Archive for Uncategorized

Sad News for Our Prairies

Sad News for Our Prairies

Sad news Patrick Dunn died July 28, 2020 of a heart attack.  He will be missed as a leader in conservation in Washington’s South Sound and his vision for the state’s prairie lands.

“Prairies are part of Washington’s natural and cultural heritage,” says Patrick Dunn, Director of the Center for Natural Lands Management’s South Puget Sound Program. “We value open space and want to protect the land and wildlife so future generations can enjoy these special places, too.”

Pat worked to bring resources and people from many disciplines to protect the area’s amazing prairie oak savannas with their species in decline. Now it is to us to continue his vision.

Gail Trotter FOPP President

Partners for Fish and Wildlife: Voluntary habitat restoration on private lands

Partners for Fish and Wildlife: Voluntary habitat restoration on private lands, Post by Nick George, Photos as attributed.

Nick George is the Washington state coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife program. He has worked with private landowners to restore native habitat for the majority of his 10-year career in natural resources, including his time with the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). Originally from Upstate New York, Nick has had the opportunity to work in multiple states including Texas, North Dakota, Montana, and Illinois. He is excited to find that South Puget Sound has such tremendous enthusiasm and opportunity for habitat restoration. At each stop, he has picked up a new tip or trick from practitioners and private landowners on how to restore habitat efficiently and effectively. Nick, his son, and wife currently live in Thurston County and are enjoying their first summer in Washington. For more information on the Partners program, please contact Nick at (360) 522-0545 or email Nicholas_george@fws.gov.

Partners for Fish and Wildlife: Voluntary habitat restoration on private lands

Hello, I’m new here. I was looking forward to meeting most of you during my first Prairie Appreciation Day, but obviously, that plan was spoiled due to our current situation. I come to you most recently from the Midwest, Illinois to be specific, and have worked extensively on restoring prairie and other habitats for native plant and wildlife species.

Although I am not yet an expert in restoring South Puget Sound prairies, many of the restoration concepts and habitat threats translate from my previous work (e.g. site preparation is key, habitat loss from human development can be overwhelming, invasive species are stubborn, etc.)

Nick George (USFWS Biologist) stands with a proud landowner after the completion of a project; Photo Credit: Debbie Newman/Illinois Natural Heritage

Nick George (USFWS Biologist) stands with a proud landowner after the completion of a project; Photo Credit: Debbie Newman/Illinois Natural Heritage

With this short post, I would like to first ask you a question – Are you familiar with the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program? The Partners program (for short) is a great resource for private landowners who are interested in habitat restoration. Landowners have the opportunity to obtain technical, and in some cases financial, assistance for practices they are looking to implement on their property.

For a little over a decade, the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program in Lacey has assisted with the restoration and enhancement of prairie habitat throughout South Puget Sound. The program has collaborated with the Center for Natural Lands Management (CNLM), the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), and many other conservation organizations to successfully implement these projects on privately owned property. However, with the assumption the program may be new to your ears, or I guess eyes in this case, I will cover the basics.

The Partners Program is a voluntary habitat restoration program administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). All private landowners who want to restore and protect priority wildlife habitat areas on their property are eligible to participate. Current partners include farmers, ranchers, recreational landowners, land trusts, corporations, and local governments. The program helps private landowners conserve the Nation’s biological diversity and habitat integrity by reducing habitat fragmentation, increasing habitat for various plant and animal species, and supporting threatened and endangered communities.

Using prescribed fire to restore native prairie in Illinois; Photo Credit: Nick George/USFWS

Using prescribed fire to restore native prairie in Illinois; Photo Credit: Nick George/USFWS

The primary goal of the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program is for each restoration project to reflect the needs of the landowner, as well as the priorities set by the local U.S. Fish and Wildlife office. Participating landowners continue to own and manage their land to serve their needs while they improve conditions for wildlife. Here in South Sound, the Partners Program has multiple objectives. The first objective relevant to this forum is the restoration and enhancement of native prairie habitat to benefit priority species such as Mazama pocket gopher, Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly, streak horned lark, and Golden paintbrush, just to name a few.

Mazama pocket gopher; Photo Credit: USFWS

Mazama pocket gopher; Photo Credit: USFWS

Restoring hydrology and enhancing shallow wetland and riparian habitat is another priority for the local Partners Program. This habitat type is critical for the federally threatened Oregon spotted frog to live a healthy and complete life cycle.

Oregon spotted frog; Photo Credit: Teal Waterstrat/USFWS

Oregon spotted frog; Photo Credit: Teal Waterstrat/USFWS

The projects that would be associated with these objectives could take place on a variety of property types. Although a 1,000-acre prairie reserve, 5-acre backyard for wildlife viewing, and 100-acre pasture for cattle produce different levels of benefit, all are equally important to protect and restore.

For more information on the Partners Program, or to find out what is available in your specific area, please feel free to contact me to discuss your property and potentially set up a site visit, when the situation allows.

Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly; Photo Credit: Zach Radmer/USFWS

Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly; Photo Credit: Zach Radmer/USFWS

 

Camas – Teachings in Reciprocity

Camas Teachings in Reciprocity, Post by Elise Krohn and Mariana Harvey, Photos by Elise Krohn

Elise Krohn is the GRuB Wild Foods and Medicines Director and Mariana Harvey (Yakama) is the GRuB Wild foods and Medicines Program Manager

Camas – Teachings in Reciprocity

Camas prairies have offered Native People a food basket of game and edible plants since time immemorial. These open landscapes are home to many edible plants including camas, edible lily bulbs, bracken fern rhizomes, biscuit root, acorns from oak trees, and several types of berries. Medicinal plants including yarrow, kinnickinnick, violet, wild rose, and balsamroot flourish there. The prairies are also home to many species of butterflies, birds, and small land mammals.

Native stories and cultural practices passed down through the generations teach us how prairies have been cultivated like gardens. Many Native families historically traveled to prairies and camped for several weeks to harvest camas bulbs, cook them, and preserve them for later use. Cultivation techniques, including burning, aerating the soil with digging sticks, and weeding out unwanted plants, prevented the prairies from becoming forests. Without these practices, most of the prairies would have turned into dense forests thousands of years ago. Native People have taken care of the prairies and the prairies have taken care of them in return. This care continues.

What we see today are tiny remnants of vast prairies that were common just a few generations ago. European settlers made burning the prairies illegal because they saw fire as a destructive force rather than a life-giving one. In just a few generations, colonial land management practices such as farming and grazing reduced prairies to less than three percent of their former size. The prairie lands that had been managed and maintained by Native people for thousands of years were those very places that Euro-Americans settled and converted to prime farmland in places like Cowlitz Landing, Chehalis, and Centralia (then Cllaquato, Newaukum prairies), Boistfort, and other places where the deep, loamy soil prairies used to be.

A Camas Prairie in full bloom.

A Camas Prairie in full bloom. Photo by Elise Krohn.

Many tribes and other agencies are actively working to conserve and restore prairies and prairie foods. Camas is a main focus because it is a prized staple to many Northwest Native People. In fact, for many communities, it was the second most traded food next to salmon. Squaxin Island Tribe has planted camas in their garden and in fields on the reservation, and is working with several organizations on prairie conservation and partnerships for tribal members to access camas as a food. This year Squaxin Island collaborated with Delphi Community Club so that several tribal members could harvest camas in their traditional territory. Squaxin Island Community Garden program manager, Aleta Poste (Squaxin Island) says, “We have taken a moment to slow down and to think of what life is about and we are honoring life givers including camas. I see camas as being one of those life givers that has the ability to help our bodies heal. It’s really inspiring and empowering to be digging camas at Delphi School today because we get to look back and see that the legacy of our people is living on and that it continues today. One way that we practice giving back and having a reciprocal relationship with camas is when we harvest and we are digging the bulb. We are aerating the soil and we are enhancing the space around each bulb—giving those seeds the oxygen they need to breathe. It is giving them room to grow because we are removing the largest bulb. This is an ancestral practice that is being revived through many different communities.”

Aleta Poste

Aleta Poste (Squaxin Island Tribe), Photo by Elise Krohn.

 

Camas continues to be an important cultural food that is celebrated in First Foods feasts and other ceremonies. Tribal and multi-agency partnerships are an important step in support of the revitalization and care for cultural ecosystems like camas prairies, and to increase access of culturally significant foods for Northwest Tribes.

Other Names: common camas: Camassia quamash, giant camas: Camassia leichtlinii, Twana: Quamash, Qa’?w3b, Lushootseed: cabidac, Klallam: Ktoi, Upper Chehalis: quwm or quwam“

Identifying Camas: Camas has six-petaled, purple flowers and grass-like leaves. Bulbs grow four to eight inches beneath the surface and resemble small potatoes or onion bulbs. Giant camas (Camassia leichtlinii) has darker purple flowers and thicker leaves than common camas (Camassia quamash). Giant camas blooms a couple of weeks later and is more common east of the Cascades, in the San Juan Islands, and in Southern British Columbia.

Elizabeth Campbell demonstrating the use of a digging stick.

Elizabeth Campbell (Spokane Tribe) demonstrating the use of a digging stick. Photo by Elise Krohn.

 

 

Food: Camas bulbs are dug in spring to early summer when the flowers or seeds are visible. This helps to distinguish it from a similarlooking poisonous plant, called death camas (Toxicoscordion venenosum), which has white flowers and similarlooking leaves and bulbs. Narrow t-shaped digging sticks that are made from hardwood, bone, antler, or metal make it possible to selectively harvest bulbs without damaging them or disturbing large sections of prairie. Harvesting also aerates the soil and allows moisture pockets to form, making it easier for new seeds to sprout.

Camas bulbs are cleaned by pinching off the stem where it enters the bulb and the roots from the base of the bulb. The brown outer skin peels off easily and you are left with a white bulb that resembles an onion.

Freshly dug Camas and the cleaned bulbs.

Freshly dug Camas and the cleaned bulbs. Photo by Elise Krohn.

 

If camas has gone to seed, people sprinkle the seeds back on open soil. Harvesters are careful to only keep bulbs that are attached to seeds or flowering stalks, since death camas bulbs and leaves look almost identical.

Northwest Coastal Native Ancestors developed ingenious and efficient techniques for cooking camas that people still use today such as roasting over a fire, baking food wrapped in skunk cabbage or fern fronds in a pit or earth oven over hot coals, boiling in bentwood boxes or tightly woven baskets with hot rocks, and steaming foods with hot rocks in earthen pit ovens.

Before sugar was introduced, roasted camas was used to sweeten other foods, and many people continue this practice today. Cooked bulbs are often made into cakes and dried for later use. A compound in camas called inulin helps to support gut health and provides carbohydrates without raising blood sugar.

Tend, Gather and Grow Curriculum

Tend, Gather and Grow is a place-based curriculum that includes Northwest Coastal Native culture and plant traditions. It is intended to support the movements for Indigenous sovereignty and cultural reclamation, as well as encourage non-Indigenous communities to live more respectfully and sustainably in relation to the natural world. Tend has been designed by Native and non-native educators and is intended for use by Native and non-native educators and their students. Learn more about our work and team, here: https://www.goodgrub.org/tend-gather-grow

Reciprocity is a key teaching throughout the curriculum. A lesson on camas and a module on cultural ecosystems highlights how people care for plants and plants care for people. Students draw a camas circle of care and then draw their own circle of care. This helps students explore who they are connected to and how they might give back to their community of people, plants, animals, and places. Questions to reflect on include:

  • Who do I care for, and who cares for me?
  • I receive and appreciate the gifts of the land. What does this look like for me?
  • I give back to the land to support future generations. What is my commitment?

Camas – A Plateau Native Story, as told by Roger Fernandes, Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe.

A long time ago in a village, there was a time of great hunger. There was no food to be foundno game to hunt, no plants to gather. The People were very hungry. There was a grandmother who heard her grandchildren crying because they were hungry. She was so sad that she had nothing to give them. She left the village and went up a hill nearby. She began to cry. She cried for her grandchildren. As she cried, she began to sink into the ground. After a while, she was gone. She was under the earth. Her grandchildren missed their grandmother. They wondered where she was and began to look for her. They climbed the hill, and as they reached the top, the granddaughter said, “Grandma is under the ground! I can feel her!” The children dug into the ground and found camas bulbs. Grandmother had become camas, and now the children and the People had food to eat. Camas is a main food of the Native people of the Plateau region. And that is all.

Camas flower.

Camas flower. Photo by Elise Krohn.

 

Growing Tips: Camas can be easily started from seed and grown in a garden or schoolyard. It thrives in well-drained sandy or pebbly soil with full sun. It is best to start growing it in trays in a greenhouse, as it closely resembles grass. Keep camas root gardens carefully weeded to avoid confusion with grasses. Other companion plants include chocolate lily, violet, yampah (wild carrot), wild strawberry, yarrow, and Roemer’s fescue (a bunch grass). GRuB is currently developing a handout on creating a microprairie as part of the Tend, Gather and Grow curriculum. See https://www.goodgrub.org/wild-foods/wild-foods-medicine-resources for additional information.

References

Krohn, E. (2007). Wild Rose and Western Red Cedar.

Kruckeberg, Arthur R. The Natural History of Puget Sound Country. Seattle, Washington: University of Washington Press, 1994.

Leopold, Estella B. and Robert Boyd. “An Ecological History of Old Prairie Areas in Southwestern Washington.” Indians, Fire and the Landscape in the Pacific Northwest. Ed. Robert Boyd. Corvallis, Oregon: Oregon State University Press, 1999.

Turner, Nancy. The Earth’s Blanket. Seattle, The University of Washington Press, 2005.

“We Should Do Forbs!”

“We should do forbs!”, Post and photos by Andy Hopwood

Andy Hopwood is a native seed specialist with the Center for Natural Lands Management, South Sound Conservation Nursery and a co-manager of the Native Plant Salvage Foundation’s nursery.

“We should do forbs!”

Aquilegia Formosa, Red Columbine.  Photo by Andy Hopwood

Aquilegia Formosa, Red Columbine. Photo by Andy Hopwood

Native Plant Salvage Foundation encourages gardening with native plants. In 2016 we were challenged to expand the foundation’s nursery’s focus to propagating our native woodies and broadly to, “do forbs”. Our herbaceous palette began with those few species we could find during our regular winter salvages in the woods. Finding plants in January and February is challenging so we extended our winter salvages into spring, beyond the emergence of Trillium ovatum. Don Guyot, plant rescuer and South Sound Prairie friend, helped us turn rescued Trillium into our first propagated native perennial. Start with the hard plants.

Don Guyot, Intrepid South Sound Plant Rescuer at work with Trillium ovatum.  Photo by Andy Hopwood

Don Guyot, Intrepid South Sound Plant Rescuer at work with Trillium ovatum. Photo by Andy Hopwood

Trillium is an unmistakable plant in a garden but is challenging to grow. Don suggested, since we had some years to wait for the Trillium, that we make a leap and broaden our palette to South Sound Prairie plants. What should we grow? How would they fare in gardens? Would people use them? We started growing small blocks of a few showier perennials that we thought gardeners would find interesting. Aquilegia Formosa, Columbine, is a wonderful addition to sunny spots. Erigeron speciosus, Showy Fleabane, brings a summer burst of long-lasting color. Symphyotrichum subspicatum, Douglas Aster, can be grown as a seasonal privacy screen that holds color into fall.

Erigeron speciosus, Showy Fleabane.  Photo by Andy Hopwood

Erigeron speciosus, Showy Fleabane. Photo by Andy Hopwood

In most instances, prairie plants fare well in a garden as long as they aren’t too shaded. Quite a few grow more robustly when afforded some shade and the extra moisture of a watered garden. All should be able to survive without watering. The variety of prairie species affords opportunities throughout a garden. The selection of native plants is an individual gardeners choice but one with advantages. Native plants are adapted to local conditions and serve as important food sources. Pollinators love them!

Plectritis congesta, Rosy Plectritis or Sea Blush with pollinator.  Photo by Andy Hopwood.

Plectritis congesta, Rosy Plectritis or Sea Blush with pollinator. Photo by Andy Hopwood.

What started with growing a few perennials has expanded to a collection of perennials, the use of graminoids, and the introduction of annuals. Gardens can be outlined with bunch grasses, with large statement perennials, and splashes of competing and changing annuals. If you are gardening, you should try some of our forbs.

Two of Andy's garden beds.  Photo by Andy Hopwood

Two of my garden beds. The primary plants are Gilia capitata, Blue Thimble Flower, and Sidalcea hendersonii, Henderson’s Checker Mallow Photo by Andy Hopwood

To learn more about the Native Plant Salvage Foundation and their nursery and plant sales check out their website. You can learn specifically about the nursery on their Facebook page.

 

 

Update on Potential Seatac Size Airport in South Thurston County

Update on Potential Seatac Size Airport in South Thurston County, Post by Dennis Plank

The County council turned down the idea of an airport here and the Port of Olympia specifically turned down the idea of a South Thurston County airport by a vote of 3-0 and the idea of expanding the existing airport by a vote of 2-1.  This issue looks dead for now, but these things have a way of rearing their ugly heads again and there are plenty of other development hungry folks eyeing all the “empty” space in this part of the county, so keep your eyes open.

Thanks to everyone who provided their input to the County Council and the Port Council.  Without active citizen participation, our government often does very stupid things.

Scotch Broom Ecology and Management Symposium on YouTube

Scotch Broom on the march. The road edge of an undeveloped lot, Photo by Dennis Plank

Scotch Broom on the march. The road edge of an undeveloped lot, Photo by Dennis Plank

We announced the Scotch Broom Ecology and Management Symposium a few weeks ago in this blog.  We’ve now received word that the entire session is available on Youtube.  You can go to The Washington Invasive Species Council website to connect to it.  Lots of good information on the continuing fight against this pernicious invasive.

Scotch Broom Seed Density. Photo by Dennis Plank

Scotch Broom Seed Density. Photo by Dennis Plank

Prairie Parasitism

Prairie Parasitism, post and images by Christopher Jason

Christopher Jason is a technician currently working for the Conservation lab in Washington State University, Vancouver. Passionate about insects (especially butterflies and moths) and wildlife photography.

Prairie Parasitism

Prairies are beautiful places with abundant flowers and insects. Most are familiar with insects being pollinators and pests. But insects can also be parasitic. For the past year, I’ve been fortunate enough to work on Johnson Prairie on Joint Base Lewis-McChord land with the Conservation lab in Washington State University. While my work focuses on butterflies, I had the chance to encounter other insects that have very interesting ecology.

One of my favorite groups of bees are the nomad bees (Nomada spp.), also commonly known as cuckoo bees. Nomad bees are kleptoparasitic on mining bees (Andrena spp.), in that they lay their eggs in nest cells of other bee species. When the eggs hatch, the larvae then kill the mining bee eggs in the nest and consume their stored pollen and nectar. Nomad bees also exhibit a unique way of sleeping. They hang on to a substrate only with their mouthpart.

Nomad Bee Sleeping, photo by Christopher Jason

Nomad Bee Sleeping, photo by Christopher Jason

The mining bee is also a host for another insect, the blister beetle (Meloidae). These beetles’ first instar larvae are called triungulin, they are mobile and can be found on flowers and on adult bees such as mining bees and striped sweat bees (Agapostemon spp.). These triungulin attach to adult bees to then be carried to the bee’s nest. Many triungulin in the Pacific Northwest remain undescribed and are understudied.

Mining bee and hookedspur violet with triungulin. Photos by Christopher Jason

Mining bee and hookedspur violet with triungulin. Photos by Christopher Jason

Blood bees are high contrast and therefore easily noticeable with their black body and orange-red abdomen. The female blood bees will search for nests of sweat bees (Lasioglossum and Agapostemon) and mining bees. She then replaces the eggs in the nest with hers. Afterwards, she exits the nest and covers it as it was found. The larvae then hatch and feed within their nests.

Blood Bee on Camas, Photo by Christopher Jason

Blood Bee on Camas, Photo by Christopher Jason

 

Striped Sweat Bee on biscuitroot, photo by Christopher Jason.

Striped Sweat Bee on biscuitroot, photo by Christopher Jason.

 

Sweat Bee on false dandelion, Photo by Christopher Jason

Sweat Bee on false dandelion, Photo by Christopher Jason

This past spring, as I was looking for silvery blue butterflies, I came across a vibrant maroon colored wasp with what looked like a long tail. I took some pictures of it and learned that the ‘tail’ was actually a very long ovipositor – an organ to lay eggs – a trait that is shared with many wasps in the family Ichneumonidae. Ichneumon wasps are parasitoids, using their long ovipositors to lay eggs in or on various insects and spiders. The larvae will then feed inside or on the host’s body and eventually kill it. Despite Ichneumonidae being one of the largest families in the animal kingdom, wasps belonging in this family are relatively understudied and have a reputation of being one of the most challenging insect families to identify down to species level.

Ichneumon wasp with long ovipositor. Photo by Christopher Jason

Ichneumon wasp with long ovipositor. Photo by Christopher Jason

Possible Seatac Size Airport in South Thurston County

Possible Seatac Size Airport in South Thurston County, Post by Dennis Plank

I’d like to preface this post with the caveat that I have a personal interest in the outcome of this issue. I live on five acres a couple of miles south of the southern boundary of the proposed airport complex. We have put enormous amounts of labor and money into maintaining that five acres as prairie and turning it into extraordinary wildlife habitat. We have also put a lot of hours into restoration of the local prairies, such as Glacial Heritage, Mima Mounds and Scatter Creek. I do not want to see all that torn up and turned into another city.

Possible Seatac Size Airport in South Thurston County

There have been articles in The Daily Chronicle and The Olympian on the need for a second SeaTac size airport in Washington and the possibility of siting it in South Thurston County. The article in The Chronicle included a map indicating it’s location. I’ve approximated it’s boundaries on a couple of Google maps and indicated some features that I think relate to the environment in general and prairies in particular that would be affected by such an airport.

Map Showing Proposed Airport Location and Environmental Areas of Concern. Google Maps with annotation by Dennis Plank.

Map Showing Proposed Airport Location and Environmental Areas of Concern. Google Maps with annotation by Dennis Plank.

This map shows the specific environmental areas of concern of which I am aware within the immediate vicinity of the airport.

The estuary of McLane Creek hosts in excess of 100 Bald Eagles during the winter Chum run. Eagles and commercial aircraft do not get along well together.

The Black River Unit of the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge runs from the south end of Black Lake along the Black river for the entire length of the proposed airport area as indicated in this map of the refuge.

Map of Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National wildlife Refuge from their website.

Map of Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National wildlife Refuge from their website.

The Description of the Black River Unit according to the USFWS is:

https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2016/10/26/2016-25367/grays-harbor-national-wildlife-refuge-and-black-river-unit-of-billy-frank-jr-nisqually-national

1.2.2 Black River Unit of Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge

The Unit is southwest of Olympia, Washington (see Map 4). The Black River is an important tributary of the Chehalis River, the second largest watershed in Washington State. The Unit boundary encompasses the northern portion of the Black River, the most intact lowland river system left in western Washington. The Unit consists of a large, complex mosaic of wetland, riparian, and some upland habitats surrounding the low-lying river. The Unit’s diverse habitats include river and tributary channels, bog, shrub swamp, riparian forest, emergent marsh, seasonally flooded nonnative grassland, dry nonnative grassland and mixed forest (see Map 5). Bog habitat is considered locally rare. Both the upper Black River and associated wetlands are some of the last remaining lowland wide floodplain systems in the Puget Sound Trough/Willamette Valley Ecoregion. The Unit contains spawning and rearing habitat and migration corridors for steelhead and cutthroat trout and Coho and Chinook salmon. At least 150 species of migratory birds, including waterfowl and neotropical songbirds, use the wetland and riparian habitats. The Olympic mud minnow, State-endemic and State species of concern, is found in the Unit. The Unit is one of only three sub-basins in Washington to support the federally threatened and Statelisted and endangered Oregon spotted frog. The complex system of wetlands within the Unit supports two major areas of frog activity, and drainages into the river support other frog activity areas. Management programs on the Unit are focused on protecting and enhancing the unique habitats for fish and wildlife, including rare or declining species, migratory birds, anadromous salmonids, amphibians, and other wildlife. Land areas within the Unit are closed to public access. The river bed is State-owned aquatic land managed by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (WDNR). The river itself is open to the public by boat only, with boat access at one location on county land.

Not included in this description is that at the south end of the refuge, just north of Littlerock, the refuge hosts in excess of 100 elk (I’ve counted them) in the winter and they are occupying the area during the spring and summer in increasing numbers and appear to be coming into it earlier in the fall.

According to the prime contractor for the Seatac 3rd runway project, Icon Materials, the surface area of the runway and shoulders was 260,000 square yards. Therefore, three runways would cover 780,000 square yards. With taxiways, roads, parking areas, and buildings, the total impervious area would probably be in excess of 1,500,000 square yards. This cannot help but affect the hydrology of the Black River system no matter what kind of precautions are taken.

There are several preserves further south on the Black river, most of which is in one form of conservation or another all the way to the conjunction with the Chehalis.

Three of the premier prairie preserves in the South Puget Sound region lie within 5 miles south of the airport as well. Although they will theoretically not be directly impacted by the airport aside from noise and air pollution issues (note that airports still run during smog advisories and a large percentage of the fuel for a flight is burned in take-off and shortly thereafter), I believe that they would be impacted by the surrounding development that comes with a major airport.

The Port of Seattle’s Economic Impact Statement for 2017-2018 stated that there were 46.8 million passengers through Seatac in one year and over 87,000 direct employees. There were over 8,000 Hotel rooms in the area of the airport. These facts are cited because the greatest danger to the prairies in the South Sound is not the direct impact of a large airport, but the implications for development of South Thurston County. Most of this part of the county is zoned for agricultural use or 5 or 10 acre minimum residential parcels. These parcels provide some ability for exchange of genetic material and movement of species from one isolated prairie pocket to another. The building of a large airport would turn the surrounding area to commercial and industrial uses and the necessary transportation infrastructure to handle all those passengers and workers would further isolate various fragments of the remnant prairie ecosystem (see map below). The additional population pressure on the use of areas like Mima Mounds and Scatter Creek (and probably the glacial Heritage County Preserve) could not help but overburden the already strained ecosystems on those properties. The vast increase in impervious areas in south Thurston county would also inevitably impact the flows of the creeks and rivers that run through or adjacent to these properties.

A larger Scale Map showing the proposed Airport location and the roads likely to require major widening and reworking projects and likely to support large traffic volumes. This assumes that existing roads would be used as starting points, rather than building all new roads. However, certain areas would require straightening to support higher speed traffic. Those areas are primarily near rivers.

A larger Scale Map showing the proposed Airport location and the roads likely to require major widening and reworking projects and likely to support large traffic volumes. This assumes that existing roads would be used as starting points, rather than building all new roads. However, certain areas would require straightening to support higher speed traffic. Those areas are primarily near rivers.

 

Also, please take a look at the Black Hills Audubon Society article on this subject.

The most pertinent part of that article by Charlotte Persons is quoted here:

“At their meeting on June 22, the Thurston County Commissioners unanimously voted “no” to the early July deadline because of lack of information about the proposed airport. They may revisit it later if contacted by the State Commission.

However, the Port of Olympia Commissioners have not yet voted, and two of the three commissioners seem to be leaning toward a “yes” vote. At the suggestion of Port Commissioner E.J. Zita, they agreed at the June 18 Special Meeting not to vote until there are opportunities for citizen input at public meetings.

Please check the POO Commission website to weigh in on this important issue. Follow this link and click on Agendas to see when public meetings will be scheduled on this topic. However, the next regular meeting will be 5:30 p.m. Monday, July 13, and probably will be the next opportunity for your comments.

At the date of writing this article, during the Covid-19 shutdown, POO Commission meetings are on-line. Citizens must send written (emailed) testimony by 9:00 on the morning of a meeting and must sign up by the same time for live testimony. Please check to see if meetings are on-line on July 13–if not, protocol for public comments will change.”

Prairie Workdays Resume on Tuesday, July 7th

Reproduced here is the newsletter announcing the resumption of volunteer workdays with the Center for Natural Lands Management.

Please join us if you can.  The prairies are in dire need of some help after our time off.

Tuesday July 7th, 9:00am-3:00pm Glacial Heritage Preserve


Restoration Work Party:

Join us at our first volunteer restoration project of the summer! We have missed hosting our volunteer restoration projects and are glad to open our projects up to the public again. We will spend Tuesday pulling the abundant broom, focusing around a future prescribed (restoration) burn unit.
This spring has brought us the heaviest broom bloom in memory. We need your help pulling these plants before their seed ripens and disperses onto the prairie. Please join us!


Please note:

We want to keep everyone safe. Please do not come to volunteer with us if you are sick or someone in your home is sick.
Hygiene protocols are posted at our restoration sites, please take note and follow the directions to minimize unnecessary risk to everyone.
We require that all volunteers arrive to our volunteer events with facial covering and keep them on while we are gathered as a group.
We will eat lunch out on the prairie, you are welcome/encouraged to bring a personal camp chair to sit on.
Please respond to this email or email us at ssvolunteers@cnlm.org if you have any questions!

See below for directions to Glacial Heritage Preserve.

 

Saturday July 11th, 10:00am-3:00pm Glacial Heritage Preserve

Restoration Work Party

Join us in restoring Glacial Heritage Preserve. We will be removing invasive scotch broom from this beautiful fragment of prairie and enjoying the late season wildflowers. We look forward to your help!

Please note:

We want to keep everyone safe. Please do not come to volunteer with us if you are sick or someone in your home is sick.
Hygiene protocols are posted at our restoration sites, please take note and follow the directions to minimize unnecessary risk to everyone.
We require that all volunteers arrive to our volunteer events with facial covering and keep them on while we are gathered as a group.
We will eat lunch out on the prairie, you are welcome/encouraged to bring a personal camp chair to sit on.
Please respond to this email or email us at ssvolunteers@cnlm.org if you have any questions.

See below for directions to Glacial Heritage Preserve.

 

Volunteer with us, outside of regularly scheduled events

Volunteer with your family or friend group

We understand that our restoration project schedule doesn’t work for everyone. If you are interested in volunteering with a group of friends or family, at a time of your choosing, please contact us at ssvolunteers@cnlm.org.


Glacial Heritage Preserve from I-5:

  • Take exit 95 (about 10 miles south of Olympia) and head west on Maytown Rd. toward the town of Littlerock.

  • At the stop sign by Littlerock Elementary continue straight onto 128th St.

  • 128th street will ‘T’ at Mima/Waddell Creek Rd. Take a left at the ‘T’ and follow Mima Creek Rd. for about 2.7 miles.

  • You will see a small sign with a tractor on it followed by a brown sign marking Glacial Heritage Preserve.

  • At the brown sign turn left onto the unmarked gravel road and follow it through the white gate to a four way gravel intersection.

  • At the intersection turn right and follow the road up the hill, staying on the road that leads you to the left.

  • We will meet you in the parking lot.

  • Please put on a face covering before you exit your vehicle to keep everyone safe.

  • See you there!

Fire on the Prairies

Fire on the Prairies, Post by Kelsey King and Samantha Bussan, Photos by Rachael Bonoan, Samantha Bussan and Kelsey King

Kelsey King (kelsey.king@wsu.edu): Kelsey is a PhD student at Washington State University. For her dissertation, Kelsey is investigating the potential of resource mismatches between butterflies and nectar plants, as well as demonstrating the ways nectar resources can impact population dynamics.

Samantha Bussan is a PhD Candidate in Cheryl Schultz’ Conservation Biology Lab at Washington State University Vancouver. Her work is focused on conserving native species in working lands. She can be contacted with further questions at samantha.bussan@wsu.edu.

Fire on the Prairies

If you’ve been following the prairie appreciation blog you’ll know that we have mentioned prescribed fire a few times. This post is dedicated to talking about the why and whats of prescribed fires. In previous posts, we’ve discussed how the South Sound prairies ‘improve’ once this management technique is used. Here we’ll give you some more specific information!

The left side of the prairie was not burned in the fall, but the right side of the prairie was burned the previous year. Note the floral diversity on the right. Photo by Rachael Bonoan

The left side of the prairie was not burned in the fall, but the right side of the prairie was burned the previous year. Note the floral diversity on the right. Photo by Rachael Bonoan

In prairies across the United States we know that a combination of wildfires and intentional burning by Native Americans maintained the seas of grass, and in our region camas (Camassia sp.) that we now call prairie. For the past century or more, those that study grasslands underestimated the management of these lands by Native peoples, and recognition is still infrequent today. However, the link has long been clear for Puget Trough, South Sound, and Willamette prairies that contained the root vegetable, camas. The recognition came from the knowledge that wherever camas grew native peoples consumed, traded, and propagated this plant, which features a nutritious bulbed root, and the plant floods recently burned prairies. See this excellent blog post to learn more about camas as a food crop. 

Prairie in early spring, with many camas blooms following a fall burn, photo by Samantha Bussan

Prairie in early spring, with many camas blooms following a fall burn, photo by Samantha Bussan

If you want to encourage camas to be dominant on a prairie, you can light a flower, which clears the ground of tree seedlings, reduces shrub density, and removes thatch, or layers of dried grass, as well as typically leading to decrease in invasive species cover. The benefits of fire on the South Sound prairies can best be seen the following spring with the spring bloom of wildflowers. In addition to camas, other native flowers produce many more blooms in the areas following the burns such as the Lomatium sp. below. 

Lomatium sp blooms after a fall prescribed burn at West Rocky Prairie, photo by Samantha Bussan

Lomatium sp blooms after a fall prescribed burn at West Rocky Prairie, photo by Samantha Bussan

Today we burn in fall because this is when the fire can burn hottest, due to the plants being dry, which is thought to kill the seeds and roots of invasive plant species, which are usually not adapted to fire. Management goals for South Sound prairie prescribed fire today include killing Scotchbroom (Cytisus scoparius) plants, which has a clear tendency to exclude other native plants, and turn grasslands into monocultures of Scotchbroom. Another goal is to decrease the invasive grass cover. How can you tell without identifying grass? Many native South Sound prairie grasses are bunchgrass, which means they form hummocks or clumps and do not create lawns.

Scotch broom that was mowed and burned in the fall (picture taken in the early spring). This area was covered in Collinsia sp. blooms a few weeks later. Photo by Samantha Bussan

Scotch broom that was mowed and burned in the fall (picture taken in the early spring). This area was covered in Collinsia sp. blooms a few weeks later. Photo by Samantha Bussan

Today, those who manage lands are often interested in supporting an ecosystem that is not dominated by invasive species, recognizing that it is impossible to remove them completely, and/or supporting specific native wildlife. Promoting specific wildlife is common amongst land management today, in part due to the Endangered Species Act and other conservation laws or interests. South Sound prairies are burned in combination with other management techniques to maintain quality habitat for some of the unique butterflies such as: Puget blues, Taylor’s checkerspots, Valley silverspot, and mardon skipper. There are many species that live in these prairies and now we want to preserve them, and ensure that these ecosystems do not disappear. Learn more by checking out our other posts!

Puget Blue butterfly, photo by Kelsey King

Puget Blue butterfly, photo by Kelsey King