Come rain or shine, volunteers from conservation groups and agencies roll up their sleeves for the good of the cause.
Volunteers from the USDA Forest Service, the NWTF, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Cascade Forest Conservancy recently hiked into the Gifford Pinchot National Forest to plant native plant species for wildlife in the Wind River area near the skamania county.
The job site was previously inundated with invasive plant species, primarily Canadian thistle, an allelopathic plant, meaning it secretes chemicals from its roots that negatively affect surrounding plant species.
The managers took a two-pronged approach to improving the area for wildlife: removing the bad species and planting some good ones.
Following herbicide treatments directed by the Skamania County Noxious Weed Board, planting of habitat-enhancing, biodiversity-promoting vegetation was booked for the following fall.
“Most of the plants that were planted were white oak,” said Krista Modlin, NWTF district biologist for California, Oregon and Washington. “White oak is an excellent food source for various species of wildlife including elk, deer, bear, turkey, and many others. This area is also classified as winter range habitat for a variety of these big game species, so providing these food sources is crucial.”
The volunteers began their efforts in early October, planting some 500 plants in the national forest throughout the weekend. Wildfire engines from the Local Forest Service helped water the initial batch of plants, at least before they went to fight more fires.
With more than a thousand plants still to be planted, another planting weekend was scheduled, and NWTF conservation staff and volunteers rallied the troops and assisted the Forest Service in ending the project.
Russell McDonald, president of the NWTF’s Washington state chapter and electronic technical supervisor for the Forest Service, described the NWTF’s grassroots efforts in Evergreen State as small but mighty.
“Our volunteer group is small here in Washington, but we get the job done,” he said. “We did this project with six NWTF volunteers and six Forest Service employees. A thousand trees were planted in a day and a half. It is also done in really torrential rain. We all had a lot of fun and cooked hamburgers and hot dogs for lunch when we were done.”
The Forest Service praised the volunteers and NWTF’s determination.
“A mix of good people braved the rain and wind to help plant the remaining 1,000 plants,” said J. Conner England, USFS terrestrial forest biologist. “I’d like to thank Russ, Michelle and Rich of the NWTF Washington State Chapter for rallying the troops, rolling up our sleeves and providing some nice hot meals. Several members made the long trip to Beaver Campground to plant in difficult conditions. I appreciate all the help and work the chapter does.”
Despite the wind, rain, and general less than ideal conditions, the volunteers averaged about 32 plants in the ground in an hour.
Across the country, the efforts of NWTF volunteers for hunting and conservation heritage projects are crucial to fulfilling the organization’s mission.
To learn how you can improve wildlife habitat or introduce people to hunting in your area, visit www.nwtf.org/get-involved/volunteers