Accomplishments in 2016: Restoring the wild
Conservation Northwest / Jan 27, 2017 / Wolves
As a new year begins, we look back on a few of our biggest accomplishments in 2016. It was a busy year of protecting, connecting and restoring wildlife and wildlands, and there’s much more work ahead, but we’re proud our progress in Washington and British Columbia!
In 2017, Conservation Northwest has fresh and able staff mixed in with our veterans, our revenues are rising thanks to tremendous member, donor and grant support, and our conservation programs continue to hit their marks; finding success for wildlife and wildlands through determination, collaboration and sound science.
Conservation Northwest highlights in 2016
- Fisher reintroduction continues: Fisher reintroductions into the Cascades resumed in December 2016 with the release of thirty seven new fishers in Mount Rainier National Park and Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Part of our multi-year reintroduction project with the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, this second round of releases will continue through the 2016-17 winter. Some fishers were even photographed during the spring of 2016 by our wildlife monitoring project!
- Archway installed for I-90 wildlife bridge: Motorists traversing Snoqualmie Pass can now drive under the first I-90 wildlife bridge, the Keechelus Lake Wildlife Overcrossing! Archways went up in September 2016, with wide coverage by regional media outlets. We’ve advocated for this and other I-90 wildlife crossings for more than a decade. When completed, the first crossing will be the largest wildlife “bridge” in North America. What’s more, animals are already using other undercrossings completed in the Snoqualmie Pass area!
- Affiliation with National Wildlife Federation: In March 2016, we officially partnered with the NWF as their Washington state affiliate. The NWF is America’s oldest and largest national conservation organization. Affiliation with NWF doesn’t affect Conservation Northwest’s autonomous legal, decision-making or financial status. But it does give us access to a prominent national partner for policy, media, lobbying and other functions.
- Protecting public lands: When armed extremists seized Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in January, we stood strong for our natural heritage. Conservation Northwest organized a rally at the Seattle Federal Building with more than 100 people in attendance, generating a supportive Editorial from The Seattle Times and coverage from other outlets. We then collaborated on a short film to shed light on the dangerous movement to “transfer” national forests, parks, wildlife refuges and other public lands to states, counties and private interests. And we supported the work of our partners at the National Wildlife Federation to “Keep It Public”.
- Ranger Rider Pilot Project supports coexistence: During our fifth year operating the Range Rider Pilot Project we partnered with seven ranchers in Eastern Washington who graze cattle on public grazing allotments within the territory of six different wolf packs. While infrequent conflicts between wolves and livestock are an expected component of a balancing act between people, livestock and predators sharing the same space, this project is demonstrating the effectiveness of non-lethal conflict deterrence methods and is promoting social tolerance for wolves in rural communities.
- Strong support for North Cascades grizzly bears: After months of organizing and advocacy, in June 2016 we publicly launched our new Friends of the North Cascades Grizzly Bear coalition, an informal partnership of organizations, local businesses, Native American tribes and thousands of individuals supporting the restoration of grizzly bears to their home in the North Cascades. Complementing the coalition launch, new polling released at the same timed showed that a strong majority of Washington voters support efforts to restore grizzly bears in the North Cascades.
- Thousands of comments for northeast Washington wilderness: During the Colville National Forest’s Land and Resource Management Plan public comment period, our local staff participated in forest collaborative meetings and we recruited thousands of comments in favor of protecting current Roadless Areas in the Columbia Highlands through wilderness or other designations. Those efforts included mailing out more than 50,000 postcards to Washington residents in support of wilderness in northeast Washington.
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Additional 2016 accomplishments
- Leadership on forest roads: Through our Forest Field Program, in 2016 we were active in U.S. Forest Service road planning and travel management. There are more than 90,000 mile of Forest Service roads in Washington and Oregon, a network that is not ecologically or economically sustainable. We’re working with agencies, recreationists and environmental groups to reduce this road system to a more manageable level that meets the needs of public access while supporting healthy forests, and abundant fish and wildlife.
- Stopping development near I-90 wildlife bridge: When the Washington State Parks Department released a misguided proposal in early 2016 to develop a new year-round recreation and conference center immediately south of the under-construction Keechelus Lake Wildlife Overcrossing, we sprang into action. Our action alert, advocacy and media outreach stopped the proposal in February.
- Saying NO to mine in Methow Headwaters: In February 2016 we joined with dozens of local businesses, community groups, recreation clubs and conservation organizations to support the Methow Headwaters. This grassroots coalition seeks to protect the headwaters of the Methow River from industrial mining. Thanks to these efforts and leadership from Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, in late 2016 the Forest Service and Congress are pushing proposals to prevent new industrial mining in the Methow Valley!
- Working for better wildfire policies: After a second year of historically-large wildfires in Eastern Washington, we worked with community, state and federal leaders to support new policies that better protect communities, restore forest resilience through prescribed fire and other tools, and take a more proactive approach to fire management. Our efforts led to an Op-Ed in the Wenatchee World and a pilot project that we supported treating thousands of acres of public forest.
- Military training proposals in North Cascades wilderness halted: Working with other conservation and recreation groups, we rejected a proposal from the U.S. Army to conduct helicopter training in designated wilderness and other sensitive and popular areas in the North Cascades. We appreciate the role of the Army and their need for quality training, but designated wilderness and popular campgrounds and trails are not appropriate places for this activity.
- Wolverines get another chance at ESA protections: Thanks to a lawsuit from Conservation Northwest and partner groups, in April 2016 a U.S. District Court gave wolverines a fighting chance at getting the Endangered Species Act protections they need to survive a changing climate, melting snow packs, and reduced habitat.
- Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project grows: Now in its tenth year, our Citizen Wildlife Monitoring Project is one of the largest citizen-science volunteer projects in North America. We created a new Story Map to tell the Project’s story this year, and captured amazing new images of wolverines, wolves and other wildlife.
- ATV expansion in Okanogan County stopped: Our lawsuit with Methow Valley Citizen’s Council stopped Okanogan County from opening up almost 600 miles of county roads to ATVs. Our lawsuit successfully argued that the County failed to analyze the environmental impacts of allowing ATVs to use these roads, including the impact of ATV users who veer off-road into sensitive environments.
- Lynx documented in Kettle Range: Under the umbrella of our collaborative Working for Wildlife Initiative, researchers in northeast Washington’s Kettle River Mountain Range documented a Canada lynx south of Sherman Pass! We’ve long worked for habitat protections for lynx in this area, and knowing that these rare wildcats still reside there is a major boost for these efforts.
- Habitat restored around I-90 wildlife crossings: Working with volunteers, businesses (including Gravity Payments and Microsoft), and the Washington Conservation Corps and Mountains to Sound Greenway Trusts, we planted thousands of native plants and shrubs and restored important habitat around new wildlife undercrossings east of Snoqualmie Pass.
- More than 400 people turn out for grizzly bear event: Keeping the momentum up for grizzly bear restoration, we organized a Why Grizzly Bears? presentation with award-winning filmmaker Chris Morgan and partner organizations in October at the Mountaineers in Seattle. Over 400 people attended and participated in excellent discussion after the event. The next public comment period of the grizzly bear restoration Environmental Impact Statement is expected in January 2017.
- Wolf recovery moves forward: Wolves continued their natural recovery in Washington in 2016, with a minimum of 90 animals confirmed at the end of 2015 and likely well over one hundred present in our state in late 2016. However, poaching is still a concern, and we published an Op-Ed in The Seattle Times in April encouraging stronger enforcement and penalties for wolf poaching. Conflicts with wolves were also widely publicized during the summer 2016. However, we see a lot to be hopeful about when it comes to wolves, and we remain committed to long-term recovery and collaboration with rural communities to support coexistence. We laid out our vision for the sustainable return of wolves in a second Seattle Times Op-Ed in October.
- WildLinks 2016: Conservation Northwest helped organize and host the annual WildLinks conference, held this year in Seattle. This collaborative forum hosts scientists and practitioners from both British Columbia and the U.S. to identify and strategize around borderless conservation strategies; this year, the conversations revolved around the effects of climate change and the endangered Canada lynx. Thanks to the Cascadia Partner Forum, WildLinks fulfills the need for increased idea-sharing and communications about the state of the transboundary Cascade Mountains region.
- Alternative murrelet conservation strategy proposed: A strategy proposed by the Washington Department of Natural Resources to protect marbled murrelets that depend on state forests fell short, we and other conservation groups found. We’re advocating for a new conservation strategy that puts state forests on a sustainable path and improves murrelet habitat. Murrelets rely on old-growth forests in Washington’s coastal areas, and have had a drop of 44 percent in their population numbers as logging on state and private lands continue.