Another successful year of habitat restoration

December 21, 2016 Alaina Kowitz

By Jen Watkins, Conservation Associate

2016 marked the fifth year of our efforts to restore wildlife habitat near Gold Creek Pond on Snoqualmie Pass. Because of its location along a key wildlife corridor and proximity to wildlife crossings, this area is important for animals from elk to otters. 

With help from volunteers, partner agencies, supportive foundations and businesses, this year we put nearly 2,000 native plants in the ground! 

We have an eagle-eye focus on Gold Creek because it lies directly north of two large wildlife crossings constructed under Interstate 90 as part of the Washington State Department of Transportation's I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project. Conservation Northwest has been advocating for wildlife crossings and supporting this project for over a decade through our I-90 Wildlife Corridor Campaign.

In order for wildlife to use these and future crossings in the 15-mile stretch that the Project encompasses, there must be healthy, welcoming habitat on either side of the interstate. Habitat restoration work is important to ensure that these innovative highway crossings are successful, and it benefits the ecological health of the area as well.

Our staff, alongside more than 60 volunteers, spent several days in early fall weeding invasive species, planting native wildflowers, and distributing soil and woody debris. This included a team from Microsoft during United Way’s Day of Caring and a volunteer group from Gravity Payments. 

This restoration effort would not be possible without generous support from the Tulalip Tribes Charitable Contributions Fund, whose funding will help us continue habitat restoration at Gold Creek and around new I-90 wildlife crossings in 2017. 

Despite rainy weather these teams were able to make great progress towards revegetating the denuded banks of Gold Creek, which is also important spawning ground for threatened fish species including bull trout and sockeye salmon. Restoring the creek banks with native plants not only stabilizes the soil and decreases erosion into the water, but also shades the creek and keep water temperatures cool for aquatic species.

Following these volunteer parties we hired Washington Conservation Corps crews from Forterra and Mountains to Sound Greenway to complete planting and native seeding in this area before snowfall.

In total we planted nearly 2,000 native plants and more than 30 pounds of native seed, adding diversity and plant cover to the site with two varieties of penstemon, three kinds of fern, oceanspray, vine maple, and willow.

Want to get involved in habitat restoration around Snoqualmie Pass? For business or organizational support, contact Jen Watkins at jwatkins (at) conservationnw.org. To sign up as a volunteer, please fill out our volunteer form
Volunteers from Microsoft are all smiles at Gold Creek. Photo: Alaina Kowitz
Volunteers from Microsoft are all smiles at Gold Creek. Photo: Alaina Kowitz
Microsoft's employees made great headway during their volunteer Day of Caring. Photo: Paul Bannick
Microsoft's employees made great headway during their volunteer Day of Caring. Photo: Paul Bannick

Check out wildlife already benefiting from the I-90 underpasses and surrounding habitat here!

Thanks to support from New Belgium Brewing Company and the Snoqualmie Tribe, in 2016 we were also able to purchase surplus plants grown for highway mitigation in order to further compliment restoration at Gold Creek.  

We focused on adding ferns and willows to the unstable slopes along the creek, and larger shrubs like vine maple and oceanspray to the upland habitats we are trying to restore. The penstemon were suitable for all of our planting areas due to the rocky soils and full sun, and will add bright purple and red flowers particularly attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies.

Our order has already been placed for additional native plants for habitat restoration in 2017. And our botanist George Wooten is completing a five-year monitoring report to inform us on which plants are having the greatest survival rate at this location annually.  

Habitat restoration takes time, especially in highly degraded places that demand our attention. But we are seeing inspiring progress at Gold Creek as we work to transform former gravel mounds left over from the construction of Interstate 90 into healthy, connected habitat for native species.

And thanks to the work of volunteers and partners this year, we expect to see new pops of color from native wildflowers, stabilized creek banks, and better habitat for fish and wildlife!

THANK YOU to all the volunteers, agencies, businesses and organizations who supported these efforts in 2016. Continued restoration would not be possible without generous support from the Tulalip Tribes Charitable Contributions Fund, whose funding will help us continue habitat restoration at Gold Creek and around new I-90 wildlife crossings in 2017. For more information, visit tulalipcares.org
Our Gravity Payments volunteer crew, who worked hard through the pouring rain! Photo: Alaina Kowitz
Our Gravity Payments volunteer crew, who worked hard through the pouring rain! Photo: Alaina Kowitz

 

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