New Plantings Have Deep Roots

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By Cris Peck | December 2015

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Early on a cold and blustery November morning crew members from the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge Washington Conservation Corps and I prepared to host forty third-grade students at the McBride property at Red Salmon Creek. They were helping us install native plants in an open field and they were the first group to help out at this site this fall, so we were a little anxious. We organized work gloves, moved shovels, checked plants, and sipped hot beverages as we awaited the boisterous group of students. The chatter and joyful yells traveled ahead of the group as they made their way down the forested gravel road toward the pasture. They were here!

Leading the pack was Sheila Wilson, decked out in all yellow rain gear and grinning from ear to ear. It was obvious that she was in her element. Each fall she brings student groups out to Land Trust properties to help with plantings and this was the second site this year. Earlier in the fall she coordinated school groups to help with plantings in the Ohop Valley. Sheila is the program director for the Nisqually River Education Project, whose mission is to connect students in the Nisqually Watershed with the environment around them. What better way to do this than to get on the ground and get your hands dirty?

Upon arrival, students proclaimed, “Wow! Look at all of the plants!” and asked “Do we have to plant all of them today?”

Our answer: “Well, of course not! We take it one step, or one plant, at a time. We always have at least two people working to plant one tree.”

When it was all said and done, we had planted 1,750 native trees and shrubs in two weeks. Twelve school groups from eight different schools, a University of Washington class, a Boy Scout Troop, and a a bunch of other volunteers helped out. Teamwork makes the dream work and the collaborative spirit of the Nisqually Watershed was very much a part of completing this step in habitat restoration at this site.

Bear in mind, the weather didn’t make those two weeks easy – we had torrential downpours that created a creek through the pasture and frozen mornings that turned the ground into concrete. Regardless, spirits were always high and every day was a blast. You can’t help but smile when you see a kid covered head-to-toe in mud yelling “This was the best school day ever!”

The trees and shrubs planted this fall will grow up around a memorial tree planted for Bud McBride in 2012. Bud was a great supporter of efforts to protect the Nisqually River and Delta. About 15 years ago, he wanted to be sure that his family’s land would be permanently protected and transferred the property to the Land Trust. In 2014, the Land Trust transferred the property to the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. The Wildlife Refuge invited the Land Trust to continue habitat monitoring, maintenance, and restoration activities at this site and we are glad to have the opportunity. We think fondly of Bud and his partner, Richard Schneider, every time we’re on the property. Without them this project and its legacy would not be possible.

The conifers planted this fall could live over 1,000 years. The assortment of native seedlings planted will improve water quality for the vast wetlands that provide habitat for a wide variety of critters, including salmon. This is a beautiful legacy we all work to protect – it’s the future beyond ourselves.We have another 1,250 plants to install in January and we hope that you’ll join us for one or more of those volunteer events. Check out our event calendar for more information.