Central Cascades

Resilient Forests, Resilient Communities

Resilient Forests, Resilient Communities

A bill in the state Senate would fund much-needed wildfire prevention, suppression and preparedness activities, investing in the health of Washington’s iconic forests and the resilience of our communities.

Camping for a Cleaner Forest

Written by Brain Mize, Field Forester
Photographed by Milo Zorzino

Foresters tend to be an introverted lot, spending our days care taking the land in solitude.  So when our volunteer coordinator, Lauren Miheli, suggested an overnight camping excursion in the Central Cascades with a group of volunteers, I was a little apprehensive to say the least.  I provided the idea for a project of cleaning up a couple areas where people had illegally built cabins and left garbage scattered about.  I warned Lauren that this area was isolated, and was at least a 4 to 5 hour drive from Seattle.  This is when Lauren came up with the idea of camping onsite to allow more time for working.

As we convened on Saturday morning, my uneasiness was quickly settled when I realized we had a small, but incredibly dedicated group of volunteers.  We traveled to the project site and quickly set to work cleaning up a jackstrawed mess of rough cut logs, chicken wire, plastic, and scattered trash.  The afternoon temperatures reached into the upper 80’s, and there was no shade at the work site; however, our group of 5 volunteers cleaned up the area and hauled everything 500’ up to the road in about two hours.  We spent the rest of the evening setting up camp and enjoying the scenery.

By the time we split off on Sunday, our small group had exceeded all expectations of how much work we would accomplish.  But more than that, the dedication of our volunteers helped me get over my anxiety, and left me wanting more.  Although we have not planned our next volunteer event in the Central Cascades, I look forward to spending more time with people in a place that I love.

See our upcoming volunteer opportunities.

Forest Restoration Spotlight

Photographed by Chris Crisman

Restoring our forests, streams and all the habitat in between.

Our work making Washington’s forests and streams healthier is spotlighted in two vastly different landscapes – the temperate coastal rainforest of Ellsworth Creek, and the dry ponderosa forests of the Central Cascades.

These two stories highlight the restoration work taking place on the ground, as well as paint a picture of the long term vision for these very special places.

From the Chinook Observer, a beautiful story that captures the breadth and depth of the work we’re doing in Ellsworth Creek. Link below. 

Chinook Observer - Towering Titans: Nature Conservancy Restoration Breathes Life Into Forest Stream

And a front page spread on the Yakima Herald that showcases our work with the Yakama Nation on the North Fork Taneum Creek. Link below.

Yakima-Herald: Creek Restoration Vital to a Healthy Forest.

Discovering Fire in our Forests

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. 

Learn about Fire adapted Communities

Stream Side for Conservation

Written & Photographed by Zoe van Duivenbode, Marketing Intern

Another day in the field found Nature Conservancy staff on an adventure in search of GPS locations scattered throughout our Taneum Creek property in the central cascades. In order to continue previous years of stream temperature data collection, TNC’s aquatic ecologist, Emily Howe, and senior forest ecologist, Ryan Haugo, put on their waders and rain boots and embarked on a bushwhacking, log climbing, upstream mission.

By recording stream temperature, our scientists can determine what impact surrounding land use has on nearby stream habitats and can track short-term and long-term temperature fluctuations. Monitoring stream temperature is important because it influences the health, abundance and habitat suitability for fish and other aquatic life. Fish species, such as steelhead and bull trout, were historically present in central cascade streams and as a part of TNC’s conservation plan, our scientists aim to continue data collection which will help guide restoration treatments and protect endangered fish and wildlife species. Check out the slideshow above to follow our day in the field! 

Celebrating Forestry Innovation

Written & Photographed by Zoe van Duivenbode, Marketing Intern

Over the weekend, we invited our members on a tour of one of our central cascade properties to showcase our current restoration project! Nature Conservancy staff Brian Mize, Field Forester, and Reese Lolley, Director of Forest Restoration, shared the ecological history of the central cascade forests and how a combination of variables resulted in a change in forest structure and function. Mize guided us around the property to paint a picture of some of the restoration challenges he faces when managing this property. He touched on the importance of wildfires, the change in tree species and his strategy in creating fire resilient forests for the benefit of people and nature.  

Thinning for Resiliency

Written & Photographed by Zoe van Duivenbode, Marketing Intern

I recently drove to one of our central cascade properties to meet with field forester, Brian Mize, to learn more about how we plan to manage and restore our forests. Prior to my visit, I was unfamiliar with logging as a tool for restoration and was eager to find out how removing certain stands of trees can actually benefit the forest by improving health, increasing fire resiliency and creating habitat for wildlife.

Over the last decade, fire suppression has been a high priority among land managers and owners in hopes to protect property and habitat. However, this push away from fire has slowly changed the landscape of our native forests, allowing for certain species to thrive where they typically would not and creating denser tree stands.  This shift creates a problem for land managers and nearby communities because it increases the risk and severity of forest fires. Certain trees, like grand fir, are more vulnerable to forest fires and have become more common among tree stands in central cascade forests. Also, forests with high density stands forces trees to compete with each other for resources, increases the amount fuels for fires and reduces habitat suitability for wildlife.

The Nature Conservancy plans to apply restoration thinning techniques on select units of our central cascade properties to create a more historic and variable forest structure which will benefit communities, wildlife and nature. On July 9th, TNC is inviting the public to one of our central cascade properties to see our restoration first hand and learn more about the benefits of restoration thinning. Our field forester will share more about the science behind thinning,  and will answer any questions about our restoration work.

Join us for  Forestry Day and see our work! 

Learn more about our Central Cascade Preserves

Changing Our Forests from Top to Bottom

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!