sound GREEN, Thurston County Stream Team, Komachin Middle School, Boy Scout troops, CLT, and many others, have all contributed to restoration and water quality monitoring efforts.
“The more people that are connected to the land, the better we can take care of it. I enjoy getting kids at young ages outside with their parents and schools and build up those little moments you can look back on. This property can provide those moments.” Shelly
Today, the riparian habitat is so restored that the creek is no longer visible from the farm. Shelly has noticed an increase in passing critters like fox, deer, coyote, waterfowl, songbirds, freshwater mussels, and even a herd of 19 elk!
Looking to the future, Shelly hopes to get the garden running at full speed and begin offering internship opportunities again, while working with partners and students to maintain riparian habitat along Spurgeon Creek.