2009: Connecting and protecting, Coast to Rockies
Team work and partnerships were part of our strategy and successes in 2009 as we worked to sustain wolves and other animals, large and small, and strengthen wildlife habitat and connections in our region.
Sustaining wolves and other animals both large and small in our state means protecting not only the species themselves, but the habitat where they live and the connected pathways wildlife need for movement in response to drought, wildfire, and habitat shifts from climate change. Planning big and working small, teamwork and partnerships were all part of our strategy and success in 2009 as we strengthened wildlife connections from the Washington Coast to the BC Rockies.
Into the deep forests of the Olympics an additional 40 Pacific fishers were released this year, the culmination of a reintroduction partnership for this native forest predator. And in spring , biologists recorded four newborn fisher kits near the Elwha River, the first native-born fishers in Washington in 70 years.
In early 2009, the Board of Natural Resources agreed to buy 80 acres of private land on the south slope of Blanchard Mountain, outpost of the Chuckanuts and popular equestrian and recreation destination. The purchase was one of the outcomes of the 2007 Blanchard Strategies Agreement and the first of coming transactions ensuring that working forests are part of the solution to sprawl and development.
In November 2009 the Whatcom County Council approved funding to help establish a forest preserve in this watershed supplying 90,000 people. The new preserve will be managed to better protect the lake, protect remnant old-growth forest, and restore mature forest to old-growth conditions for marbled murrelets and other wildlife. Conservation Northwest has long worked to protect the public lands in the watershed.
In November nearly 200 people urged the Puget Sound Advisory Council to pull the Cross-Base Highway from a “2040” transportation list, furthering work to protect this rare remnant of oak-woodland prairie at Fort Lewis and its endangered plants and animals, from horned lark to western gray squirrel.
On the eastside of the Cascades, Conservation Northwest and our partners restored forests, reintroduced fire, removed old roads, and protected old trees. This included controlled reintroduction of fire to reestablish a fire ecology on 6,000 acres of dry forest in the Naches Ranger District with the Tapash Collaborative.
We reached resolution with the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, who will now protect, not log, large trees near Lake Wenatchee as part of the Natapoc Ridge Restoration Project.
We hired a contractor to restore forests and close old spur roads near Upper Kachess River and near Twin Lakes, protecting old-growth forest and wildlife.
Topping the year was the historic ground-breaking of the first phase of the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project and freeway wildlife crossings, the first one at Gold Creek. Conservation Northwest helped spearhead the I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition, ensuring safe passage for people and wildlife between the north and south Cascades.
Volunteers in the Cascades wildlife monitoring program documented wildlife from bears to elk in season three of the project and watched as a remarkable wolverine, Sasha, made her long journey traveling from Harts Pass to near Highway 2. Remote camera photos and winter tracks detailed a wealth of wildlife moving through habitats around I-90 just east of Snoqualmie Pass, site of future wildlife crossing structures.
Our continued monitoring of wolves naturally returning to Washington yielded a picture of wolf pups of the Lookout Pack with a guardian “teenager” standing watch while the alpha male and female were known to be a large distance away.
We helped local ranchers secure conservation easements on four ranches, totaling about 8,000 acres, keeping these lands open for grazing and wildlife habitat, together with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Trust for Public Land, Methow Conservancy, and Okanogan Valley Land Trust.
We also worked to ensure that the USDA Farm and Ranch Protection Program (federal conservation easement funding) is equally available to western and eastern Washington applicants, for example, ranchers in Ferry and Stevens counties.
In Okanogan communities, we talked to hundreds of people at the County Fair, Rotary Club, Conservation District, Resource Conservation and Development Council, making good ground creating "ecosystem awareness."
We hosted the film documentary, Lords of Nature, on living with predators, at showings throughout north-central Washington.
We led a field tour attended by seven local ranchers and biologists to talk about living and ranching with wolves.
Midway through its 8th year, the Northeast Washington Forestry Coalition was lauded by Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack as a national model for cooperative management of public resources, including wilderness and forest restoration, for the 1.1 million acre Colville National Forest.
In August we were part of a successful Congressional “listening session” in Spokane on the successes of the Northeast Washington Forestry Coalition. Senator Cantwell and Representative McMorris Rodgers attended, with key community leaders, county commissioners, equestrians, motorized recreationists, and tribal government.
The Forestry Coalition met with broader stakeholders in round tables to resolve outstanding forest management issues regarding range, recreation access, mining, and tribal concerns, working toward a balanced plan for the Colville National Forest and Columbia Highlands.