Since our inception in 1998, Stewardship Partners has worked with a number of locally developed environmental projects throughout Washington state.
The landscape is a range of farmland, rangeland and forest land. Several tributaries weave their way through the property providing valuable habitat for endangered steelhead and bull trout. There are additional sensitive areas that provide habitat for endangered species.
Knowing their land was habitat to protected species stimulated this landowner initiative and our assistance. Since starting back in 1999, all the sensitive areas on the property have been identified. Then, the landowner began to work closely with the South East Regional Fisheries Enhancement Group, Walla Walla Conservation District and Natural Resource Conservation Service to identify relevant state and federal programs. This help resulted in the fencing of three miles of stream corridor and the opening of two fish migration barriers that until now blocked more than 32 miles of steelhead and bull trout habitat.
By engaging in these projects and working with community groups and local agencies the landowner h as taken care of sensitive areas. The happy result is that present and future “takings” under the ESA have been preempted and the expensive and time consuming pursuit of an HCP is no longer needed.
The Skykomish is one of the top three salmon producing rivers in Puget Sound, with 15 percent to 20 percent of the remaining wild chinook in the region. These six landowners collectively own 1,500 acres and lease 300 more, which they actively farm along 15 miles of the Skykomish River between Sultan and the confluence with the Snoqualmie River.
The landowner group has received nearly $500,000 toward creating a conservation plan. Through this process, the landowners have made great strides in developing positive relationships with the Tulalip Tribes, Snohomish County and additional farmers. In addition, the project is working with Cascade Land Conservancy to assess the use of conservation easements and other mechanisms to protect habitat and open space — while ensuring the economic viability of farming.
At the time this project began in late 2000, an HCP was considered the only process available to comply with the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Since that time, the LSRHCG, with assistance from Mentor Law Group, has identified other processes under state law that could be used either as an alternative to or as a preliminary step toward an HCP. These options include development of a Habitat Incentives Agreement under RCW Chapter 77.55, or use of a pilot method developed through the Agriculture, Fish and Water process that allows agricultural landowners to implement agricultural conservation standards developed by the Natural Resource Conservation Service and reviewed by other agencies through the AFW process.
The Watershed Education Center will be used to support public education about the importance of the watershed, as well as natural and cultural resource programs. This is a locally driven effort to promote the value of the watershed and to further protect the area surrounding this resource.
Initial funding for the education center’s architectural and engineering costs have been paid for through a grant from Seattle Public Utilities. In addition, Friends of the Cedar River Watershed, a local nonprofit organization, has been working to raise private funds for completion of the project. Nearly $3 million has been pledged by the city of Seattle to begin construction, but $500,000 is still needed from public and private sources in order for actual construction to begin. Stewardship Partners has provided $10,000 toward this effort.
FCRW has been working with the city of Seattle to include a portion of this funding in its annual budget. They have asked for assistance in securing additional funding from the federal government to allow construction to begin in the spring of 2000.
The river corridor contains ponderosa pine, rapids and a waterfall. There are several well-preserved indigenous pictograph sites and clear remnants of pit houses. There are undisturbed natural features including shrub steppe prairie, wetlands and abundant wildlife. The river is home to a variety anadromous fish, including sockeye, chinook, and steelhead, as well as resident species. In fact, nearly 40 percent of all chinook returning to the Okanogan spawn within WDFW index number 5 that includes these 6.2 miles of river.
Stewardship Partners recognizes the unique habitat and archeological features of this property and seeks to protect its biological functionality and historic significance through acquisition and cooperative land stewardship. For two years we have worked with Central Washington University on the idea of a field research and education/conference center. This would be a clearinghouse for environmental education in the region and offer an outdoor classroom for local school districts and Central Washington University. Unfortunately this concept has developed neither the required funding nor the necessary local political support to succeed.
One of the three landowners recently sold his property to the Colville Tribe.
Nontimber forest products — often referred to as “special forest products” — are forest products other than timber that are harvested for a variety of personal and commercial uses such as edibles, decorative items and pharmaceutical extracts and floral greens. Through the Non-Timber Forest Products Stewardship Program, NNRG has attempted to address the lack of oversight and unregulated cash-and-carry nature of the industry, which has resulted in overharvesting and environmental degradation — as well as social conflicts related to land access issues, labor disputes and worker exploitation facing the mostly immigrant and low income workforce. This combination of overharvesting, illegal activity and increased liability concerns have resulted in many landowners severely restricting or terminating access to harvesters, cutting themselves off from this potential revenue source and placing more harvesting pressure on the forest landscape.
As a part of the program, NNRG has produced a set of Best Harvest Practices for specific species, developed curriculum and training materials (in both English and Spanish) in safe, effective and environmentally responsible harvesting, and trained and accredited more than 50 harvesters through the Stewardship Training Course. Those who have received the “Stewardship Harvester” designation have gained opportunities for land access. The idea behind this is that by working directly with accredited stewardship harvesters, landowners who wish to lease ‘brush’ and other products can be assured that harvesting will be done by trained, credible and accountable harvesters. NNRG also collaborated with Shorebank Enterprise Pacific, which is providing business development and marketing assistance to stewardship harvesters.
The ½-mile interpretive trail is a low-impact trail system with interpretive signage and viewing platforms for watching wild chum salmon. The trail traverses riparian areas and pleasant second growth lowland forest. Most of the trail is ADA accessible. The trail is open to the public on weekends during the chum salmon run in November; volunteer trail guides are available to answer visitors’ questions. The trail is open for school field trips on a reservation basis on weekdays in November.
The Kennedy Creek Salmon Trail was developed by South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group and Taylor United Shellfish Company, with generous cooperation and assistance from several organizations, including Stewardship Partners.
This demonstrated habitat stewardship will serve as a model for other parts of the Northwest. Every fall a strong run of chum salmon returns to the facility, providing an excellent viewing opportunity. This trail is located in Mason County on five acres adjacent to Kennedy Creek owned by Taylor United, near Highway 101 and Old Olympic Highway.
Newaukum Creek is the second-largest tributary to the Green River and is located near the city of Enumclaw. Newaukum Creek is special in that it boasts the largest number of natural spawning coho in the Green River watershed. Stewardship Partners was asked to review the designs and manage the construction phase of the project. The project was a priority in the watershed due to severe erosion caused by lack of flood plain area and channelization of the natural stream course.
Existing pools were excavated to increase rearing and refugia habitat and nearly 40 log structures were placed to improve habitat. Additional gravel was added to enhanced spawning areas and stream banks were pulled back at a 3 to 1 slope widening the flood plain and decreasing erosion. This project enhanced a total of 750 feet of stream channel.
Fall 2012, spawning salmon were observed using the newly enhanced cover and spawning habitat.
The program teaches volunteers and landowners how to assess stream health, evaluate salmon habitat potential, gather data about their local creeks, and identify places in the watershed where projects could improve the river system.
In 2003, a salmon migration blockage was opened to allow passage to Lacamas Creek, an important spawning stream for chum salmon. This project serves as a model for other programs that desire and/or require landowner participation.
In 2001, Stewardship Partners provided a $20,000 grant that was matched by the NOAA Community-Based Habitat Restoration Program. These funds helped create this program, which is now sustaining itself through the commitment of dozens of volunteers and willing landowners. This program was the start of our involvement in the watershed and dovetails nicely with the Nisqually River Glacier to Sound Stewardship Corridor Project.