As our I-90 Wildlife Corridor Campaign sunsets, we are increasing our focus on forest and watershed restoration in this larger landscape between the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and Mount Rainier National Park.
Our Central Cascades Watersheds Restoration program works to restore habitat on public lands north and south of Interstate 90 that are vital to wildlife movement between Mount Rainier National Park and the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.
The program is a focused complement to our ongoing Forest Field Program that will work in watersheds spanning both sides of the Cascade Crest. Our Forest Field Program has a much longer history in the watersheds east of the Cascades, while this program is in the early phase of building relationships in the Puget Sound region west of the crest.
For the past 20 years, we have focused on maintaining and restoring habitat connectivity in the “bottleneck” around Snoqualmie Pass that is the primary linkage between Washington’s north and south Cascade Mountains. Through The Cascades Conservation Partnership, we purchased and protected 45,000 acres of private forest threatened with development that is now public land, and through our I-90 Wildlife Corridor Campaign we led a coalition to successfully advocate for over twenty wildlife crossings to allow animals safer passage, while also leading wildlife monitoring and habitat restoration in key areas near the interstate.
Now, in this new program, we turn our attention to restoring quality habitat on the vast adjacent public lands for wildlife to live and move through this landscape, and for people to sustainably enjoy this important piece of our Northwest natural heritage near to growing communities.
Between the Alpine Lakes Wilderness to the north and Mount Rainier National Park to the south, this program focuses primarily on the lands of the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie and Okanogan-Wenatchee national forests, including the headwaters of six watersheds on both sides of the Cascade Crest. While our primary focus is on the uplands in these watersheds, we will work with partners to complete relevant restoration work across these watersheds.
The goals of this program over the life of our current 2017-2022 Strategic Plan are to:
- Promote and uphold policies that prioritize ecological restoration and wildlife connectivity,
- Complete restoration blueprints that cover restoration actions on U.S. Forest Service (USFS) lands that meaningfully improve wildlife connectivity and watershed function in four of the six most degraded watersheds,
- Generate and direct public and private funding to implement restoration blueprints, and
- Prioritize restoration projects that are catalytic or spatially-critical to improve wildlife connectivity and wildlands values.
Although our primary focus is on the upland portions of watersheds that contribute most to north-south wildlife connectivity in the Central Cascades, we will also work through existing collaboratives and watershed groups to ensure our efforts add value in the larger context of this landscape. Collaborative bodies that we’ll work within for this program include the Tapash Sustainable Forest Collaborative (and within that the Little Naches Working Group), Upper Yakima Watershed Action Group, and Water Resource Inventory Area planning bodies for the Green-Duwamish and Puyallup-White watersheds.
A key component, work in all these watersheds will be coordination with the Yakama Nation, Muckleshoot, Tulalip and Snoqualmie tribes, and other indigenous peoples. Primary NGO partner organizations include American Rivers, Forterra, The Nature Conservancy, The Wilderness Society, and Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust.