Collaboration moves the Snoquera Project forward in Central Cascades
Conservation Northwest / Aug 30, 2021 / Central Cascades, Forest Field Program, Forest Roads
Conservation Northwest led stakeholder efforts in the Snoquera Landscape Analysis and advanced the implementation of Central Cascades restoration objectives.
BY LAUREL BAUM, CENTRAL CASCADES CONSERVATION ASSOCIATE & JEN SYROWITZ, CENTRAL CASCADES PROGRAM MANAGER
Our Central Cascades Watersheds Restoration program (CCWR) works to connect and restore wildlife habitat north and south of Interstate 90 and on both sides of the cascade crest between Mount Rainier National Park and the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.
As a result, we have been deeply engaged in the U.S. Forest Service’s Snoquera Project for several years through the planning process. Now we are working to bring funding to the project and implement restoration actions in the heavily-used area of the Upper White and Greenwater river watersheds on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.
Building support among a diverse range of organizations, we started the year off by co-hosting a stakeholder meeting with groups including the Washington Trails Association and WildEarth Guardians to discuss the Snoquera Landscape Analysis.
We followed this spring meeting with a field tour this summer, providing updates on restoration planning and project implementation. Many other voices were included at both meetings, including Forest Service staff, representatives from the Tulalip, Muckleshoot and Puyallup tribes, the Pacific Crest Trail Association, Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, Trout Unlimited, and the Puyallup-White River Local Integration Organization & Puget Sound Partnership, South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group and staff from Representative Schrier’s Office.
These organizations are strongly allied in moving forward with landscape scale restoration actions identified in the Snoquera decision. Projects include right sizing the road system, providing sustainable recreational opportunities that also protect fish and wildlife habitat, increasing forest resilience and old-growth characteristic patch size.
In addition, Tribal representatives elevated specific restoration goals related to preserving cultural and natural heritage, including elk forage areas, prescribed fire and thinning for huckleberry enhancement and fish passage improvements. Together we identified gaps in the implementation process and pinpointed areas where the Forest Service needs extra support to move the Snoquera Project’s restoration goals forward.
Learn more about Conservation Northwest’s restoration efforts in our latest video about conservation collaboration in the Central Cascades:
Recently, Blue Forest Conservation visited the Snoquera project area to discuss creative finance opportunities (forest resilience bonds) designed to increase the pace and scale of forest restoration. While we are excited about this financial possibility, we continue to advocate for federal investments that will rebuild and sustain Forest Service capacity and expertise in the long term.
Balancing recreation and conservation
Recreation is a major topic within this stakeholder group as there is a clear need for a sustainable recreation plan in the Snoquera landscape.
Just over an hour from the Puget Sound metro area, this region is loved by outdoor recreationists—from hikers, backpackers and equestrians, to off-road vehicle users, hunters, mountain bikers and target shooters. The USFS multiple use mandate has made this region a focus of our CCWR program, and we aim to restore degraded habitat while also building appropriate infrastructure to enhance recreation opportunities and user experience.
After installing signage and coordinating multiple restoration projects last year, this year, with a contractor, CNW staff were able to deter vehicle access in sensitive areas with boulders, while still maintaining walk-in access for recreational users at five dispersed campsites. This work builds momentum for the design and creation of recreational opportunities offered in the area. Working with local groups this fall we will increase user education and outreach in the Greenwater River corridor.
With input from USFS hydrology, recreation and fish specialists, we have also identified the need to develop a dispersed camping survey as a baseline data set for the Forest Service. Once completed, our focus will shift to repair damage associated with dispersed camping in the most sensitive areas including river floodplains and riparian habitats.
The restoration projects we do on this forest and across the Central Cascades will have benefits beyond those who use this area directly, as the White and Greenwater watersheds provide drinking water to south Puget Sound communities, and have the potential to provide healthy habitat for wild salmon, steelhead and bull trout once again. We are excited by the opportunity to ramp up work on this landscape with such a diversity of user groups and look forward to a busy fall field season ahead!
Support for this project includes grant funding from the National Forest Foundation, Bullitt Foundation and Norcliffe Foundation. These grant funds allow for the repair of riparian habitat near dispersed camp sites along the Greenwater River. This helps preserve habitat for species such as Chinook and steelhead!