Accomplishments in 2018
Conservation Northwest / Dec 28, 2018 / Protecting Wildlands, Work Updates
Highlights from our year of keeping the Northwest wild.
Both nationally and locally, conservation faced challenges in 2018. Yet, with our strategic and collaborative approach, we made important progress protecting, connecting and restoring wildlife and wildlands from the Washington Coast to the British Columbia Rockies.
From reintroducing fishers and saving Blanchard Mountain to restoring critical habitat and outdoor access sites, each accomplishment this year was made possible by the generous support of our members, donors and contributing foundations.
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Some of our notable accomplishments in 2018 include:
Working with local filmmaker Ted Grudowski, we released the documentary Cascade Crossroads, which chronicles the story unfolding over and under Interstate 90, where conservation, collaboration and innovation led to the construction of wildlife crossings and infrastructure improvements in crucial corridors for both wildlife and motorists. More than 100,000 people have watched the film and it has been nominated for numerous awards!
After years of leadership supporting the protection of Blanchard Mountain—from helping craft the Blanchard Forest Strategy agreement to working with elected leaders and partners to secure funding—the state legislature passed a Capital Budget that included full funding to save the core of the Blanchard State Forest from logging.
We urged state lawmakers to vote NO on SB 6140, which sought to force more logging and could have transferred publicly-owned state lands to counties or private owners. You listened, and more than 430 people quickly sent messages to state legislators. An amendment to the bill replaced the public land transfer provisions with a commitment to considering the value of ecosystem services and recreation benefits of state forests.
Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT) cameras captured photos of some of the first elk using the Hyak and Gold Creek underpasses on I-90. The images and later videos suggested that the elk were comfortable using the crossings, meaning elk mothers are likely to teach their calves to continue using the structures.
When plans to restore grizzlies to the North Cascades seemed at a halt, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke visited Sedro-Woolley and announced his support for the effort. For two decades, we have been the leading organization advocating for grizzly recovery in the North Cascades, and in 2017, more than 127,000 public comments were submitted on a draft EIS, the vast majority of them supportive of restoration. We published an editorial in The Seattle Times urging restoration planning to continue.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) annual report on gray wolf conservation and management confirmed that Washington is home to more than 122 wolves and five new packs, a minimum confirmed estimate. We have been actively engaged in wolf recovery and conservation for well over a decade, and our Range Rider Pilot Project and other work continues.
We reported on another successful year of citizen-science through our Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project. During the 2017 remote camera season, 86 volunteers contributed more than 3,500 hours to the Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project by attending trainings and installing and maintaining 72 remote cameras in 30 survey areas in Washington state and British Columbia.
After years of work with our elected officials and national conservation leaders, Congress reached a deal to more effectively and sustainably fund wildfire response and preparedness, including forest health treatments. We joined an ad in regional papers thanking Sen. Cantwell and other leaders.
Paula Swedeen, our Policy Director, worked with partners and state lawmakers during the state legislative session, leading to a budget that included three items related to Washington’s wolves: a grant for Conservation Canines’ scat-sniffing dogs to survey for wolf presence in the South Cascades, funding for an EIS on the feasibility of moving gray wolves from Eastern Washington to other areas of the state, and additional funding to support non-lethal conflict avoidance measures.
Our Sagelands Heritage Program picked up steam, with a new video and Google Flyover helping communicate about the diverse and ecologically-important shrub-steppe landscapes east of the Cascade Mountains.
We launched the Okanogan Wildlife Crossing Campaign, a new collaborative capital campaign to raise more than $200,000 to fund a wildlife crossing on a 12-mile stretch of Highway 97 in the Okanogan Valley, where more than 350 mule deer are hit and killed every year. We’re nearing our funding goal, and expect a big announcement in early 2019!
We urged Washingtonians to submit comments to the WDFW in support of a balanced proposal to establish a sustainable road system and protect habitat for migrating elk and other wildlife in the Green Gate area of the Quilomene Wildlife Area. Check out this Instagram post of our Sagelands Contractor, Rose Piccinini, installing Green Dot signs as a result of this successful effort!
We worked with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and others to reintroduce sharp-tailed grouse in Okanogan County, and support the recovery and conservation of endangered pygmy rabbits in Douglas County.
Our Sagelands Program Lead, Jay Kehne, joined the Methow Headwaters Campaign, a coalition we are a part of, on a trip to Washington D.C. to show the broad local support for the withdrawal of federal mining rights from 340,000 acres of the Methow Valley.
For years, certain local officials have alleged that grizzlies bears did not historically reside in the North Cascades. A study published by National Park Service scientists based on credible sightings, fur trapping records, agency reports and First Nations traditions affirmed that grizzly bears are native to our region. We helped spread the word to ensure the debate around grizzly restoration is rooted in facts.
Our I-90 Wildlife Watch program celebrated a year of documenting wildlife between North Bend and Easton. Whether the species are small or large, alone or in a group, dead or alive, each of these sightings has been reported to WSDOT and other state, federal and non-profit partners working in this area, aiding in our shared understanding of wildlife presence and use in important habitat adjacent to I-90.
With partners, we celebrated the permanent protection of Blanchard Mountain in Bellingham. After more than a decade of advocacy on behalf of the “Blanchard Core”, 1,600 acres of forest prized for hiking, biking, gliding, horseback riding and wildlife watching were permanently protected in the Capital Budget.
When the Endangered Species Act, one of the world’s most important environmental laws, was under attack by the Trump administration, we provided comments in opposition of the proposed adverse changes to the act. The Endangered Species Act is vital to our work, as it has provided a chance at survival for the spotted owl, marbled murrelet, Canada lynx, sage grouse, wolf, wolverine and grizzly bear.
We continued to engage in the planning process for the new Colville Forest Plan, critical for forests, habitat, wildlife and people in northeast Washington’s Kettle River Range and Selkirk Mountains, also known as the Columbia Highlands. Working with partners, we shared comments calling for more recommended wilderness in the final ten-year Forest Plan. We’ve long collaborated with other partners here to support local communities, wildlife and wilderness.
68 volunteers contributed 590 hours and 800 plants to habitat restoration in the I-90 Wildlife Corridor. We planted native vegetation near Gold Creek and the Lake Kachess Campground—two habitat areas that feed directly into the I-90 wildlife crossings and provide important connectivity for mule deer, elk, black bears, cougars and wolverines.
In an ongoing effort to protect endangered marbled murrelets, we participated in the Solutions Table on Marbled Murelets to find creative ways to meet the needs of the endangered bird and the local communities. We asked Washingtonians to submit public comments to the state Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, urging them to ensure better protections for this endangered species in their Long-Term Conservation Strategy for the Marbled Murrelet. We also engaged the media on this important issue.
We provided suggested comments and asked our supporters to join us in urging Governor Inslee to include full funding for the WDFW in his 2019-21 budget proposal. We’ve long worked with WDFW to ensure our state’s full wildlife heritage is appropriately conserved and restored, and joined other wildlife stakeholders in the Department’s Budget and Policy Advisory Group to review their budget and recommend more stable funding and equitable wildlife conservation.
Our Executive Director Mitch Friedman wrote an op-ed, published in the Seattle Times, calling on Congress to reauthorize and fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund. This fund is crucial to our work, and has supported the conservation of countless recreation opportunities, and our Pacific Northwest outdoor heritage. New polling shows strong support among Washingtonians for this critical program.
We submitted comments to the Bureau of Land Management on behalf of our nearly 4,000 members in support of an administrative mineral withdrawal for the Methow Headwaders, and encouraged others to sign a petition from the Methow Headwaters Campaign. We’ve long been leaders in efforts to protect the wildlife and local communities of the Methow Valley.
Our Forest Field Program and the collaborative Working for Wildlife Initiative wrapped up another field season of landscape-scale restoration work, including in important lynx habitat near the Loomis State Forest.
WSDOT cameras captured the first footage of wildlife using the brand-new overcrossing structure on I-90. In the early hours of the morning, a coyote crossed over the highway, safe from a collision, potentially saving both its own life and the life of a motorist. Since 2000, we’ve led efforts to reconnect Washington’s North and South Cascades through our I-90 Wildlife Corridor Campaign.
With partners, we finally brought fishers back to the North Cascades. Since 2002, we’ve led a collaborative effort to restore fishers to Washington state, including funding a feasibility study on their reintroduction, informing a state recovery plan, and rallying up public support. Since 2015, fishers have been successfully reintroduced to the Olympic Peninsula, the South and Central Cascades, and now, the North Cascades.
We had important successes in our Sagelands Heritage Program through progress in efforts to establish the South Okanagan-Similkameen National Park Reserve in southern British Columbia, which we’ve long supported, and contributing to the land acquisition of Spiva Butte by the Chelan-Douglas Land Trust. This important wildlife preserve will now protect the high-quality habitat and allow responsible public access to the natural heritage of this rich landscape.
These are just a few of our highlights from 2018. Check out our latest updates, Wild Northwest blog, or learn more about work protecting wildlands, connecting habitat and restoring wildlife.
We mean it when we say none of our work would be possible without YOU. Each dollar you contribute helps protect endangered and threatened wildlife, secure the preservation of important landscapes, and ensure our rich natural heritage is here for future generations to enjoy.
There’s always more work to be done, and you can help us kick off 2019, our 30th anniversary, by making a year-end gift so that together, we can continue to keep the Northwest wild.