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Park Acquires Key Land Parcel

Lewis and Clark National Historical Park

National Park News

Senator Ron Wyden joined The Conservation Fund, Lower Columbia River Estuary Partnership and the NPS on August 24th to announce the addition of 81 acres of forest and wetlands — the keystone piece in a multi-year, 1,000-acre land conservation effort — to Lewis and Clark National Historical Park. Work will begin soon on this parcel to restore 45 acres of wildlife habitat critical to the recovery of salmon and other species. The land serves as a key link to two popular trails and preserves nationally significant cultural and historical resources associated with the journey of Lewis and Clark.   

The bipartisan Oregon congressional delegation, including Senator Gordon Smith, Senator Ron Wyden and Congressman David Wu, has long supported the establishment and expansion of the park, an effort that has been hailed by the Bush Administration as an extraordinary success story for partnership-driven conservation.

“This is a great example of what we can accomplish when we find common ground and work together to preserve our environment and protect our state’s heritage,” said Senator Wyden.  â€œThrough the efforts of many individuals and organizations, our children and our children’s children will be able to enjoy the rich history, the natural beauty and the recreational opportunities of these sites.”

The acquisition is part of a broader initiative to preserve the natural and cultural resources of the Lower Columbia region and to increase opportunities for tourism and other heritage-related businesses.  The Oregon and Washington congressional delegations recently introduced legislation in the Senate and House that will begin the process of establishing a National Heritage Area for land in Pacific, Wahkiakum and Clatsop counties at the mouth of the Columbia River. In June, the National Park Service released findings estimating the 2005 economic benefit of the park to the region at $15 million. 

“The park is a glittering historic gem in Oregon’s northwestern corner,” said Senator Smith. "Expanding the park will help preserve the rich history of Lewis and Clark and the living heritage of our fisheries, forest products industry and others that have endured for over a hundred years.”

“Lewis and Clark National Historical Park is a national treasure and is a cornerstone for the economic prosperity and the future of this community,” said The Conservation Fund’s northwest vice president, Mark Elsbree. “Thanks to the leadership of the Oregon and Washington congressional delegations, the dedication of the National Park Service and the support of our partners, we are preserving the region’s natural resources, cultural heritage and historic sites and helping to strengthen its economy for future generations.”

“Today I thank The Conservation Fund, the Lower Columbia River Estuary Partnership and the National Park Service for their continued contributions and dedication to our shared history, culture and environment along the Columbia River,” said Congressman David Wu. “What we have accomplished together will help our economy and will affect millions of Americans as they come here to learn about Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and the Corps of Discovery.”

Restoration of 45 acres of wetlands along the estuary will include the removal of a tidegate reconnecting the area to the floodplain as well as further study to determine the necessary subsequent actions to maximize tidal flow.  This area is vital habitat for a number of animal and fish species, including salmon. Partners include the Lower Columbia River Estuary Partnership, Columbia River Estuary Task Force, The Conservation Fund, National Park Service, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), North Coast Land Conservancy and the Port of Portland. 

“We are pleased to be able to help fund this project which is vital to the preservation of this historic parcel of land and habitat,” said Debrah Marriott, executive director of the Lower Columbia River Estuary Partnership. “We feel our niche is to provide the coordination and expertise to knit together a variety of projects in the lower river so that they make a larger impact as a whole than each project could make on its own.  This is a large parcel of wetland that is critical to restoring the entire estuary, and we’re particularly pleased to be working in a national park that will draw in citizens to learn about the history of the area and how to become river stewards of the future.”

Located on the west side of the newly established park in Clatsop County, the property provides critical connections to two existing park trails, the Netul River Trail and the Fort to Sea Trail. The recently completed Netul River Trail meanders across the property along the Lewis and Clark River between Netul Landing and Fort Clatsop.  The site will also serve as the primary handicapped-accessible trailhead for the Fort to Sea Trail, a 6.5-mile hiking path that connects historic Fort Clatsop to Sunset Beach State Park and the shores of the Pacific Ocean. 

“The addition of this land to the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park is a tremendous gift to the American public,” said park superintendent Chip Jenkins.  “It is fitting that we celebrate the protection of these lands as we mark the 90th anniversary of the National Park Service and honor the tradition of our work with elected officials, nonprofit partners and individuals to create, preserve and enhance our nation’s parks.”

The Conservation Fund acquired the 81-acre property in February and held it until the land could be transferred to the National Park Service for long-term stewardship. Financial support for the acquisition was secured by the Oregon and Washington congressional delegations through the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).  Established by Congress in 1965, LWCF monies are derived from federal revenues from offshore oil and gas leases.  A portion of the revenue is placed into a fund annually for state and local conservation, as well as for the protection of national parks, forests and wildlife areas.

The Conservation Fund has protected more than 1000 acres at Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, including 920 acres critical to the completion of the Fort to Sea Trail and 154 acres at Dismal Nitch.  The Fund is currently working with interested landowners to preserve the historic forestland surrounding Station Camp. Since 1985, The Conservation Fund, through its Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Initiative, has helped to preserve more than 20,000 acres, including 26 miles of river frontage, along the route that the explorers followed. 


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