The Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest is a popular destination in Washington. Located about an hour’s drive from Seattle in the Cascade Mountains, these public lands are treasured by hikers, bikers, skiers, and more. Rivers and streams flow through the evergreen forest, providing spawning grounds for salmon and drinking water to downstream communities. The area is also part of a vast wildlife corridor for elk, wolves, wolverines and more.
But this landscape is in need of restoration. Its watersheds have been damaged by poor forestry practices and unsustainable recreation. An overbuilt logging road network and miles of illegal motorized trails are dumping sediment into streams and burying fish eggs, reducing water quality, and fragmenting wildlife habitat.
With support from the Matching Award Program from the National Forest Foundation, Conservation Northwest worked alongside volunteers and the U.S. Forest Service to restore watershed health and habitat connectivity in this landscape during 2019.
Volunteers removed garbage, planted native vegetation, removed invasive weeds, built and repaired kiosks, and checked wildlife monitoring cameras. Some of the groups that joined us in the field include Artemis Sportswomen, Pacific Northwest Four Wheel Drive Association, Latino Outdoors, and Back Country Horsemen Tahoma Chapter.
We also restored more than two miles of unauthorized motorized trails that had existed for decades. Some trails were so badly degraded that the depth of erosion was nearly five feet. We worked with a contractor to re-contour the ground and transplant large, native plants to revegetate the area. We surveyed an additional 14.5 miles that are now ready for removal by the Forest Service. And we installed 12 motorized vehicle use signs to help ORV riders stay on authorized routes.
In total, we engaged 158 volunteers, planted 3,500 native plants, and spent 1,222 volunteer hours in this beautiful landscape.
Restoration will reduce erosion and runoff in streams, improving water quality and helping threatened salmon to recover. Restoration will also provide welcoming habitat for elk, black bear and other species that live in, and move through, the Cascades.
We are thankful for additional support for this work from Bullitt Foundation, James M. Lea Foundation, Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment, and Tulalip Tribes.