Bear Ridge Community Forest Creates Road Map for Small Towns to Manage Clean Drinking Water Sources
On January 4, the City of Ilwaco, Trust for Public Land, and Weyerhaeuser announced that the city will purchase 388 acres of their watershed from the timber company and showcase a new model for how small towns across the state can manage their local water sources. The Bear Ridge Community Forest offers health and economic benefits for its community, as the purchase will ensure local control of clean drinking water, create trails for outdoor recreation, and add sustainable timber jobs in Ilwaco.
“Creating the Bear Ridge Community Forest will have a substantial impact on the health and economy of Ilwaco. Preservation of this watershed is a crucial step in achieving our water quality goals, ensuring our citizens and our neighboring communities have a consistent, viable source of drinking water for generations to come. We were fortunate for the opportunity to work with Weyerhaeuser toward achieving these goals and transition management of the land and timber within our watershed to the City,” said Ilwaco City Council member Matt Lessnau.
The Bear Ridge project is an example of how community forests are being developed to support rural towns across the country. Managed locally by the community, a community forest is a permanently protected natural space designed to help rural towns maintain a dedicated source of revenue and jobs from timber harvesting and recreational tourism, support local schools, and protect remaining natural areas amid rapidly developing landscapes. The Bear Ridge project is one of over 30 community forests that Trust for Public Land has helped establish across the U.S.
“Small towns across the country are looking to Ilwaco as an example of how they can secure clean water for future generations. Working forests combine jobs with environmental protection, and the Bear Ridge Community Forest shows how rural communities can work with public and private funders to control their clean water destinies,” said Mitsu Iwasaki, Trust for Public Land NW Director.
The preservation of Ilwaco’s watershed is a groundbreaking effort that shows a new path for small towns across the country. For decades, watershed preservation has been out of reach for rural communities because purchasing the necessary land would create significant debt for small municipalities, and government grant funding options were designed for larger cities. The Bear Ridge Community Forest introduces a new approach thanks to advocacy by the Washington Environmental Council, which prompted Washington’s state legislature to change grantmaking rules to better support rural communities. The purchase was also made possible by Rep. Herrera Beutler, who secured $1.6 million in federal support for the project, and Trust for Public Land, which provided financing and preservation expertise.
In addition to securing state and federal dollars, the Bear Ridge Community Forest was made possible by a unique partnership with Weyerhaeuser, the largest private owner of timberlands in the U.S. Former owners of about half of the watershed, Weyerhaeuser agreed to give control to local government while maintaining sustainable forestry that provides stable employment in the area. The project brings other economic benefits to Ilwaco as well — preserving the forest maintains natural water filtration that will reduce local utility costs, and the city plans to add miles of hiking and mountain biking trails to bring more visitors to beautiful Pacific County.
“Weyerhaeuser has been a proud member of the Ilwaco community for decades, and we are excited to partner on this great project,” said Craig Crawford, director of land asset management for Weyerhaeuser. “It’s a unique opportunity to help Ilwaco have more long-term control of its watershed, and also to develop a community forest concept that enhances access and recreational opportunities for community members and visitors to the area.”
Trust for Public Land
Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit that works to connect everyone to the benefits and joys of the outdoors. As a leader in equitable access to the outdoors, TPL works with communities to create parks and protect public land where they are needed most. Since 1972, TPL has protected more than 3 million acres of public land, created more than 5,000 parks, trails, schoolyards, and iconic outdoor places, raised $84 billion in public funding for parks and public lands, and connected more than 9 million people to the outdoors. To learn more, visit tpl.org.
Weyerhaeuser Company, one of the world’s largest private owners of timberlands, began operations in 1900. We own or control approximately 11 million acres of timberlands in the U.S. and manage additional timberlands under long-term licenses in Canada. We manage these timberlands on a sustainable basis in compliance with internationally recognized forestry standards. We are also one of the largest manufacturers of wood products in America. Our company is a real estate investment trust. In 2021, we generated $10.2 billion in net sales and employed approximately 9,200 people who serve customers worldwide. Our common stock trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol WY. Learn more at www.weyerhaeuser.com.
About City of Ilwaco
The City of Ilwaco, established in 1890, is a small coastal town at the mouth of Columbia River in Pacific County, WA. Historically serving as the gateway to the Long Beach Peninsula, a vacation destination to the north, the City of Ilwaco thrived with a booming local fishing and timber industry. Still the home of a vibrant and historic fishing community, the City of Ilwaco is also a popular tourism destination, welcoming thousands of travelers each year to the beautiful Washington coast and Cape Disappointment State Park as they enjoy the many recreational opportunities the region has to offer.