Land Trust Conserves Exceptional Natural Area
The Whidbey Camano Land Trust has completed the most expensive acquisition in its history, protecting 226 acres of amazing coastal farm and forest on Admiralty Bay near Coupeville. The property, to be known as the Keystone Farm and Forest Preserve, includes two-thirds of a mile of shoreline, 175 acres of forest, and one of the oldest farms on Whidbey Island. It has long been a Land Trust conservation priority, but its protection became urgent last December when it was placed on the market to be sold for high-end homesite development.
“I am so proud of what the Land Trust was able to achieve in such a short time,” said Sally King, Land Trust board member. “The large scale of the purchase, proximity to other protected lands, diversity of habitats, opportunities for ecological restoration and potential for education and public access make the acquisition extraordinary in many ways.”
Future plans include restoration of the shoreline by removing a bulkhead, planting native buffers, reforestation, and re-establishing a creek to improve habitat for salmon, birds and other wildlife, King said.
The Keystone Preserve also will create abundant possibilities for partnerships and public enjoyment, including a fantastic new beach access opportunity that could be open in 2024. Forest and shoreline restoration work will increase climate resilience and enhance marine and terrestrial wildlife habitat on the property. It also will allow establishment of a forest trail system.
The Land Trust is partnering with Whidbey Island’s Organic Farm School to manage the historic farm, using regenerative agricultural practices to build soil health, sequester carbon, and help ensure a vibrant and nutritious local food supply. Partnerships with local schools for outdoor education also will be sought.
“The excitement of this opportunity to engage a new generation of farmers in a regenerative manner on land that has been in agriculture for so long is eclipsed only by our excitement about working collaboratively with the Whidbey Camano Land Trust,” said Judy Feldman, Organic Farm School executive director. “We know environmental stewardship goes hand-in-hand with regenerative agriculture. This new project will allow us to demonstrate it not only for Whidbey residents, but for all who visit.”
The Land Trust acquired the property using $6.5 million in funding from a generous private donor and Craft3, a regional nonprofit that provides bridge loans to help land trusts complete conservation projects prior to raising funds or securing grants. The Whidbey Island project is one of Craft3’s largest-ever land conservation transactions, which have protected more than 33,000 acres in the Pacific Northwest. “I’m thrilled we were able to use this tool to protect this critical habitat and agriculture resource from development on Whidbey Island,” said Erika Lindholm, Craft 3 senior business lender. “This project will create ecological and social value for generations to come and we are honored to be a part.”
The Land Trust is thankful to its many members for their support that makes projects like this happen. “We’re thrilled to have kept Keystone Preserve from being developed so all can enjoy the property in the future,” said Ryan Elting, Land Trust conservation director. “But the property won’t truly be permanently protected until we’ve repaid our bridge loans.” The Land Trust will pursue grants, Navy funds, and community fundraising for that purpose.
Land Trust members should watch in coming months for chances to visit Keystone Preserve and help with restoration efforts. There’s lots to be done before the preserve will be ready for a grand opening.