Central Cascades tour with congressional staff, the Bullitt Foundation, The Wilderness Society and others

Central Cascades tour with congressional staff, the Bullitt Foundation, The Wilderness Society and others

Conservation Northwest / Jun 28, 2019 / Central Cascades, Forest Field Program, Habitat Restoration, National Forests

We led a field tour with congressional staff and representatives from several groups to demonstrate the need for forest and watershed restoration in the Central Cascades.

BY Laurel Baum, Central Cascades Conservation Associate

The Central Cascades, spanning from the Alpine Lakes Wilderness to Mount Rainier National Park, is a beautiful landscape that includes important habitat as well as the headwaters of nine major watersheds. This region supports a variety of wildlife and nearby communities, but it is fragmented and degraded.

During the field tour, we visited a wet meadow that was degraded from ‘mudding’. Legacy Roads and Trails funding will help decommission and restore areas like this, where unauthorized vehicle use damages sensitive habitat.         Photo: Jen Watkins

That’s why we’re working to restore habitat and improve connectivity on this landscape through our Central Cascades Watersheds Restoration program. Recently, we had the opportunity to facilitate a field tour of the project area with representatives from the offices of Senator Maria Cantwell and Senator Patty Murray, as well as staff from the Bullitt Foundation, The Wilderness Society, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, the Emerald Alliance and the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest (MBSNF).

Our tour included a hike through old-growth forest, lunch along the Greenwater River, and discussions around the need for restoration and road maintenance on public lands, with an overarching goal of improving watershed function.

We visited a completed habitat restoration site that will keep unauthorized vehicles out of sensitive wildlife habitat, and communicated the need for thinning that would allow for more diversity in forest vegetation to improve its resiliency.

Afterwards, we demonstrated how this landscape would benefit from additional restoration projects, including removing culverts to improve passage for aquatic species, storm proofing high-use roads to reduce sediment loading and runoff into streams, and decommissioning non-essential roads to improve core habitat and reduce the overall cost of road maintenance.

Many of these restoration projects would be made possible through the U.S. Forest Service’s Legacy Roads and Trails Program, but funding for the federal program was cut during the last budget cycle, moving it from its own line item to a broader, lump-sum category.

The field tour included a hike near the Greenwater River. Photo: Mitch Friedman

These funds are needed in order to improve the function of the heavily-degraded watersheds within the Central Cascades. We’re grateful for the opportunity to gain the support of Senator Maria Cantwell and Senator Patty Murray, which is vital for the long-term funding of important restoration projects.

We also talked about our involvement in the Snoquera Landscape Analysis, MBSNF’s plan to balance recreational land use, terrestrial and aquatic habitat restoration, and vegetation treatment for the future health of the forest. By working with the MBSNF and other stakeholders, submitting organizational comments on the project, and asking Washingtonians to speak up for this landscape, we’re working to ensure this project takes full advantage of the opportunity to move this watershed into a sustainable condition.

Alongside these efforts, we’ll continue to restore habitat on national forest and other public lands through our Central Cascades Watersheds Restoration program. And you can get involved, too! We’re hosting several habitat restoration volunteer days in the Central Cascades this summer—find a date that works for you and sign up today.

We visited a completed habitat restoration site, where we decommissioned and vegetated an unauthorized 4-wheeler trail with locally-transplanted shrubs, trees and forbs, which have a have a high success rate. Disturbance to wildlife from vehicles has been reduced. Photo: Jen Watkins
Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest Silviculturist, David Kendrick, discusses the need for vegetation treatments in overcrowded stands. These dark, dense, stands originated from plantations and have minimal understory vegetation, low structural diversity, and would benefit from being thinned. Photo: Jen Watkins