Buckhorn Preserve

Orcas Island

Year Protected: 2005

Land Protected: 7 acres

Public Benefits: Forest

Rising from the lowland to the north of East Sound on Orcas Island sits rocky dome-shaped Buck Mountain. It is there that the Preservation Trust protected a rugged seven-acre forested parcel in 2005, thanks to a generous donation from Norman Rose of Portland, Oregon. The property has never been developed, and now, under Preservation Trust ownership, it will remain an undisturbed refuge for wildlife.

The property consists of ridges interspersed with salmonberry-blanketed rockslide areas. Where the footing is surer, there are maturing firs and big alders that have passed their prime. The alders are losing their branches, and their softening wood provides attractive habitat for some of Orcas Island’s many woodpeckers. The alders also harbor many tiny insects, and in late winter, mixed flocks of ruby-crowned kinglet and chestnut-backed chickadees were found gleaning bugs off their bare branches.

Massive stumps with springboard cuts and remnant old-growth firs provide evidence that this area was once part of a more mature forest. Perhaps the slopes gave way after the big trees were removed and their roots, which held the slope together, rotted away. Some relatively large yew trees also inhabit the property. The yews, which are locally uncommon, are often found on steep slopes. One large specimen can be found growing almost horizontally off a ridge, its red-barked roots visibly grabbing hold of the ground.

The Trust is honored to have the opportunity to watch over this property. Our plan is to let the land continue to recover from past logging, and to keep it as attractive a home as possible for forest denizens—deer, raccoons, songbirds, and insects.