The Gifford Pinchot Stewards Project (GPS) gives community members an opportunity to be involved with hands-on restoration and citizen science projects in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. This magnificent landscape contains untouched old growth forests that are home to fishers, flying squirrels, and northern spotted owls; lush waterways with threatened salmon and steelhead; important wildlife corridors connecting the north and south reaches of the Cascade Range; and two iconic and volcanic peaks: Mount Adams and Mount St. Helens.
While this area is stunning, it also needs attention and dedicated stewardship. The Gifford Pinchot Task Force works closely with the U.S. Forest Service to iron out the restoration trips of the GPS. Forest managers directly use the citizen science data collected by volunteers to improve and prioritize conservation of this ecosystem.
In 2015, volunteers visited forest roads in the heart of the Gifford Pinchot forest to help clear culverts and identify restoration priorities for upcoming road management projects. Our work with early detection rapid response for mitigating the negative effects of invasive plants along hiking trails is a forest-wide effort. We hope to remove and report occurrences of weeds before they get too big to control. Our meadow restoration efforts protect habitat that is critical for rare species such as the mardon skipper butterfly and pale blue-eyed grass.
These are just three of the many areas we focus on to engage community stewards in the conservation and restoration of their National Forest. In addition, a subset of our trips each year are tailored to be suitable for middle and high school students. This unique opportunity provides young people the chance to take part in meaningful conservation work and collect data that is used to protect the local places they have come to appreciate.
This past year has represented a time of great growth for the scope and reach of the GPS Project, and thanks to the National Forest Foundation’s Matching Awards Program, we will continue to offer these opportunities to community members and do our part to make a significant and lasting impact on the ecosystems of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.