Bringing Fire Back onto the Quinault Indian Nation

Story and photos by Adam Martin, Prairie Restoration Specialist, Center for Natural Lands Management

With the roar of the Pacific Ocean in earshot, Moses Prairie was set on fire by the Quinault Indian Nation for the first time since the 1800s. This 200-acre prairie is one fragment of the once more extensive coastal prairies found along the Olympic coast.

Lots of time, and many hands went into preparing the late-September burn. They set out a wide mow line, and laid out hundreds of feet of hose to support the burn. No engines or UTV’s were used, just bladder bags, flappers, and drip torches. Not as original as the friction fire burns that likely started the original fires on the prairie, but a far cry from the machine and technology heavy prescribed fires of modern times.

The burn was one project under the Washington Coast Restoration Initiative, a state-funded program created by The Nature Conservancy for communities on the coast to do on-the-ground work to improve land management. In the past, Quinault used fire to encourage desired plants and wildlife in the prairie landscape. With this project, they’re using traditional practices such as fire on Moses Prairie to improve production of berries, roots, bulbs and plants for basket-weaving materials, and stimulate the wetland prairie for wildlife such as ducks, geese, butterflies, bear and elk.

A group of us from the Center for Natural Lands Management traveled out to support their burn operations, and get the opportunity to burn a prairie completely different than the dry gravelly outwash prairies in the South Sound. As we circled up with the Quinault burn crew; tribal members, and elders, our boots wet as our weight began to make the ground seep, we shared and listened to stories about the place we were about to burn. The elders imparted the importance of communication. Communication is what allowed for us all to be there in that moment, having an intention to get something done, and listening, talking, and sharing a common vision. It was fitting words for what we were about to do.

Bob, our burn boss, brought a piece of pitch wood of longleaf pine, the foundation tree of the south, where he burns in the winter season. We used it to start the prescribed burn an old way; no burn mix, just fire and pitchy wood. It was a small gesture, bringing some of the fire from the south; where this history of ecological burning has been long and continuous. We hoped some of the flame of Southern fire would help again start a long legacy of fire that is the right of the people who have lived in these wet mossy forests and prairies the longest.

The fire itself was text-book and short; maybe an hour. We did our best to let everybody get an experience putting fire on the ground. The slough sedge and Labrador tea burned well, bog gentian and sundew remained flowering after the burn, the wet and boggy nature of Moses prairie gave us a gentle entry into burning this landscape again. Hopefully the elk will again forage in the new growth in a few weeks. The steady coastal winds made ignitions feel mostly like sailing. The smoke came together and went up high and into the upper winds. Everybody was smiling.

For many from the Quinault crew it was their first or second prescribed burn, and the feeling of joy was palpable when we again circled up at the end of the burn. Fire is one of the quickest ways to bring people together. For us at CNLM we get the privilege to burn almost every day in the summer, and many of has have been for many years. The opportunity to again feel the excitement of burning for the first time was a great gift to receive and share.

And helping to peel back a layer of colonization that happened on this landscape, while small, made it all the more potent.

The Nature Conservancy created the Washington Coast Restoration Initiative and supports it in the Legislature. We work with the Quinault Indian Nation and Center for Natural Lands Management on many projects.

Quinault Indian Nation named Title Sponsor for Washington Coast Works Sustainable Business Plan Competition

June 21, 2016 (Seattle, Washington) — Washington Coast Works is pleased to announce the Quinault Indian Nation as the Title Sponsor for the 2016 Sustainable Small Business Competition. This year’s business training is underway and will conclude July 22-24 during the Entrepreneurship Summit at the Olympic Natural Resource Center in Forks, Washington. At the Summit, participants will develop their presentation pitch and polish their business plans for a chance to vie for up to $20,000 in startup financing. Winners will be announced in October. 

This year’s participating entrepreneurs include a cultural tourism business, a wood boat kit manufacturer, a bee keeper, a construction business, a chocolatier, a tiny homes builder, a food truck, a dog boarding business, a permaculture farm, a stump grinder, a nature-inspired fitness company, a sustainable vegetable and hog producer, and a manufacturer of art equipment. All are “triple-bottom-line” businesses from coastal communities in Grays Harbor, Jefferson and Clallam Counties and designed to generate profits with significant social and environmental benefits.

“The Quinault Indian Nation is a critical partner for us,” said Eric Delvin, Emerald Edge Project Manager at The Nature Conservancy. “Their commitment to conservation of their natural resources and to sustainable economic development is clearly demonstrated by their sponsorship of Washington Coast Works.” 

Other 2016 competition sponsors include Enterprise for Equity and Washington Department of Commerce. 

Washington Coast Works is an initiative of The Nature Conservancy in collaboration with Enterprise for Equity (with support from a USDA Rural Business Development Grant), the Center for Inclusive Entrepreneurship, and the Ta’ala Fund, a native community development financial institution that supports business development in western Washington coast tribal communities. 

The complete calendar of events leading up to the competition is available at www.wacoastworks.org. Contact at Mike Skinner info@wacoastworks.org to learn more about the competition, to volunteer to mentor or judge, or to request information about more sponsorship opportunities.

Cleaning Up Oceans of Debris

Written by Kara Cardinal, Marine Projects Manager
Photographed by David Ryan, Field Forester

Marine debris - plastics, metals, rubber, paper, textiles, derelict fishing gear, vessels, and other lost or discarded items that enter the marine environment – is becoming one of the most widespread pollution problems facing our world oceans.

Marine life, such as sea turtles, seabirds, and marine mammals, are increasingly confusing it with food and ingesting plastics and other debris. It can damage important marine habitat. Derelict nets, ropes, line, and other fishing gear can lead to whale entanglements, vessel damage and navigational hazards.  Not to mention, who wants to walk down the beautiful Washington coast only to stumble across rafts of Styrofoam, plastic bottles and grocery bags?  No part of our world is left untouched by debris and its impacts.  

She may be small, but she is fierce.
— Anonymous

As overwhelming as this problem seems, incredible work is happening right here in Washington to clean up our local oceans.

I had the opportunity recently to join a group of dedicated individuals in Long Beach, Washington who are working to address marine debris issues in our state, as well as recognize the 10-year anniversary of the NOAA Marine Debris Program and the five-year commemoration of the tsunami that struck Japan and resulted in vast amounts of debris from across the world washing up on our local beaches.

This event brought together local volunteers (Grassroots Garbage Gang), NGOs, tribes, state agencies and NOAA officials to share and recognize our work.  The event on April 8 kicked off with inspiring remarks from Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, Undersecretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator , who was eager to learn about our work and explore our local beaches.

Congresswomen Jaime Herrera-Beutler, with family in tow, also addressed the crowd.  Referring to the community efforts on the Washington coast, she recited a quote from her daughter’s bedroom wall: “She may be small, but she is fierce.”  These words couldn’t be more true – folks on the Washington coast are doing local-scale work with a global-scale impact.

At The Nature Conservancy, we are doing our part by addressing the issue of derelict fishing gear along Washington’s rugged coast. With funding from NOAA and in partnership with the Quinault Indian Nation and Natural Resource Consultants, we have removed over 500 pots, lines, and buoys from the Washington Coast.  The main goals of this project can be summed up by 1) getting derelict gear out of the water, 2) keeping gear out of the water through a sustainable recovery program, and 3) doing outreach to tribal fishermen and the surrounding communities about the habitat, economic and safety issues of derelict fishing gear.

See our recent blog post on this project.

Before I started my long journey home, I decided to take one last walk along the beautiful beaches of the Long Beach Peninsula.  As I was walking out towards the water, who did I see coming off the beach lugging a big bag full of trash?  None other than Dr. Kathryn Sullivan herself!  I went up to shake her hand and thank her for visiting our special corner of the country.  She remarked “I couldn’t travel all this way and not do my part.”  I smiled to myself as I continued my walk along the waters edged and felt very confident that all of us together might just make a difference in this world.

NOAA’s Marine Debris Program

Grassroots Garbage Gang


The Conversations & Community at Ellsworth Creek

Written by David Ryan, Field Forester
Photographed by Larry Workman, Quinault Indian Nation

We are standing in a creek bottom with water around our feet.  It’s raining.  It’s cool, but not too uncomfortable.  As the old saying goes: “There’s no such thing as bad weather; just bad clothing.”  I am fortunate that my guests seem to understand that.  My guests are several members of the Quinault Nation and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

They are here to look at the work we are doing at Ellsworth Creek Preserve.  This year we have decommissioned roads, upgraded roads, implemented a forest restoration thinning, and worked on an in-stream restoration … among other things.

As a field forester for The Nature Conservancy one of my duties is to participate in meetings, tours, and workshops pertaining to forestry and ecology.  I thoroughly enjoy when those events are held at Ellsworth Creek.  I love meeting people who are interested enough to visit and look at the forest and I always learn every time guests arrive. 

As a temperate, coastal rainforest Ellsworth can be a challenging place to visit.  It is steep.  It is brushy.  It is wet.  Those logistical challenges increase when coupled with management activities on the landscape.  Again, I am fortunate that my current guests understand that as well.  They are game for inclement weather, rough ground to walk over, and heavy machinery to coordinate around.

The rewards are rich.  We visit log jams installed this summer that are already re-engaging historic floodplains and channels.  We look at forest stands that were recently managed, historically managed, and others that will not see human management again.  We checked roads that no longer exist due to our work.  And most importantly, we talk.  We discuss.  We question.  We answer… or we don’t.  We think critically.  We don’t always agree.  One course of action here may or may not work for other land managers elsewhere.  But the discourse is always respectful.  And we all seem to enjoy the conversation.

We have now spent many hours walking, talking, and wending our way through the rain and the woods; certainly a physically uncomfortable day for many people.  Eventually a discussion arises of whether people want to continue downstream to look at some bigger log jams and another forest stand treatment or go back and get warm and dry.  I hear a colleague call out for “a coalition of the willing to venture further downstream” to continue the discussion.

Almost everyone walks downstream.  The conversation continues.  I am grateful when people take the effort to really look at our work.  I am grateful for my guests.  And this place.

A Successful Search for Derelict Pots

Written by Molly Bogeberg, Marine Projects Manager
Photographs by Flickr Creative Commons

With funding from NOAA and in partnership with the Quinault Indian Nation and Natural Resource Consultants, we have removed 522 pots, lines, and buoys from the Washington Coast in the Quinault Indian Nation Special Management Area from 2014-2015. We are continuing to search for and remove pots through October and will possibly continue removing pots into November. The Quinault fishermen and NRC report that they are finding fewer and fewer pots with aerial surveys. This is good news because that means we are being successful and thorough with our work. 

Through our partnership, the Quinault have also been developing a tribal fisheries community based derelict pot reporting and recovery program to help identify locations where there are derelict pots. The Quinault Ocean Committee is also considering an incentive based pot recovery system which will allow fishers to go out after the crab fishery is closed for the season and recover any gear they can find to use in their own fishery. The hope is that these two strategies will prevent further accumulation of derelict pots within the Quinault Indian Nation waters.

Learn how we protect our oceans.

3 Budding Entrepreneurs Get a Jump Start

Washington Coast Works Sustainable Small Business Competition Winners Announced

Written & Photographed by Eric Delvin, Emerald Edge Project Manager

Over the last year I have had the distinct pleasure to help launch a sustainable small business competition on the Washington coast, Washington Coast Works.  Last week the perseverance and vision of the 11 finalists in the competition paid off, for three of the budding small business owners, when the winners were announced at the Grays Harbor Business Leaders Banquet.

Emily Foster, a Quileute tribal member from LaPush, in Clallam County, won the first-place prize of $10,000 for equipment and supplies to launch Lonzo’s Seafood Company, offering smoked Quileute-caught fresh salmon.

After the awards, Emily told me about how important the award was for her and the Quileute community.  She talked about how much fishing was an integral part of her family and tribal heritage.  She noted how the prize money would provide her with an opportunity to expand the Quileute fish market in a sustainable way and keep the profits within her local community.

She said she was excited about this business because she will be promoting seafood that comes from Quileute. Growing up as the daughter of a commercial fisherman who has made a living fishing and crabbing for over 30 years, this business will allow her to work with him directly and benefit from his years of expertise.

Runners up were Liz Ellis, from Aberdeen in Grays Harbor County, and Jean Ramos, a Quinault tribal elder from Queets, in Jefferson County, who each received $5,000 to launch their businesses.

Ellis is starting the East Aberdeen Community Farm, where neighbors in the Wishkah River lowlands can grow, market and buy fresh local produce.

Ramos is creating SovereigNDNTea, a business selling locally and sustainably foraged Labrador tea.

The three were chosen from 11 semifinalists, who have all participated in workshops on entrepreneurship, business, and sustainability. Finalists also had access to one-on-one technical assistance from experienced business advisors to develop and refine their business concepts.

What is exciting to me about this project overall is that it represents a new way that The Nature Conservancy is approaching our work.  Just as we emphasized to the contestants in the competition that they need to think about triple bottom line businesses that value economics, ecology, and people, TNC is approaching our work more broadly in the same way.  While we work on forest and marine conservation projects we are also thinking about community and economic vitality as well. Small-scale, sustainable businesses have the potential to infuse new life into coastal communities, providing jobs and keeping local money local, and that’s the premise for Washington Coast Works.

Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-WA, who presented the awards said, “The Nature Conservancy and the Center for Inclusive Entrepreneurship are continuing to lead the effort to give our region’s small businesses an open field to launch their ideas and make a positive impact. This competition illustrated the great work happening on the Olympic Peninsula to create sustainable jobs and drive innovation.”

This project would not have been possible without our strong partners at Pinchot University, Center for Inclusive Entrepreneurship and the Taala Fund.  Also, significantly, our prize funding was provided by First Federal Savings and Loan Association of Port Angeles and the Quinault Indian Nation.

I am super excited to kick off round two of Coast Works very soon, which we will launch in early 2016. Watch the Washington Coast Works website, www.wacoastworks.org, for updates.

Partners, Transformation, Salmon

Connecting with the community on the Olympic Peninsula

Written and Photographed By Byron Bishop, Board of Trustees Chair, The Nature Conservancy in Washington

There is no substitute for hands-on experience. As the incoming board chair for The Nature Conservancy in Washington I hear an awful lot and talk an awful lot about the environmental challenges our state is facing and the ways in which this organization is tackling them. But a recent trip to the Olympic Peninsula gave me an up-close view of the issues, allowed me to meet vital partners and inspired me to work even harder to build success for people and nature in this critical region.

I was privileged to spend time with leadership from both the Makah Tribe and the Quinault Indian Nation. Each of them is uniquely connected to the lands and waters of the region, and each plays a big role in assuring the health of forests, rivers, coast, and ocean. We greatly value our partnerships with the Makah and Quinault, which are built on shared values and goals. For example, one area of mutual concern is the threat of an oil spill. I toured the only oil skimmer at Neah Bay and learned that there is no capability for handling a large spill. Together we are working to diminish the risk of spills and increase our ability to respond, preventing environmental devastation. After productive meetings with each tribe, we look forward to deeper partnerships.

The region is part of a larger system along the Emerald Edge from Washington through British Columbia and up to Alaska. On this trip I learned more about the strategy of transforming forest practices across this region. In each area there is a different primary tactic: In Washington we will use changing ownership structures. In British Columbia, it is about changing how tenure works and empowering First Nations. In Alaska, we must transition industry from old growth to second growth. With a high level vision of transformation, we have the versatility to create the most powerful solutions for each area.

No trip to the region is complete without talking salmon. The iconic fish thrives where there are healthy forests and rivers, so their well-being is a very good indicator of how the system is doing. I witnessed several positive signs: Along Hurst Creek, a tributary of the Clearwater on Conservancy property, I saw engineered log jams that will be added to the creek to create spawning habitat. Along the Clearwater, a recent Conservancy acquisition, I saw property that has great potential to become prime spawning habitat, with your support. Our work to increase salmon productivity in places where salmon once flourished is an important piece of a much larger plan, and satisfying to witness first-hand.

Every trip on behalf of The Nature Conservancy leaves me inspired, and convinced we are making a large and positive impact on our state. This trip reminded me of the complexity of dealing with multi-faceted issues in a wild and treasured place.



Electrofishing helps protect salmon

Written and photographed by Kyle Smith, Washington Forest Manager

The Nature Conservancy is partnering with the Quinault Indian Nation to install six engineered logjams on a tributary of the Clearwater River. Engineered logjams simultaneously enhance riparian habitat and manage erosion by introducing large woody debris to stabilize banks.

Last week, I worked with Quinault staff to prepare the site by removing fish from the stream and installing temporary exclusion barriers to keep fish out of the channel during construction.

In the photo above, Dwayne Bighead (right) of the Quinault Indian Nation is sending electric currents underwater to momentarily stun Coho salmon and bring them to the water surface, a technique called electrofishing. William Armstrong (left) and Adam Rehfeld (center) assist with collecting fish.

The logjam installation, which began this week, is part of a larger long-term restoration plan for our conserved land in Jefferson County to improve aquatic and terrestrial habitat. The Nature Conservancy depends on invaluable partnerships with indigenous communities like the Quinault to maximize our efficacy.