A Future for Salmon in the South Fork
A meadow interspersed by tall mature trees on the Todd Creek property.

Nestled between farms and rural estates along the South Fork Nooksack River in Van Zandt is Whatcom Land Trust’s newest property Todd Creek. Named for the creek which runs off of Stewart Mountain, through the property and into the South Fork, this 59-acre piece of land is a patchwork of bigleaf maple and Sitka spruce forest, pastures and wetlands set along the riverfront. Whatcom Land Trust has been working to protect the Todd Creek property for over a decade now.

The Land Trust first reached out to the previous owner, Mildred Todd, in 2007. Todd was planning out her estate and she thought Todd Creek would be a good property for the Land Trust. After she passed away the property went to the family estate. The Land Trust received a grant from the Department of Ecology and the property was finally purchased for permanent protection in May of 2019.

A large cedar washed up on the shore of the South Fork as it runs past the Todd Creek property.

The Todd Creek property offers the vital opportunity to preserve and foster salmon habitat in the Nooksack. The South Fork already hosts both natural and engineered large woody debris -logs, branches, and other wood that falls into rivers and streams- making the river ideal salmon habitat. With many salmon species already on the endangered or threatened species list, these fish are crucial to protect. This includes the Chinook salmon, which returns to the Nooksack every fall and spring to spawn. By purchasing property along the South Fork the Whatcom Land Trust is working to safeguard current and future salmon habitat.

Salmon fry in Todd Creek.

The South Fork runs through a valley dominated by a mix of farms, wetlands, and forested areas. Because of its reliance on snowmelt from the Twin Sisters, the river is vulnerable to water quality and quantity issues, especially during low flows in the late summer season when snow pack has been depleted. These issues are especially detrimental to the health of salmon habitat because Chinook salmon require deep streams and pools for spawning, as well as clean water with high levels of dissolved oxygen. Building a buffer of protected land along the South Fork is an important step in protecting and increasing water quality in the river which is of benefit for salmon, other wildlife, farms, and the local South Fork community. For years the Land Trust has been working to create a contiguous area of protected land along the South Fork Nooksack, with almost 2,000 acres currently safeguarded in the South Fork Valley, and Todd Creek is an important piece of that puzzle.

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