Making a dent

For the past year or so, I’ve been volunteering with a local non-profit, Sound Salmon Solutions. It’s an organization that works on salmon habitat restoration in the river basin where I live here in Snohomish County, WA.They work with local volunteers, land owners, local municipalities, Dept. of Fish and Wildlife and the tribes to accomplish all of this. A lot of what they do is removing invasive species like Himalayan Blackberry and Japanese Knotweed, and then planting native plants to restore habitat. They also do lots of educational outreach with schools and at public events. When I go to help out, it’s mostly been planting, but I’ve also volunteered my services as a photographer to snap some photos for their website.

Yesterday I went out to a private landowner’s property, and 25 or so of use planted 750 native plants like cedar, ash, alder, pine, willow, and some bushes like salmon berry and rose. It was all along the side of a creek that runs into the Stilly river (pictured below, the spot we were at is by the red star) that had previously been overgrown and choked out with invasive blackberry bushes. This was just part of the process that started a year ago and will continue with more maintenance over the next few years.

The yellow star denotes the area where I live, and it’s also right next to a confluence where the North and South forks of the Stillaguamish River meet before the river winds its way out into the Puget Sound. As you can see, the river feeds quite a bit of local agriculture (including the CSA we subsrcibe to, the Klesikc Family Farm). The river is also home to a large population of bald eagles, which feed upon the coho, chinook, steelhead, and other salmon.

The reason I included this in a post here is because part of adopting a more ecocentric world-view involves a focus on bioregions, and bioregional governance/stewardship. Rather than putting effort into say, protesting the Keystone XL pipeline, it would be more prudent and productive to put real work into improving the river where I live, and protecting the wilderness in the mountains I’m surrounded by. This is deep conservatism in action, because it relies heavily upon the people that live here in these watersheds and have a vested interest in seeing them thrive, as opposed to some far away, centralized entity with no real connection to this land.

It is important to note that much of the work has no direct human benefit. The work done this weekend will create forest to border the landowner’s property on the creek-side. Previous plantings have been for the sole benefit of salmon themselves. Will fishermen benefit? Sure, eventually they will. But at stake here is the reintroduction of the wild into parts of this land that have been manicured, distorted and destroyed for over a century.When planting, I was speaking with the landowner Leon, I believe. He was telling about how the land had been homesteaded as 160 acres in the 1870’s or 1880’s by his great-great grandfather. He talked about how much the land had changed in his 70+ years there due to some of the major floods and logging that takes place across the road from where he is. But he often recalled those childhood memories of running in the streams and creeks on the property and wading with the juvenile salmon by the dozens. That is it right there, the contact with the wild that fills us up and connects us to the world we live in. But, he said he hadn’t but a couple of salmon in the past decade or so swimming in those creeks and streams. Our work there will hopefully change that. I was planting side-by-side with some of his grandsons that were talking about how cool it would be to see the trees all grown up and to have a forest there in a few years. Hopefully the family stewardship of the land there will be a lasting legacy.

Later this year (I believe), in a river not too far south, they will be breaching a levy in order to restore an expanse of estuary that was taken over by agriculture and housing developments decades ago. I’ll post more on that when it happens.