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Land trust sells easement to county

The Vashon-Maury Island Land Trust has sold a 30-acre conservation easement in Paradise Valley to King County, ensuring the parcel retains its natural habitat and improving the salmon-spawning capacity of Judd Creek, the land trust announced last week.

The parcel’s development rights were purchased by the county for $624,800 — a move that enables the land trust to retire its debt on the parcel and keep it in conservation status, said Tom Dean, executive director of the land trust. The sale also reflects the land trust’s ongoing strategy of protecting the entire length of Judd Creek, Vashon’s largest watershed and its most significant salmon stream.

The land trust has been concentrating on Paradise Valley, where the middle portion of the creek flows, Dean said. This latest sale — a parcel of what Dean called “historic Island farmland” — means 40 acres of land adjacent to Judd Creek is now in permanent protection, he said.

The property also provides an important site for at least 10 species of migrating songbirds — warblers, flycatchers and other species that come from as far away as South America.

“It’s a special place,” Dean said. “These birds are flying up from Mexico and South America, and this is what they’re looking for.”

The effort has been aided by a $300,000 fundraising campaign, which the land trust just completed. Dean said the campaign stands as one of the largest in the land trust’s 20-year history.

Judd Creek stretches three miles from its source in Island Center Forest, just south of Bank Road, to its mouth in the north-end of Quartermaster Harbor. The creek hosts both coho and chum salmon, sea-run cutthroat trout and steelhead. The creek is also home to Vashon’s only documented population of the rare freshwater pearshell mussle.

Judd Creek’s watershed also provides an important drinking water recharge area for Vashon’s aquifer, Dean said.

Visitors can visit the new parcel. A half-mile loop trail off of 111th Avenue — open to pedestrians, horses and leashed dogs — is now complete, Dean said.

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