Continuing a Legacy of Conservation

Continuing a Legacy of Conservation at Nautilus Tree Farm

The purpose of placing land in trust is to ensure that it will be protected across many generations, in perpetuity. Some of the  land protected by the Whatcom Land Trust is held in private ownership but protected by conservation easements–legal agreements that limit land use and development to meet and maintain conservation goals unique to each property.

But what happens when these private lands are passed to the next generation of stewards, through inheritance or sale? 

“This phenomenon will apply to many Whatcom Land Trust properties in the coming years,” notes Executive Director Gabe Epperson, “including a property currently for sale in Everson—Nautilus Tree Farm.”

The 30.2-acre nature preserve and farm, at 2351 E. Pole Road in Everson, includes a stunning nautilus-shaped, custom-designed, owner-built, 2,676-square-foot home that lies among a 6-acre working pasture and 24 acres of mature, second-growth forest, with some towering trees that are over 100 years old.

Continuing A History of Conservation

The farm was platted from a larger property homesteaded by Chester and Edith Larsen around 1927. In 1974, Nathan (Nate) and Phyllis Kronenberg bought four parcels, eventually becoming known as Nautilus Tree Farm in 1984. Nate purchased his first 500 seedlings from the state forestry nursery. He sold a variety of landscaping plants through 2014. Phyllis was an avid naturalist active in the Washington Native Plant Society, later serving as its president. Together, Nate and Phyllis fostered the farm and all its glory for more than 47 years.

The Kronenbergs gradually built a couple of miles of private trails that meander throughout the property, as well as a productive heirloom orchard and a shop, greenhouse and woodshed. Nate and Phyllis loved and cared for the land until they were in their 90s, leaving the property to their sons, Jeff and Joel Kronenberg, in 2021.

“The conservation easement started in 2005 with the Whatcom Land Trust,” remembers Jeff Kronenberg, who grew up on the property, now a mycologist living in Idaho. “My dad’s whole thing was, ‘When I’m gone, I want to die knowing that not one of these trees is ever going to get cut down. I love this place. I love these trees and I just want to know it will go on in perpetuity.’ A lot of people focus on the house because it’s so unique, but we focus on the land.”

The conservation easement protects 24.14 acres of the mature second-growth mixed coniferous and deciduous forest that is 80 to more than 100 years old. Natural forest succession has been allowed to gradually evolve and thrive over that time, providing habitat for a wide range of birds and mammals using the property for shelter, food and breeding.

“Normally people don’t get excited about cottonwood. But this one I get excited about. This is the biggest one I’ve ever seen in my life,” says Jeff. “I can only guess it’s at least 100 feet. From an ecological point of view, there’s a whole ecosystem up in the canopy—owls, all sorts of birds hanging out up there and squirrels. Plus, a healthy forest also sequesters carbon, reducing the atmospheric carbon dioxide that contributes to global warming.”

Fourmile Creek, originating from Lake Fazon to the south, flows through the forest into an ephemeral pond offering diverse habitat niches for generations of breeding and resident amphibians and birds. The property also boasts a range of human activities, such as bird watching, quiet walks and mushroom foraging.

Continuing Their Stewardship Legacy

Jeff and Joel are now ready to pass stewardship to a new conservator that can truly appreciate and protect the history, beauty and rare environmental value of this extraordinary preserve, in the same way their parents did.

“More and more people are going to be transitioning these properties to new owners,” notes Jeff. “The easement on this property allows agriculture that’s appropriate to this land.”

“Whatcom Land Trust is honored to monitor this incredible property, an excellent example of how protecting and working the land don’t have to be mutually exclusive,” says Epperson. “We are excited to welcome a new conservator that will honor the Kronenberg’s legacy of conservation, nurturing the diverse flora and fauna of this unique preserve into the next generation.”

To learn more about this unique estate and preserve, reach out to Jeff Kronenberg at 208-867-6477.

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