Cle Elum

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!

Finding Tracks in the Central Cascades

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!

Learn more about our work in forests.

Out with the Old, In with the New

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!


A Snowy Holiday in Our Central Cascades Forest

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. 


An Amazing Race through the Central Cascades

Seeing the finish line AS WE RESTORE Washington's beautiful forests

Written by Mike Stevens, Washington State Director for The Nature Conservancy

One of my personal highlights of the month was running in the Cle Elum 30K Trail Run on the 26th. Our Senior Attorney Brian Todd ran the 50K. The race cuts across the checkerboard country in the Manastash/Taneum Ridge and Taneum Creek area – including The Nature Conservancy’s ownership. Through every bead of sweat and hard work during my run, there were highlights such as the great trails predominantly used by motorcyclists and some gorgeous views out across the forested ridges and up and down the Tandem watershed.

At every long trail run I’ve done, there is a moment where the running becomes real work but the effort brings my mind into sharp focus, which in turn brings the landscape to life. At the Cle Elum run, that moment came along Taneum Creek. The trail crosses over wooden bridges and winds along the creek, making for fun downhill running with short, hard uphill sections.

The sounds of the creek, chickadees and nuthatches, and of yellow fall cottonwood and aspen leaves streaming off the trees. The sunlight streaming through the woods. The sharp crisp scent of fall in the meadows. These were my companions for a last challenging and rewarding hour of running. I came into the finish, my prize a big hug from my wife and a fresh piece of pizza from a wood-fired oven.

Afterwards, Brian and I shared notes on the day and then it was back to the city, feeling sore, yet motivated and even more invested in our work in the Cascades.

Let’s Go “Salmoning!”

Witnessing the salmon journey with family

Written and Photographed by Ryan Haugo, Senior Forest Ecologist

After 12+ months working on our massive Central Cascades Projects, first the acquisition from Plum Creek Timber Company and now development of our comprehensive management plan, it’s time to take a breath and enjoy the amazing natural features of this landscape. It’s time to go “salmoning”.

What’s “salmoning” you might ask? Salmoning is the name my family has given to act of trekking out to view spawning salmon at the end of their long journey from the ocean. It’s one way for two Midwestern parents to raise Northwestern kids.

This month Chinook and Sockeye salmon are spawning in the upper reaches of the Yakima Basin, in rivers fed by our Central Cascades Forests. The chinook salmon that we viewed began their roughly 500 mile journal from the Pacific Ocean this past spring, up the Columbia River, up the Yakima River, and finally up to their spawning grounds in the Cle Elum River. The Sockeye are present above the dam on Cle Elum Lake thanks to a re-introduction project led by the Yakama Nation. Prior to the completion of the irrigation storage dams in the 1930’s, it is estimated that at least 200,000 sockeye returned annually to the lakes of the Yakima River Basin. 

While current number of Salmon in the Yakima River Basin may be a far cry from historic levels, their presence was enough to elicit excitement and amazement in my family and help us remember why we are working to protect, connect, and restore our Washington forests.

More information:

Checking in with the East Cascades Steering Committee




Written by James Schroeder, Director of Forest Conservation and Partnerships;
Photographed by Tomas Corsini, Northwest Photographer

Did you know The Nature Conservancy has a Steering Committee of dedicated volunteers focused on the success of our work in the East Cascades Forests? For more than five years now, this group of volunteers has met to learn, discuss, and strategize on how to protect, connect and restore the forests in their backyard. With members from Leavenworth, Cle Elum, Wenatchee, Ellensburg, Yakima, Selah, Seattle, Sammamish, and the Tri-Cities, this group has a broad reach and diverse ideas and experience. One thing that binds them is their love for The Nature Conservancy and their belief in our mission.

From meeting with County Commissioners to lobbying members of Congress, from introducing TNC to their local news media to speaking about our work at their local rotaries, this group has decided to put their energy toward making a difference for TNC in the East Cascades.

At our August meeting, hosted by Larry and Becky Scholl at their beautiful home in Ronald, we discussed the Conservancy¹s management plan for our 48,000 acres forest acquisition. We spoke about the status of wildfires across the state, and what TNC is doing to promote “Fire Adapted Communities,” and we updated them on what they can do to speak up on state and federal policies that could affect our work and their lives. And along with the conversation, we enjoyed wine, dinner and delicious berry pie for dessert!

If you are interested in learning more about the East Cascades Steering Committee, or might be interested in attending a dinner meeting, please let us know!

Forests for Our Future: Progress on a Plan

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.