Forging new partnerships in the Central Cascades

Forging new partnerships in the Central Cascades

Conservation Northwest / Aug 18, 2019 / Central Cascades, Habitat Restoration, Work Updates

From field tours to habitat restoration events, we’re on-the-ground collaborating with several groups to restore watershed and forest health in the Central Cascades.

By Laurel Baum, Central Cascades Conservation Associate

If you drive about two hours southeast of Seattle, you can enjoy vibrant, old-growth forests, strong, rushing rivers, and if you’re lucky, view wildlife like elk, fishers and spotted owls. These areas on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest (MBSNF) are cherished by many—perhaps a bit too much, even.

A sub-alpine meadow in the Greenwater area north of Highway 410, important habitat for elk and other species we’re working to protect and restore through our Central Cascades Watersheds Restoration program. Photo: Laurel Baum

Our Central Cascades Watersheds Restoration program works to restore habitat on public lands north and south of Interstate 90 that are vital to wildlife movement between Mount Rainier National Park and the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. This summer, I’ve been fortunate to spend a lot of time in this beautiful area, both communicating the need for collaboration and restoration, and doing some hands-on work as well.

In short, we’re loving our public lands in the Central Cascades to death. The Puyallup-White and Green-Duwamish river watersheds specifically are experiencing heavy degradation from unnecessary roads and recreational pressures, especially illegal, unauthorized activities.

As a result, sensitive meadow habitat that provide elk forage is facing erosion, streams and rivers that provide essential spawning grounds for endangered Chinook salmon, steelhead and bull trout are facing sedimentation overloads, and the overall health and function of the forest and watersheds is in poor condition.

And this matters to human communities, too. Both the Puyallup-White and Green-Duwamish rivers supply drinking water and recreational and culturally-significant opportunities like fishing to the downstream cities of Tacoma and South Seattle. So I’m excited to have the opportunity to restore this landscape with a diverse group of stakeholders through field tours, volunteer events and community engagement.

Field tour with recreation groups, Tribes, Forest Service

In addition to a Central Cascades field tour with Congressional leaders back in June, we had a great day in the field last week leading a tour with the Washington Trails Association and WildEarth Guardians. A diverse group of close to 30 stakeholders joined us on the MBSNF to discuss the Snoquera Landscape Analysis (SLA) and what changes that plan will bring to the area.

Our Central Cascades field tour included representatives from a diverse group of stakeholders and user groups.

The SLA is a plan by the MBSNF to restore watershed health and wildlife habitat at a landscape scale in the Green-Duwamish and Puyallup-White river watersheds, while also balancing public access to high-value cultural and recreational resources. 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 these watersheds into a sustainable condition.

During the field tour, we discussed watershed improvements, river and riparian area restoration efforts to benefit salmon and other aquatic species, as well recreational access and pressures. I was grateful for participation from the Tulalip and Muckleshoot Tribes, which included a great discussion on tribal treaty rights and the impacts recreation has on First Nations people.

Our goal is that collaborative efforts like this one—engaging diverse user groups in discussions around forest management early on—will help facilitate a broader base of support for stewardship of our public lands from all people engaging in different activities in the headwaters of the Puyallup-White and Green-Duwamish River watersheds.

Guided hike with Latino Outdoors

In early summer, we led a guided hike with Latino Outdoors and talked about recreation and watershed health in the Central Cascades. Photo: Laurel Baum

Earlier this summer, I had the pleasure of co-leading a guided hike on the Greenwater Lakes Trail with a group from Latino Outdoors, an Latino-led organization working to create a national community of leaders in conservation and outdoor education. We talked about recreation opportunities, our work to restore the degraded White River watershed, and wildlife in the area. The youngest in the group even saw his first snake, and spotted some birds through a pair of binoculars!

I’m glad to have the opportunity to strengthen our partnerships with communities of color, especially as we strive to advance our objectives for Justice, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Our public lands are a resource for all Americans, and improving access to these places is a critical part of having equitable representation on how this landscape is managed and enjoyed.

Habitat restoration volunteer events

A group of enthusiastic volunteers helped to restore degraded meadow habitat to control erosion, and had the chance to check on a monitoring camera, too! Photo: Laurel Baum

So much of the work we do is possible in large part to our awesome volunteers. I had a great time hosting a couple of work parties in the Greenwater area this summer, and giving our supporters the chance to get out onto the landscape and experience some of our program work first-hand.

We added organic material to an unauthorized trail in sensitive habitat to reduce erosion, visited a completed meadow restoration site, repaired an informational kiosk, and even went on a hike to check and set up monitoring cameras at a couple wolverine sites!

It was so great to get to know some new faces, including a group from Artemis, a sportswomen and conservationist group that is part of the National Wildlife Federation. I’m looking forward to our next habitat restoration work parties in the I-90 Corridor!

Green Drinks

Laurel Baum talks about our Central Cascades Watersheds Restoration program at Green Drinks in South Seattle. Photo: Keiko Betcher

Last week, we partnered with Sustainable Seattle to co-present their monthly “Green Drinks” Happy Hour—a networking and community building event for people interested in Seattle’s environmental scene. We focused this event around our Central Cascades Watersheds Restoration program, and I gave a talk on the efforts we’ve made so far this summer.

Tin Dog Brewing in South Park, where the event was held, is right next to the Duwamish River, which is fed by the upper Green-Duwamish watershed, so I greatly appreciated the opportunity to connect with the downstream community.

So far, we’ve had an busy and impactful summer in the Central Cascades. And as our new Central Cascades Watersheds Restoration program gains momentum, I’m looking forward to continuing these partnerships for a future where this landscape contains healthy, functioning forests and watersheds, and is sustainably enjoyed by all.

White River in the Greenwater area of the Mount-Baker Snoqualmie National Forest. Photo: Ralph Maughan