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After a long effort, rare bog gets added protection

After nearly three years of effort, a nature preserve protecting a rare and potentially imperiled sphagnum bog on the north end of the Island has doubled in size.

The Vashon Land Trust closed on a transaction last week that added 10 acres to the Whispering Firs Bog Preserve, bringing the protected area to 19 acres. The deal came to fruition after the land trust secured $306,000 from the Washington Wildlife and Restoration Program and raised another $81,000 from members and supporters, said Tom Dean, who heads the land trust.

The landowner, Ramona Hammerly, an artist known for her renderings of Northwest trees, discounted the price by $50,000, another part of the funding package that made the purchase possible, Dean said.

“She was instrumental in sharing our vision for protecting the place and giving us all the time we needed,” he said.

The purchase is considered a milestone for the small land trust, in part because the bog — a 7,000-year-old ecosystem that supports stunted firs and hemlocks as well as several species of wetland-dependent plants — was the land trust’s first acquisition. In fact, when Emma Amiad, the land trust’s founder, wrote up the purchase-and-sale agreement for its purchase 20 years ago, she assigned it to a “nonprofit yet to be named,” Dean said.

“It’s fun to come full circle on a project like this,” he said.

The preserve is owned by the land trust, while the Vashon Park District holds a conservation easement to the parcel, “giving them the ability to stop any development,” Dean said.

“It’s what I call double protection, when you have two partners holding a property together,” he said.

The bog, which is closed to the public except during special land trust-sponsored events, is located between Vashon Highway and Vermontville Road.

A sphagnum bog — considered a true bog, in that it has no inlet or outlet for water — is formed in wet depressions and has a thick sphagnum mat and deep peat layers permeated by stagnant, acidic water. Core samplings by students at Vashon High School indicate that Whispering Firs’ mat is 20 feet deep.

Only 3 percent of the county’s remaining wetlands are sphagnum bogs, an ecosystem that’s been listed as a statewide priority habitat. Whispering Firs Bog supports a population of red-legged frogs, considered an imperiled species, neotropical migrating songbirds, Labrador tea and bog laurel.

Because of the acidic water, the trees growing in the bog — ones that normally tower in the Northwest — are stunted and exotic looking.

 

The land trust is holding its annual meeting at 6:30 Wednesday, March 28, at the Land Trust Building.

 

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