We planted 19,000 seedlings of ponderosa pine, Douglas-fir, and western white pine in May 2019 on Cle Elum Ridge to continue restoration efforts following the Jolly Mountain Fire that occurred on the Central Cascades Forest of 2017.
Writing and photo by Dr. Dave Shaw, Oregon State University
Ryan Haugo, a Nature Conservancy senior forest ecologist, hosted our graduate field forest-health class in the Manastash-Taneum Resilient Landscapes Project area in September. It was an epic visit that completely blew our minds.
Beginning with a stunning view of the Washington Cascades, Ryan introduced us to the Tapash Sustainable Forest Collaborative, which is implementing a scientifically based ecosystem-management plan for a complex terrain with mixed owners and ownership history. The landscape is rugged, showing recent fire impacts and is comprised of mixed conifer forests, which vary depending on elevation, aspect and soils.
The effort to use active management, such as forest thinning, planting and prescribed fire, to advance ecological integrity and biodiversity, is a classic example of forest-health management.
This is the application of knowledge gained by a group of interacting scientists and managers, led by the U.S. Forest Service's Pacific Research Station, The Nature Conservancy and University of Washington scientists. It can be considered a test of current theories on how best to manage Eastside Cascades forests for the benefit of everyone.
Photo Credit: Epic Beer, Flickr
Climate change is threatening even the beer we drink.
The Yakima Valley is Washington’s agricultural treasure house, home to rich crops of cherries, peaches, apples, wine grapes and hops – a key ingredient for beer.
About 75 percent of the nation’s hops come from the Yakima Valley. They’re valued around the world because the valley produces so many varieties of hops.
All this bounty is dependent on the Yakima River, which flows down from the Cascade Mountains and nurtures about 6,150 square miles of forests, farms and communities.
And that river is under stress. The need for water for farms, salmon habitat and communities exceeds what is available. The situation is getting worse as communities grow and a changing climate shrinks the snowpack. In 2015, Washington suffered through one of its worst droughts in history, with record-low snowpack to sustain the river. And NOAA reports that affects hops as much as anything else.
What can we do about it?
One measure is to protect the forest from which the river flows. Healthy forests protect the snowpack, filter the water and ensure clean cool water for the future.
In 2014, The Nature Conservancy acquired nearly 48,000 acres of forest lands in the Central Cascades, including 390 miles of rivers and streams and the headwaters of the Yakima River.
We’re working with partners to restore these forests to health and ensure the streams and rivers will flow clean and clear for generations to come, sustaining salmon, people and beer.
Photographed by John Marshall
A groundbreaking forest restoration project led by The Nature Conservancy here in Washington has been honored with the SFI Leadership in Conservation Award at the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) 2016 Annual Conference.
“At its heart, the Manastash-Taneum Resilient Landscape Restoration Project recognizes that good forest management, which includes responsible harvesting, allows fire-, insect-, and disease-resistant forests to thrive and also benefits a diversity of species,” said the award announcement.
"We are so pleased to recognize the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Yakama Nation, both SFI Program Participants, and their partners the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, The Nature Conservancy, and the U.S. Forest Service," said Kathy Abusow, President and CEO of SFI Inc.
"These forests will benefit if they are managed in ways that allow them to better tolerate wildfires. Responsible harvesting, followed by controlled prescribed burning, should help reduce crown fires, which are more dangerous and difficult to control. This is a practical way to help mitigate some of the damage that climate change is expected to cause," said Laura Potash, coordinator for the Tapash Sustainable Forests Collaborative, which brings all the project partners together.
Read the full press release here
Read more about the project here
Written & Photographed by Brian Mize, Field Forester
Recently, I was traveling through our Central Cascades lands, noticed a strong odor and saw a small amount of smoke approximately 200’ off the road. I am very familiar with this particular location because it has been a popular spot with the local firewood poachers.
I hiked off the road and found a campfire that had escaped the ring and burned a small area. At that time, the fire was just smoldering and there was nobody around.
Acting quickly, I called the Central Washington Interagency Communication Center in Wenatchee, and they sent out the dispatch to any local fire engines. A Forest Service engine was the first to respond and arrived shortly after. They ran a quick hose line to the fire and extinguished all the heat and put a hand line around the burned area. Afterwards, a Dept. of Natural Resources engine arrived along with a DNR law enforcement officer.
This was clearly a human caused fire, but we did not find any evidence that could pinpoint any specific individuals. There was evidence of recent firewood theft in the immediate vicinity.
Overall, this ended up being a small incident; however, if I had not spotted this fire when I did, it could have developed into something greater in scope. This area is very brushy, steep, and the high temps that day were above 90 degrees. With a little wind, this fire had high potential for spread.
We love that we can provide as much access to the outdoors as possible to our local communities with our lands. It was a good reminder that although fire season has been off to a slow start this summer, we still have a long way to go.
Written & Photographed by Zoe van Duivenbode, Marketing Intern
From bumpy off-roading trails and peaceful stream to exciting wildlife views and forestry education, our trip to The Nature Conservancy’s Manastash-Taneum preserve was nothing short of an adventure. Earlier this week, a group of TNC staff traveled to Cle Elum to learn more about the complex challenges centered around eastern cascade forests, headwaters and communities. This regions checkerboard like landscape, in terms of ownership and management, is slowly transforming into a more unified region for public access and conservation. Under the Tapash Sustainable Forest Collaborative, TNC is partnered with private, state and tribal groups to ensure that these forested lands can be enjoyed by the public and also preserved for wildlife.
Our tour began with a panoramic view that overlooked valleys of densely forested hills with residential communities, Cle Elum Ridge and lake Cle Elum seen in the distance. This viewpoint painted the perfect portrait of some of the challenges TNC faces when planning for restoration and resiliency. Below we could see urban areas vulnerable to forest fires, critical habitat for endangered and threatened fish and wildlife and recreational trails for mountain bikes and off-road vehicles. Our Senior Forest Ecologist, Ryan Haugo, spoke about his plan to manage these lands in a way that positively benefits to both nature and people through large landscape restoration.
While driving through the preserve, we passed through areas that were previously effected by a moderate forest fire a few seasons ago. This burned region provided a great example of the difference between healthy and unhealthy forest fires. As we traveled higher in evaluation, we were lucky to spot four adolescent elk roaming in the woods! We stopped to take photos and watch them dash across the dirt road in front of us. After enjoying a nice lunch along a stream, we continued on and drove beside the riparian forest which lead us to open grass meadows. On our last stop of the tour, we hiked down to a river bed where Emily Howe, Aquatic Ecologist, bravely picked up a large crawdad to assess if it was native or non-native to this region. After a long day spent exploring the forests, riverbeds, and scenic views of TNC’s central cascade preserve, I found myself already planning the next time I can come back.
Interested in visiting preserves like this? Check out our upcoming event to Lake Cle Elum!
Nature Conservancy sells 1,164 acres to U.S. Forest Service
Cle Elum —The Nature Conservancy has sold two sections totaling 1,164 acres of its Central Cascades Forests to the Forest Service, to be managed as part of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.
The two sections are within a half mile of the Pacific Crest Trail, are visible from the trail, and have long been part of the vision for protecting the trail and the experience of hiking it. In addition, they encompass the headwaters of Cabin Creek, an important tributary to the Yakima River and habitat for salmon, steelhead and bull trout.
The $1.1 million purchase will be funded from a special Land and Water Conservation Fund program to protect the Pacific Crest Trail.
“We are fortunate to live in a region that is home to some of our nation’s most breathtaking natural treasures,” said Rep. Dave Reichert, who represents Washington’s 8th District in Congress. “Now through the tools of the LWCF and the partnership of the U.S. Forest Service and The Nature Conservancy, we can rest assured that this area of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest and the experience of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail will be preserved for recreational visitors, the wildlife that calls it home, and for future generations to enjoy.”
“The U.S. Forest Service and its partners have been working for over a decade to help consolidate the checkerboard lands along this section of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail,” said Megan Wargo, Director of Land Protection for the Pacific Crest Trail Association. “We are grateful to The Nature Conservancy for their work to permanently protect these two parcels, ensuring an outstanding recreational opportunity for hikers and equestrians along the PCT for generations to come. “
These sections are within an area designated by the Forest Service as the Snoqualmie Pass Adaptive Management Area, where ecological and economic factors are considered, while managing for high quality forest habitat and habitat connectivity along the Cascade Range.
“This important acquisition connects gaps in National Forest surrounding the Pacific Crest Trail and the headwaters of Cabin Creek,” said Mike Williams, Forest Supervisor of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. "It enhances the recreational access and scenic quality of the trail experience. Additionally, the acquisition increases our ability to continue restoration efforts in the Yakima Basin."
“This is a win for the land and the people who love it, and assures long term conservation protection and public access for these sections of forest,” said Mike Stevens, the Washington state director of The Nature Conservancy.
These two sections are part of the nearly 48,000 acres the Conservancy purchased from Plum Creek for $48 million in December 2014. Proceeds from the sale will be used to repay some of the financing for the original purchase.
The Conservancy continues to manage its remaining 46,281 acres for healthy forests, clean water, wildlife habitat, and preserving public access, while seeking the best possible conservation outcomes for the land.
This summer, the Conservancy is planning several restoration projects:
· Planting 66,000 trees in two locations --Douglas-fir and white pine in an area south of Easton, and ponderosa pine in an area of South Cle Elum Ridge that burned in 2014.
· Thinning trees for forest health and fire resiliency on 380 acres on Cle Elum Ridge above Roslyn.
· Stream restoration by the Yakama Nation on the North Fork of Taneum Creek.
The Conservancy is also engaged in planning a 100,000-acre cross-ownership restoration project in the Manastash-Taneum area with the U.S. Forest Service, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Washington Department of Natural Resources and the Yakama Nation.
For more about these forests, please go to washingtonnature.org/centralcascades.
Photographed by Brian Mize, Field Forester; Lara Gricar, Central Cascades Community Coordinator
Our Central Cascades forest team was lucky enough to see bear tracks on our land! The tracks were on our land on the South Cle Elum Ridge. It is likely the bear recently awoke from a winter of slumber! See the photos in the slideshow above!
Written and Photographed by Linda Urbaniak
Wildflowers abound in Washington State. They start blooming early in the spring and continue late into the fall with the greatest blooms in April and May. Very few have blossoms in the winter. Their bloom time depends on elevation, amount of sun and temperature so with a warm spring everything will bloom earlier, with a late, cool spring everything will bloom later. They may bloom regularly in an area for years and mysteriously disappear when sought the following year. Part of the fun in discovering our wildflowers is the search for them.
Although there are areas where many wildflowers bloom at the same time, they usually are more sparsely situated. It isn't at all unusual to find just a few flowers in an area. On the other hand, where they bloom in profusion the sight can take your breath away.
One of the earliest is the lovely Grass Widow, Olsynium (once called Sisyrinchium) douglasii, which starts blooming in wet, sunny meadows just after the snow melts. This small bulb has shiny purple/red flowers and soon disappears as the land dries. It can be found north of the Olympic Mountains or east of the Cascades at mid elevations (about 1800-4800 feet above sea level).
Another early bloomer is Spring Gold (Lomatium utriculatum). This is one of the many desert parsleys found primarily east of the Cascades in the same vernal meadows as the Grass Widow as well as in drier slopes, meadows and rocky places. Starting to bloom very early, sometimes even in the late winter, this golden flower will continue to bloom until summer. The ferny leaves resemble fine leafed parsley and are topped with several heads of tiny bright yellow flowers. It can easily be confused with 5 or 6 other Lomatium that are similar and bloom somewhat later.
One early spring flower that almost everyone can recognize is the Skunk Cabbage. Growing primarily on the wet sideand on the eastern slope of the Cascade mountains from sea level to mid elevations, Lysichiton americanus can be found in bogs and wet places in sun or part sun locations it is easily recognized by its bright yellow bract surrounding the spike of small yellow-green flowers.
Our wildflowers are everywhere once you start looking, but few are easily found until you get out and walk through our forests, meadows and dry-lands. Few are exceptionally showy and some are so small you really have to bend down to see their delicate beauty. The Nature Conservancy has preserved areas that will thrill you with the discovery of their blooms, so head for the outdoors to discover the beauty Washington has waiting for you.
Written by Lara Gricar, Central Cascades Community Coordinator
Photographed by Brian Mize, Central Cascades Forester
On a rainy winter day in the Central Cascades we began the adventure to find and replace all of the old Plum Creek Timber Company signs scattered across the Cle Elum Ridge. The Nature Conservancy purchased 47, 921 acres of forestland in the Central Cascades from Plum Creek Timber Company in December 2014 to connect, protect and restore the land for people and nature. A little over a year later we are posting signs as a continuation of our efforts to help people understand what land we own, how it can be used, and where to find more information about our work in the Central Cascades.
Brian Mize, Central Cascades Forester, and I took on this task, and let me tell you, it is not always easy to attach a 24 x 18” sign to a tree surrounded by soft snow and deep voids. At lower elevations there was very little snow so it was quite a stark difference as we traversed up and down the land. Thankfully we had our trusty snow machine to stand on when needed!
The best part of the day was when we had the unique opportunity to see a set of cougar (mountain lion) tracks. They were located about a mile east as the crow flies of the Cle Elum-Roslyn schools off SR 903. Several key clues were the larger track size, lack of claw marks which are visible in tracks left by members of the dog family, and the tail drag marks in the snow between prints. I learned that it is really helpful in the field to take a photo of the track next to a familiar object such as a glove so that you have a point of reference to use when evaluating track size.
Alas, after a full day of crisscrossing the land we finished installing all of the new signs on the Cle Elum Ridge. Now, onto the next tract of land!
Photographs by Lara Gricar, the Central Cascades Community Coordinator
The snow is here, just in time for the holiday! Enjoy these great photos on our 48,000 acre forestland acquisition in the Central Cascades! Cle Elum Ridge looks so peaceful.
Written & Photographed by Dylan Furst, Northwest Photographer
After hiking many of the trails and visiting most of the lakes in the Central Cascades range, I had been craving a new perspective. The opportunity for a helicopter ride over Blanca Lake presented itself, and I was not about to let it pass. With a sunrise wake up call, we flew out from Boeing Field and started our flight into the mountains.
It’s amazing seeing the Cascades by helicopter, the perspective is so much different than an airplane. As we began to fly above the mountain peaks, you could feel the sharp winds from the valleys below move the helicopter, humbling you with it’s power. With the doors being off at the same time, this flight is not for people who are afraid of heights. It’s a pretty amazing feeling to look down and be so close to untouched waterfalls and pristine wilderness that most likely nobody has explored. I decided to put my feet out and snap a photo, but It proved to be more challenging than it looked. When I stuck my legs out of the cockpit, it took a lot of my strength to hold them steady in front of me. We could not idle in the air due to the danger of the winds and had to keep the helicopter moving, thus making it very hard to compose my photograph. In a way it reminded me of shooting a wedding, you really only have one chance to get the perfect photograph, and our pass by over Blanca Lake was the first kiss.
Photographing nature makes me feel alive. It gives me a great appreciation for the world we live in, and compels me to share the feelings I have in these moments with my audience. Not everyone can appreciate the beautiful area that surrounds us, and I want to inspire others to feel the same way that I do. Photography has allowed me to have an even stronger connection with nature, and I think everyone can appreciate it if they give it a chance.
Born and raised in Bellingham, Washington, Dylan Furst's backyard in the Pacific Northwest has heavily influenced his style as a photographer. From hiking without direction and driving unfamiliar roads, there’s no greater feeling than not knowing what’s around the next corner. Visit his website.
Photographed by Nathan Hadley, Northwest Photographer
We recently went to our project in Oak Creek to restore the forest to health, prior to the advent of wildfire suppression efforts. We've partnered with the Department of Fish and Wildlife, Yakama Nation and the U.S. Forest Service to thin brush and cut trees for timber to pay for most of the project. Some of the trees end up on creeks and rivers. They help sediment build up and restore fish habitat, also lost with wildfire suppression. This project is also a great opportunity to provide the local community with work and renewed habitat for wildlife. See photos from the day in the slideshow above!
Written by Brian Mize, Field Forester
Photographed by Hannah Letinich, Volunteer Northwest Photographer
My feet are cold and damp. My jeans are fighting my belt with the weight of water as I follow a line of faded pink flagging through the brush. It has been a historically dry year, and I’ve missed the sound of rain falling through trees.
It is a good day to be a forester.
I am scrambling down the hill toward Dingbat Creek, a tributary to the West Fork of the Teanaway River. This is a small piece of TNC’s Central Cascades acquisition in Kittitas County. The previous owner, Plum Creek, had identified this hillside of trees for harvest. They flagged the boundaries, buffered the streams, submitted a forest practice application, and named the project “Shaft” (not in homage to a famous 70’s detective, but a reference to a large air shaft that remains onsite, which allowed coal miners to breathe in the tunnels below).
Despite all the prep work, Plum Creek did not harvest this slope before the acquisition. That is why I’m here, soaking wet, observing the current condition of this forest, thinking about the future, and asking a simple question, “Should we intervene, or let it be?” Halfway down the hill, I answer this question for myself when I begin replacing the faded flagging with fresh replacements. I understand doing nothing is always an option, but I have worked in the woods long enough to see that thoughtful, pragmatic and farsighted managers can achieve Aldo Leopold’s assertion that “a thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community.” Washington can have healthy, resilient forests that provide clean air, water and wildlife habitat. We can build sustainably vibrant rural economies that create jobs in the woods and mills. There is much work to be done, and I know TNC is committed to this vision. I’m proud to be a small part of it.
Volunteers recently took to the skies to capture this amazing footage of our recent 48,000 acre forestland purchase in the Central Cascades.
Footage by Whitney Hassett / Geodesy
Creating a little tour of a very big backyard
Written and Photographed by Carrie Krueger, Director of Marketing
It’s thrilling to be offering the tiniest of tours of our new back yard. 48,000 acres is an awful lot to show off, so for our member hikes this year, we’ll have to settle for just a peek at all our land in the Central Cascades has to offer.
Mapping the route for these member hikes proved tricky. The landscape is inherently rugged and steep. Despite our efforts to weave together the fractured landscape, property ownership is still disparate and a desirable path may cross many boundaries. Some of the land is crisscrossed with trails used by a variety of recreationalists but not necessarily suited for hikers.
I was lucky enough to spend a day with our forest team searching for the perfect hike. It was not just another day at the office! Over the course of several hours, I took in old growth, stunning views, restored landscape and places in need of work. I was most struck by the birds and butterflies. They seemed to be everywhere, even following us as we explored.
The trek also allowed me to talk with our forest team and hear more about the work they are doing to develop a management plan for the land. If you’ve ever done a home remodel, you know that having a plan is critical. Think about creating that vision and the practical details for 48,000 acres! The need for restoration is evident as is the potential for community benefit in the form of jobs and recreation. This land can be a real win for people and for nature.
As we hiked, we mapped every twist and turn using GPS, noting elevation gains and asking ourselves, “Would this be fun for a group hike?” With you in mind, we came up with a route that we think is beautiful, challenging but not too hard, features beautiful views and most important tells the story of why these lands matter and why we need your support to protect and restore them.
Join us on what we hope will be the first of many adventures in your new backyard. We’ll be taking people out on our new route August 8, September 16 and October 4.
You can get details and RSVP at WaEvents@TNC.org.
Hope to see you out there!
Management of nearly, 50,000 acres of forestland in the Central Cascades
Written & Photographed by Ryan Haugo, Senior Forest Ecologist
Last winter we celebrated the acquisition of 47,982 acres of forestland in the central Cascades from the Plum Creek timber company last winter with lots of high fives and back slaps. Yet we knew that the “real work” still lay ahead of us. We knew that soon we would be very busy writing the Central Cascades Forests Management plan.
What does a management plan for the conservation of nearly 50,000 acres across the central Cascades look like? This plan will cover everything from our overarching conservation objectives to details on recreational access, timber management, and ecological restoration strategies.
Just over six months later and we are deep into the development of the Central Cascades Forests Management Plan. First off was a series of community outreach meetings, in Cle Elum, Ellensburg, Yakima, and Seattle. Now we are busy synthesizing everything we know about these lands and developing the framework to guide management for years to come. Most certainly a daunting task. Luckily, we are able to work with some of the premier ecologists and forest management consultants in WA State, Northwest Natural Resources Group and Stewardship Forestry, in drafting our plan.
What does it take to write a forest management plan for nearly 50,000 acres? Analysis of inventory data, field verification and surveys, ecological modeling, developing maps, and lots of discussion and creative thinking. While this inevitably involves (too much) time in front of computer screens, it also means that we need to get out and get to know these lands in person.
While I’m not sure if we can yet say that the finish line is in sight for the management plan, it is certainly getting closer. I know that the entire team is excited to soon be able to share the details of our plans for these lands. Time and again during the community outreach meetings, I was struck by the long history and deep personal connections that so many people across Washington have with these lands. It is quite a responsibility and honor that we now have to steward these diverse and amazing lands.
Learn more about the Forests for Our Future.
A glimpse into the fascinating past of Washington Forests
Written by Erica Simek Sloniker, Conservation Information Manager
Photographed by Tomas Corsini, Northwest Photographer
Big data is all buzz in the news today, but what exactly is it?
Big data is a broad term used for data sets so large or complex that is difficult to process using traditional techniques. Geologic time is a lot like big data. The Earth’s history starts 4.5 billion years ago, but what does that really mean to our lives today? With a history so vast, how can we begin to comprehend our place in time?
I gave a geology talk to Nature Conservancy staff at a staff field trip on our newly acquired forest preserve in Central Washington, near Cle Elum. Surrounded by the Cascade mountains, the Stuart Range within the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, and on the western edge of the Columbia Pleateau, I attempted to help staff better understand Washington’s geologic history within the vast context of geologic time.
“I need 6 volunteers”, I told the group. Six people walked forward to help hold a 4.5 meter (about 15 feet) string that, when stretched out, marked a few of earth’s major geologic milestones. Each meter on the string represented 1 billion years, each millimeter 1 million years.
Washington is known for its beautiful mountain peaks, meandering coastlines, and its arid landscapes. Due to geologic forces, the Washington we know today gives us a glimpse into its fascinating and complex geologic past. The oldest rocks in Washington are dated to be around 1 billion years old. Just west of present day Spokane and Pullman, the ancient coastline of North America once boasted an abundance of life. Volcanic island arcs from far off places, collided and welded themselves to our ancient coastline, slowly adding more land mass to our state.
It wasn’t until 55 million years ago, that the Pacific Northwest had begun to approximate its present geographic configuration. Since this time, volcanic events dominated northwest geologic history including the building of the Cascade mountain range and fissuring that caused the Columbia River lava flows. More recently, 2 million years ago, a large ice sheet covered the northern portion of our state carving out deep basins like the Puget Sound and depositing vast amounts of sediment. In eastern Washington, just 15,000 years ago, enormous floods from melting ice, holding the water capacity similar of Lake Erie and Ontario, repeatedly thundered across the landscape from the Columbia Plateau to the Pacific Ocean.
“Everyone, take a look at the present day on the geologic time string”, I said. A billion years, Washington’s early beginnings, is less than 1/5th of this string. The early beginning of human kind is only a thumbnail long. Our species, homo sapians, around for just 200,000 years, is but a tiny fraction of a millimeter, unrecognizable to us on this long string.
Our lives in the present day are just a spec in geologic time, yet our actions are vital to the future condition of the ancient landscape around us and all of us who depend on it. A million years goes by fast. What will our legacy be?
G. Tomas Corsini Sr. is a freelance Northwest based photographer working on projects in Digital Media to include: Photography, Video Productions, Video Editing, Web Content Management, Motion Graphics, Graphics Illustration, and more. Learn more about his work here.