What is this project about?
The Stewart Mountain Community Forest (SMCF) initiative is a collaborative effort to adopt approximately 6,000 acres of forestland into local ownership, to be managed for the use and benefit of our community.
A timber investment company from New Hampshire acquired Stewart Mountain in 2017, and approached Whatcom Land Trust (WLT) to see if they would have interest in purchasing land on Stewart Mountain. Key stakeholders joined the Nooksack Indian Tribe to form a collaborative group to explore opportunities to acquire the property and establish a community forest on Stewart Mountain.
The preliminary vision of the SMCF is to manage the property as a working forest that balances a variety of ecological, economic, and community benefits such as watershed health, improved water quality, increased water quantity, sustainable forestry jobs, fish and wildlife habitat, and recreational access while offsetting the projected impacts of climate change.
Where is it located?
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Stewart Mountain is located just east of Bellingham, Washington , in rural Whatcom County between Lake Whatcom and the South Fork Nooksack River valley. The mountain is approximately four miles wide by 11 miles long, or about 28,000 acres. Stewart Mountain is surrounded by the communities of Deming, Van Zandt, Acme, Wickersham, and Bellingham. The 6,000 acres envisioned for the community forest is part of the South Fork watershed, in the ancestral homelands of the Nooksack Indian Tribe.
How will this work?
The first phase of the community forest includes acquiring an initial 500 acres of steep, forested terrain along the South Fork Nooksack River, which was identified years ago as an opportunity to protect and restore salmon habitat. We are now in the process of creating a Community Engagement Plan with the help of the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance program. For the remainder of 2021, the Project Team will gather early community and stakeholder input to inform the planning process of this forest. In 2022, we will complete the initial planning process while also continuing to pursue funding necessary for the acquisition of the additional 5,500 acres of forestland.
Why do this?
The overarching intention of the Stewart Mountain Community Forest is to permanently place this forestland in community stewardship, so that it can be managed for the long term benefit of the community, with a focus on restoring and protecting water resources and biodiversity and offsetting climate change impacts for future generations. The community forest will also expand access to the Nooksack Indian Tribe’s ancestral lands for cultural, ceremonial, subsistence, and commercial uses.
Who is involved so far?
This effort to establish the Stewart Mountain Community Forest is currently being led by partners with diverse experience and expertise including:
- Evergreen Land Trust Association
- Nooksack Indian Tribe
- Whatcom County
- Whatcom Land Trust
- Western Washington University
Click HERE if you would like to be involved!