Central Cascades Watersheds Restoration

As our I-90 Wildlife Corridor Campaign sunsets, we are increasing our focus on forest and watershed restoration in this larger landscape between the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and Mount Rainier National Park.

Improving water quality, addressing impacts of human recreation and more; 2022 updates from the Central Cascades Watersheds Restoration program


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.

A map of our Central Cascades Watersheds Restoration program. This area is a hub for wildlife habitat connectivity in the Central Cascades. Cartography by Core GIS LLC. Click for larger version!

The program is a focused complement to our ongoing Forest Field Program that will work in watersheds spanning both sides of the Cascade Crest. Our Forest Field Program has a much longer history in the watersheds east of the Cascades, while this program is in the early phase of building relationships in the Puget Sound region west of the crest.

For the past 20 years, we have focused on maintaining and restoring habitat connectivity in the “bottleneck” around Snoqualmie Pass that is the primary linkage between Washington’s north and south Cascade Mountains. Through The Cascades Conservation Partnership, we purchased and protected 45,000 acres of private forest threatened with development that is now public land, and through our I-90 Wildlife Corridor Campaign we led a coalition to successfully advocate for over twenty wildlife crossings to allow animals safer passage, while also leading wildlife monitoring and habitat restoration in key areas near the interstate.

Now, in this new program, we turn our attention to restoring quality habitat on the vast adjacent public lands for wildlife to live and move through this landscape, and for people to sustainably enjoy this important piece of our Northwest natural heritage near to growing communities.

News on Central Cascades watersheds and habitat

Government Meadows 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

Program Context

Between the Alpine Lakes Wilderness to the north and Mount Rainier National Park to the south, this program focuses primarily on the lands of the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie and Okanogan-Wenatchee national forests, including the headwaters of nine watersheds: South Fork Snoqualmie River, Cedar River, Upper Green River, Upper White River, Kachess River-Yakima River, Cle Elum River, Teanaway River, Taneum Creek-Yakima River, and Little Naches River.

While our primary focus is on the uplands in these watersheds, we will work with partners to complete relevant restoration work across these watersheds.

Volunteers plant vine maple, ocean spray, and other native plants to restore habitat in the Central Cascades. Photo: Laurel Baum

The goals of this program over the life of our current 2017-2022 Strategic Plan are to:

  1. Promote and uphold policies that prioritize ecological restoration and wildlife connectivity,
  2. Complete restoration blueprints that cover restoration actions on U.S. Forest Service (USFS) lands that meaningfully improve wildlife connectivity and watershed function in four of the six most degraded watersheds,
  3. Generate and direct public and private funding to implement restoration blueprints, and
  4. Prioritize restoration projects that are catalytic or spatially-critical to improve wildlife connectivity and wildlands values.

Although our primary focus is on the upland portions of watersheds that contribute most to north-south wildlife connectivity in the Central Cascades, we will also work through existing collaboratives and watershed groups to ensure our efforts add value in the larger context of this landscape. Collaborative bodies that we’ll work within for this program include the Tapash Sustainable Forest Collaborative (and within that the Little Naches Working Group), Upper Yakima Watershed Action Group, and Water Resource Inventory Area planning bodies for the Green-Duwamish and Puyallup-White watersheds.

A key component, work in all these watersheds will be coordination with the Yakama Nation, Muckleshoot, Tulalip and Snoqualmie tribes, and other indigenous peoples. Primary NGO partner organizations include American Rivers, Forterra, The Nature Conservancy, The Wilderness Society, and Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust.

A map of our Central Cascades Watersheds Restoration program. This area is a hub for wildlife habitat connectivity in the Central Cascades. Cartography by Core GIS LLC. Click for larger version!


The Upper Cle Elum River valley and Alpine Lakes Wilderness, a critical watershed flowing north to south in the Central Cascades. This area is also home to the Teanaway Wolf Pack,  wolverines, elk, mule deer, sockeye salmon and many other fish and wildlife species. Photo: Chase Gunnell