Archive for the ‘Conservation & Natural Areas’ Category

Road graders add to this summer’s scene at Cattle Point

August 6, 2015
Cattle Point Natural Resources Conservation Area on San Juan Island. Photo: DNR

Cattle Point Natural Resources Conservation Area on San Juan Island. Photo: DNR

Summer brings scenic and historic Cattle Point Natural Resources Conservation Area (NRCA) a wide range of unique sights. Joining the more than 40 species of butterflies, 160 species of birds and 150 species of native plants, are excavators and road graders.

Erosion continues to take away the coastal bluffs along San Juan Island’s southern point, which has threatened the primary access road to Cattle Point, potentially cutting off access to public and private lands.

San Juan County and the National Park Service, along with the Federal Highway Administration, are realigning the road nearest the bluff. This project is underway now and scheduled for completion by this October. Visitors to the NRCA may experience minor traffic delays to accommodate construction activity. The Mt. Finlayson Trail and nearby roadside viewpoint in the NRCA will be closed during construction, but all other trails in the NRCA remain open.

You can track the progress on the U.S. Department of Transportation website at http://flh.fhwa.dot.gov/projects/wa/cattlepoint/

At Cattle Point NRCA, visitors will find grasslands, gravelly beaches, dunes, a mature conifer forest and steep bluffs. Cattle Point NRCA consists of two waterfront parcels at the south end of San Juan Island.

On just 112 acres, the NRCA provides a diverse range of geologic features, plant communities and wildlife habitat. The largest portion of the NRCA extends across the tip of the island from the Strait of Juan de Fuca, over the Mount Finlayson ridge and into Griffin Bay. A second parcel is near the U.S. Coast Guard lighthouse and includes an historic building, beach access and a day-use interpretive area. Adjacent to the western edge of the conservation area is the San Juan Island National Historical Park “American Camp” unit.

When visiting San Juan Island, make time to drop by our interpretive site near the Cattle Point Lighthouse. The day-use interpretive area includes parking [remember to bring your Discover Pass], beach access, hiking trails with viewpoints, and a picnic area with restroom. Wildlife is abundant and includes eagles and other birds of prey. Cattle Point offers outstanding views of the Olympic and Cascade Mountains and surrounding islands.

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A boost for the Morning Star Natural Resources Conservation Area

May 17, 2015
Lake Stickney-Morning Star Natural Resources Conservation Area.

Lake Stickney (center-right in photo) is included in the 2,445 acres recently authorized for transfer into the Morning Star Natural Resources Conservation Area.

The terrain around Lake Stickney is rugged to say the least. No roads lead into the area and the site ranges from 1,000 to 4,000 feet in elevation. With steep slopes, high quality forest habitat, and numerous trees more than an century-and-a-half old, harvesting timber there for the Common School (construction) Trust would have required a high-level of forest practices oversight and, most likely, the use of helicopters to remove logs.

Those concerns are gone now with the Board of Natural Resource’s recent authorization for DNR to transfer 2,445 acres of Common School Trust land near the lake into the Morning Star Natural Resources Conservation Area (NRCA). The area, north of Gold Bar in Snohomish County, will continue to offer low-impact outdoor recreation to hardy visitors. In return for the transfer, the state’s school construction account will receive $5.1 million for future school projects. The amount reflects the value of standing timber on the land. DNR will receive $599,000—the land’s value—to purchase replacement lands better suited to natural resources revenue for the trust. The money to complete the transfer comes through the legislatively funded Trust Land Transfer program, which helps the school trust get value from lands that cannot be harvested and replace them with other properties more conducive to management for long-term revenue.

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Road graders add to this summer’s scene at Cattle Point

May 13, 2015
Cattle Point NRCA offers beautiful views of the San Juan islands. Photo: Paul McFarland, DNR.

Cattle Point NRCA offers beautiful views of the San Juan islands. Photo: Paul McFarland, DNR.

Spring and summer bring scenic and historic Cattle Point Natural Resources Conservation Area (NRCA) a wide range of unique sights. Joining the more than 40 species of butterflies, 160 species of birds and 150 species of native plants this year, will be giant excavators and road graders.

Erosion continues to take away the coastal bluffs along San Juan Island’s southern point, which has threatened the primary access road to Cattle Point, potentially cutting off access to public and private lands.

San Juan County and the National Park Service, along with the Federal Highway Administration, are realigning the road nearest the bluff. This project is underway now and scheduled for completion by this October. Visitors to the NRCA may experience minor traffic delays to accommodate construction activity. The Mt. Finlayson Trail and nearby roadside viewpoint in the NRCA will be closed during construction, but all other trails in the NRCA remain open.

You can track the progress on the U.S. Department of Transportation website at http://flh.fhwa.dot.gov/projects/wa/cattlepoint/

At Cattle Point NRCA, visitors will find grasslands, gravelly beaches, dunes, a mature conifer forest and steep bluffs. Cattle Point NRCA consists of two waterfront parcels at the south end of San Juan Island.

On just 112 acres, the NRCA provides a diverse range of geologic features, plant communities and wildlife habitat. The largest portion of the NRCA extends across the tip of the island from the Strait of Juan de Fuca, over the Mount Finlayson ridge and into Griffin Bay. A second parcel is near the U.S. Coast Guard lighthouse and includes an historic building, beach access and a day-use interpretive area. Adjacent to the western edge of the conservation area is the San Juan Island National Historical Park “American Camp” unit.

When visiting San Juan Island, make time to drop by our interpretive site near the Cattle Point Lighthouse. The day-use interpretive area includes parking [remember to bring your Discover Pass], beach access, hiking trails with viewpoints, and a picnic area with restroom. Wildlife is abundant and includes eagles and other birds of prey. Cattle Point offers outstanding views of the Olympic and Cascade Mountains and surrounding islands.

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Noxious weeds – we don’t want ‘em

March 20, 2015
Noxious weeds can come in the form of a beautiful flower, such as the common St. Johnswort (Hypericum perforatum).

Noxious weeds can come in the form of a beautiful flower, such as the common St. Johnswort (Hypericum perforatum), but this plant produces large amounts of persistent seed and spreads easily.

We’re being invaded! By noxious weeds and invasive plants, that is. Each year, landowners and public agencies in Washington state spend millions of dollars to control or eradicate these invaders, which can seriously damage our native species and ecosystems.

What’s the difference between noxious weeds and invasive species? Are both bad?

  • An invasive plant is not native to the area and has a tendency to spread and crowd out other species. Many noxious weeds are also invasive plants.
  • A noxious weed is any plant designated by a federal, state, or county government as harmful to public health, agriculture, recreation, wildfire safety, or property.

How do noxious weeds spread?

Cars, cargo ships, hiking boots, and even bicycle tires can all spread weed seeds, so the more people travel and trade, the more likely we are to accidentally transport weed seeds. Some noxious weeds and invasive plants, like Canada thistle arrived here by accident with early European settlers; others, like Scotch broom, were imported as ornamental plants which then escaped into the wild ­– and innumerable hillsides, vacant lots and pastures.

Wildlife and domesticated animals also can spread weed seeds, either through their digestive systems or in their fur.

You can find out about weeds and other invasive species or report a sighting through the Washington Invasive Species Council either online or by downloading the council’s app for your iPhone or Android.

Invasive species are everyone’s problem. Learn more about what you can do to “weed” out your invasive plants from the Washington Invasive Species Council or the National Invasive Council (http://www.doi.gov//invasivespecies/index.cfm).

Why not teach kids about invasive species in Washington? The Washington State Department of Agriculture publishes what they call the Invasive Species “Fun Book”, an educational activity book for children focused on the impacts of invasive plants and animals in Washington. 

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Students become good allies to the forest

February 6, 2015
Toledo Middle School students learn the importance of planting native species. Photo DNR

Toledo Middle School students learn the importance of planting native species. Photo DNR

Toledo Middle School students in Lewis County have not only planted native berry shrubs, but they also learned how to restore habitat with the Washington State Department of Natural Resources.

In a two-day effort (inside the classroom and outside), Toledo’s 7th and 8th grade science classes learned the importance of using and protecting native plant species. Their main focus was to plant more diversity in the forest and to revegetate open areas along a nearby trail owned by the City of Toledo.

Carlo Abbruzzese, DNR’s conservation lands manager, said, “I’m happy and hopeful anytime I see kids outdoors getting their hands dirty and learning about native species. It’s great to see teachers making this kind of effort to get kids outside and teach them about protecting and restoring habitat.”

These students now know that certain weeds can compete with native plants, disrupting the food chain and throwing the ecosystem off balance. They also know how to properly plant and care for native species. Our thanks to these enthusiastic allies of the forest.

See more of the story from Vision: Toledo article.

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Morning Star NRCA expansion hearing tonight in Everett

January 21, 2015
Morningstar NRCA

A visitor enjoys the Twin Falls Lake waterfall high in the hills of Morning Star NRCA. Photo: DNR

A public hearing tonight in Everett is your chance to learn more about a boundary expansion and proposed land exchange that will add to the Morning Star Natural Resources Conservation Area (NRCA) in Snohomish County. This site’s attractions include steep and rugged terrain, numerous small alpine lakes, glaciers, and lush meadowlands. DNR proposes to eventually add 2,450 acres to the 33,000-plus acres now devoted to recreation, wildlife habitat and open spaces.

Details of Tonight’s Hearing

Time & Date: 6:30 p.m., January 21, 2015

Location: Snohomish County Courthouse
Public Meeting Room #1
3000 Rockefeller Avenue
Everett, WA 98201

You can comment in writing about the proposed exchange and expansion until February 7, 2015, by contacting: DNR, Morning Star Inter-Trust Exchange, Attn: Bob Winslow, PO Box 47014, Olympia, WA 98504-7014, or send an email to: Exchanges@dnr.wa.gov.

For more information about the proposal, call Project Manager Bob Winslow at 360-902-1622, or view the Morning Star Inter-Trust Exchange web page to see maps and more descriptions.

Find out more about DNR’s “Natural Areas Program.”

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Warm up before the big game and see the real sea hawks in action

January 10, 2015
This osprey is known as a seahawk.

This osprey is known as a seahawk.

Before you sit down to watch our wonderful Seahawks play tonight, you may want to get warmed up by viewing the real hawks of the sea. Try watching for osprey, also known as sea hawks.

You can do this by visiting sea hawk habitats with great places to hike, such as West Tiger Mountain Natural Resources Conservation Area (NRCA). This 4,430-acre site is 35 miles east of Seattle and protects a vast variety of rare ecosystems and many species of native western Washington wildlife. Delight in knowing you’re walking through the habitat of deer, cougars, bobcats, black bears, coyotes, elk, red-tailed hawks, osprey (aka sea hawk), owls, and woodpeckers. This area serves as an excellent outdoor classroom with an education shelter, interpretive displays, and accessible trails. A good trail to try is West Tiger No. 1; if you go, be prepared for possible snow/ice on the trail.

A gorgeous view from Tiger Mountain NRCA. Photo DNR

A gorgeous view from Tiger Mountain NRCA. Photo DNR

West Tiger Mountain is just one of 36 NRCAs across Washington that DNR manages in order to preserve high-quality ecosystems. These areas are often used by educators at all levels to teach about rare plants or animals and other conservation features.

Learn more about where to visit or volunteer. Then, rain or shine, grab your Discover Pass and head out for some extra-curricular sea hawk-viewing activities!

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Secrets lie in the salt marsh

January 8, 2015
View from Cypress Island NRCA. Photo Christ Thomsen/DNR

View from Cypress Island NRCA. Photo Christ Thomsen/DNR

Salt marshes are a vital part coastal habitats. When properly functioning, salt marshes provide habitat essential for healthy fisheries, coastlines, and plant and animal communities.

DNR’s Natural Areas Program is working to restore Secret Harbor’s salt marsh on the Cypress Island Natural Resources Conservation Area to bring back those natural functions that were damaged when the island was settled.

Salt marshes are coastal wetlands that are flooded and drained with salt water brought in by the tides. These intertidal habitats are essential for healthy fisheries, coastlines, and plant and animal communities.

History of Secret Harbor

About 10 years ago, DNR acquired the property from Secret Harbor School. Established in 1947, the school served as a nonprofit residential treatment center for teenagers. Secret Harbor School administrators determined the site was too costly and remote to continue education on the island.

A dike built to allow settlement of the island altered the natural function of the marsh, restricting tidal flow, draining the wetlands and filling the salt marsh. DNR began restoration of the site in 2008, and today Secret Harbor has a chance for a full, physical function of the salt marsh and tributary stream and wetland.

After demolition and cleanup of the former school site, restoration of the estuary and salt marsh began.

Restoration work was largely completed in the summer of 2014, with additional native plantings scheduled this year.

As part of the restoration, DNR removed creosote-treated pilings around the island, within the Cypress Island Aquatic Reserve that rings the island. Removing creosote pilings from our waterways keeps toxins away from the fish and wildlife that rely on aquatic habitats.

Now it’s up to nature to do its work. After the plants become established, the salt marsh will, once again, function naturally.

DNR’s Natural Areas Program conserves nearly 152,000 acres of lands and features in designated natural area preserves and natural resources conservation areas, protecting the highest-quality examples of natural Washington and providing opportunities for research, environmental education and low-impact recreation.

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Fish and wildlife to benefit from larger conservation areas

December 22, 2014
The boundary of Mount Si NRCA is now 20,753 acres.

The boundary of Mount Si NRCA is now 20,753 acres. PHOTO DNR

This fall, three Natural Resources Conservation Areas (NRCAs) expanded their boundaries: Stavis, Mount Si, and Middle Fork Snoqualmie NRCAs. The expansions add important acreage to the conservation areas.

This is great news for fish and wildlife, as the expansions include habitat for chum and coho salmon at Stavis NRCA and wildlife connectivity (movement within landscapes) at Mount Si and Middle Fork Snoqualmie NRCAs.

Stavis NRCA
In October, the boundary was expanded to include 909 additional acres, for a total boundary acreage of 5,209 acres. The new boundary includes some of the last remaining undeveloped land connected to the Stavis NRCA. This area includes the Harding Creek stream system that provides habitat for chum and coho salmon, forested uplands, and 2.5 miles of undeveloped Hood Canal shoreline. See the Stavis NRCA accepted boundary expansion map.

Mount Si NRCA
In December, the boundary was expanded to include 4,953 acres, for a total boundary acreage of approximately 20,753 acres. The new boundaries include low- and high-elevation Douglas fir forest with old growth that provides wildlife connectivity to adjacent U.S. Forest Service and wilderness lands. See the Mount Si NRCA accepted boundary expansion map.

Middle Fork Snoqualmie NRCA

Middle Fork Snoqualmie NRCA has a total of 10,828 acres with improvement to wildlife connections to adjacent lands. PHOTO BY Sam Jarrett/DNR

Middle Fork Snoqualmie NRCA has a total of 10,828 acres with improvement to wildlife connections to adjacent lands. PHOTO BY Sam Jarrett/DNR

Also in December, this NRCA’s boundary expanded by 434 acres, for a total boundary acreage of approximately 10,828 acres. The new boundary is designed to improve wildlife connections to adjacent U.S. National Forest lands. See the Middle Fork Snoqualmie NRCA accepted boundary expansion map.

Designating an NRCA boundary does not impose additional rules or restrictions on the private or tribal landowners in the area. It allows DNR options to seek outside grants to purchase the private lands, if the sellers are willing. Sources include the Washington Wildlife & Recreation Program grants awarded by the Recreation & Conservation Office (RCO). Lands managed for other state trusts could be obtained for an NRCA through the legislatively funded Trust Land Transfer Program. DNR often works collaboratively with conservation organizations to seek grants.

For more information, visit the Natural Areas Program webpage.

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Pacific herring: In the middle seat of the Puget Sound family car

November 25, 2014

herring
Ask anyone who’s ever been stuck in the back seat of a long family road trip about the many trials of being in the middle.

While it doesn’t have to count license plates or tolerate bony elbows, the silvery Pacific herring does have a special spot in the middle of Puget Sound’s food web.

Growing on a diet of the many tiny planktonic crustaceans that float through Washington’s marine waters, as much as 70 percent of Puget Sound herring are, in turn, feed for numerous marine animals, such as seabirds, marine mammals, and other fishes.

Pacific herring live in 18 distinct zones in Puget Sound. One of those critical spots is Quartermaster Harbor between Vashon and Maury islands.

As part of an ongoing commitment to ensure the state’s busiest waterway remains suitable habitat for the many species that rely on it, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) plans to remove old 170 creosote-saturated pilings and debris from seven sites around Vashon and Maury islands.

Nestled on eelgrass and marine algae on the sea floor, Pacific herring eggs are delicate. They have an especially high mortality rate when exposed to creosote, a mix of some 300 chemicals that leach into marine waters as pilings age and break up.
Less eggs means less herring, which means less food for the salmon and shorebirds that find them so delicious.

(more…)


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