Archive for the ‘Conservation & Natural Areas’ Category

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:

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

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.


Ready for some harvest-season service? Join our volunteer work parties in NW WA this month.

October 15, 2014

boy scout volunteers

Here at DNR, we rely on volunteers for a number of things. Our wonderful volunteers help:


Rain or shine, DNR’s volunteers are always happy to show up and lend a hand. Photo by: DNR

Head (North) West 
This month, some of our northwest lands need your volunteer help in hiking, horseback riding, paragliding, and off-road vehicle (ORV) areas. If you’re looking to build some trail karma, work off some steam outdoors, or just lend a hand–we’ve got the event for you.

October 18 – Anderson Mountain
BURLINGTON: Join DNR, the Skagit Whatcom Island Trail Maintenance Organization (SWITMO) and other volunteers to complete trail maintenance on the Anderson Mountain portion of the Pacific Northwest Trail.

October 18 – Harry Osborne
SEDRO WOOLLEY: Join DNR staff, the Skagit Chapter of Backcountry Horsemen of Washington, and other volunteers to help install new trail gravel on the Les Hilde Trail in Harry Osborne State Forest.

October 18 – Samish Overlook
BELLINGHAM: Join DNR staff and North Cascades Soaring Club at a work party to clean up Samish Overlook. Come help improve drainage on trails and around the day-use area.

October 25 – Reiter Foothills
GOLDBAR: Join DNR staff and other volunteers to enhance the Motorcycle Trials Trail Area and work other ORV trail projects.

October 26 – Walker Valley
MOUNT VERNON: Join DNR staff, members of the Northwest Motorcycle Association, and other volunteers to work on the Webfoot trail. Come do trail maintenance, use hand tools, put down gravel, and help repair this trail which has been closed due to logging activity and trail wear.

Volunteers move big rock

Together, volunteers move big rock at a trail maintenance event.  Photo: DNR

Get details
Find directions, who to contact, and details on the DNR Volunteer Calendar.

Volunteers get rewards!
If you participate in any of the volunteer events listed above you get a voucher towards a free Discover Pass. Collect enough vouchers to show you’ve volunteered 24-hours of approved work time and you can turn them in for an Annual Discover Pass (good for an entire year of playing on DNR-managed lands.)

Learn more about all DNR volunteer opportunities on our webpage:

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Extra, Extra! Read all about it!

September 5, 2014

At-risk critters and habitat to be protected…comments requested

Black tern Photo: Mike Yip

Black tern Photo: Mike Yip

The at-risk ‘water-dependent’ critters that we protect under our draft Aquatic Lands Habitat Conservation Plan are pretty interesting. Some species live long lives in the wild—like 70-to-100 years, and we’re not talking mammals like whales. We are talking FISH and TURTLES! Yes, the yellow-eye rockfish can reach 39 pounds and live for 100 years, and little western pond turtle up to 70 years. And then there are FROGS. The 2-to-4 inch carnivorous northern leopard frog can eat its way through beetles, flies, ants, dragonflies and other bugs, and mysteriously move overland to migrate from breeding ponds to other waters (we know not how yet)—and the black terns that winter in south and central America and come to breed in the cattails and bulrushes of shallow waters of the Columbia plateau in eastern Washington. Take a look at our other covered species factsheets.

Western pond turtle. Photo: W. P. Leonard

Western pond turtle. Photo: W. P. Leonard

Washington’s Department of Natural Resources set out to find a better way to protect at-risk native aquatic critters such as these on the 2.6 million acres of lands under marine and fresh waters of the state, managed by DNR for all Washingtonians. That better way is contained in the draft Aquatic Lands Habitat Conservation Plan, now available for your review, along with all related documents.

The species above are a few of the ‘fascinating 29’ that DNR is working to protect through guidelines in an HCP. They also show us which habitat challenges and activities may be causing harm not only to them but to other critters that use the same habitats. DNR’s goals are to protect sensitive, threatened and endangered aquatic species, several of which have been listed under the federal Endangered Species Act; and to identify, improve and protect important habitats on state-owned aquatic lands.

The draft HCP took nearly eight years of effort by DNR aquatics staff, working closely with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service. The draft HCP formalizes DNR’s efforts to conserve and enhance aquatic lands, and provides a stable management framework grounded in science and based on the principles of sustainability.

Northern leopard frog Photo: K. McAllister

Northern leopard frog Photo: K. McAllister

Public Comments welcomed on environmental analysis of plan

The Services have jointly prepared a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (Draft EIS) to analyze the potential environmental effects of the proposed plan. This analysis will support permitting decisions to be made by each of the federal agencies.

We are soliciting your review and comments on the Draft EIS and other draft documents during a 90-day comment period beginning today, September 5 through December 4, 2014.    

Public meetings will be held in October to explain the HCP and how to best offer your ideas regarding the potential environmental impacts addressed in eh Draft EIS.

Take a trip to visit a mystic mounded prairie

August 14, 2014

Looking for something kid-friendly to do on DNR-managed conservation lands? Let their imaginations run wild on 637 acres of grassland mounds at the DNR Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve (NAP).

Mima Mounds

Camas blooms at the unique Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve managed by DNR. Photo: DNR/Birdie Davenport

Located next to Capitol State Forest near Olympia, Washington, Mima Mounds NAP protects the mounded Puget prairie landscape. Scientists differ on how the mounds formed; ice age flood deposits, earthquakes — even gophers — are among the formation theories offered.

Mima Mounds

Unique topography is one of the features of DNR’s Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve south of Olympia. Photo: DNR.

Rising to landmark status
In 1966, the National Park Service designated Mima Mounds a National Natural Landmark for its outstanding condition, illustrative value of a landform, rarity, and value to science and education. The site is one of 17 National Natural Landmarks in Washington state.

The NAP, established in 1976, includes native grasslands, a small Garry oak woodland, savannah (widely spaced oak trees with grass understory), Douglas-fir forest, and habitat for prairie-dependent butterflies and birds.

Unearthing site information and education

Mima Mounds Interpretive Center

Mima Mounds NAP has a lot of informational material for visitors to read while they’re there. DNR photo

Visitors to the site can stop at its interpretive center before stepping onto the trail that skirts around the mounds. The center provides historical and educational information about the site.

For those looking to get a better view of the area, a short set of stairs to the rooftop of the interpretive center provides a look from above.

Discover Pass logoDiscover Pass required
Don’t forget to grab your Discover Pass before heading out on this prairie
adventure. The Discover Pass is required to park a car at Mima Mounds NAP or anywhere in Capitol State Forest. This $30 annual access pass (or $10 day pass) is your ticket to Washington state great outdoors. All proceeds directly support state-managed outdoor recreation.

Adventure on!
Learn more about Mima Mounds NAP and other DNR adventures on our website at

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DNR announces Washington Rare Plants virtual plant guide for Native Plant Appreciation Week!

April 28, 2014

Governor Jay Inslee has proclaimed this week, April 28 through May 3, Native Plant Appreciation Week in Washington.

Red columbine

Red columbine (Aquilegia formosa). Photo by: DNR

Native Plant Appreciation Week is a celebration of the amazing diversity of Washington’s native plant species.

The diverse climates in Washington allow for an incredible variety of native plants, from sword ferns to cacti, to the many different species that call prairies, forests and shrub-steppe home.

One of the main contributors to Native Plant Appreciation Week is the Washington Native Plant Society. Learn more about the week, events occurring, conservation efforts, and how you can get involved on their website.

Washington Rare Plants app
Just in time for Native Plant Appreciation Week, the DNR Natural Heritage Program has released a cellphone app called Washington Rare Plants. This application catalogues Washington’s rarest plant species. Read on to learn more… (more…)


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