Category Archives: Shared stewardship

Pittsburg Landing restrooms shine with help from volunteers

Volunteers from the with the Hells Canyon Recreation Collaborative (HCRC), which includes representatives of recreation groups who enjoy the Wild and Scenic Snake River, pose for a photo during a break from work on a facilities upgrade project at Pittsburg Landing campground on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. Volunteers representing the organizations that formed the collaborative have logged approximately 960 work hours to date since the forests' partnership was established in 2018. USDA Forest Service photo.

It might be the least-glamorous job on the National Forest; making sure people have a safe, sanitary place to retreat to when… well, when nature calls.

That’s why Jeff Stein, a facilities engineer on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, is especially grateful to volunteers from the Hells Canyon Recreation Collaborative (HCRC), who have donated hundreds of hours their time to refurbish three “comfort stations,” or restrooms, at the forest’s Pittsburg Landing campground.

It’s not glamorous work – and some of it requires not just willing pair of hands, but skilled labor, Stein explained.

“We were fortunate, in this case, that we were able to get such a big volunteer effort put together,” he said.

Hells Canyon National Recreation Area and Eagle Cap Wilderness comprise one of 15 national priority areas for trail maintenance under the National Trails Stewardship Act.

HCRC represents several recreation groups comprised of members who enjoy the Snake River, which is federally designated as a Wild and Scenic River and managed as part of the country’s Wild and Scenic river system.

At Pittsburg Landing, the agency’s deferred maintenance backlog had been catching up with the campground’s infrastructure for years, Stein said.

“The siding was getting eaten up by woodpeckers chasing bugs, and then the roofing was original, mid-’80s cedar shingles… They were just wearing out,” he said.

Many of the volunteers traveled long distances to donate their time and labor to the effort.

“There were several people from the Treasure Valley, in the Boise area, and there were people from Washington (State). These people donate a lot just to get themselves there,” Stein said.

Since 2018, HCRC has organized three work parties at the campground, in Sept. 2018, May 2019, and Sept. 2019. Volunteers repaired or replaced the damaged siding, installed new metal roofs, and gave the buildings a few coats of paint. A fourth and final work party to complete the renovations is tentatively scheduled for spring, 2020.

“A lot of them have a somewhat generational history with Hells Canyon, they’ve been going there forever to enjoy hunting, or fishing, and it’s kind of a destination. I think that’s what helped them take as much ownership as they did.”

The collaborative group is organizing several other projects at the site, including vegetation management and a water system upgrade.

“I’m thankful there’s such willingness to help, and get things restored – get things back in order,” Stein said. “The personal sacrifices, that people give up their long weekends to come participate and offer their knowledge and skills. I’m very thankful for that.”

Since it was established in 2018, the group has focused its members’ efforts on a number of deferred maintenance needs in the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, including both recreation and heritage facilities.

Stein said the collaborative has made a remarkable difference in the quality of campers’ and other recreational users’ experiences in a relatively short time.

“There’s a lot more to it than just replacing the roof on a toilet building,” he said. “There’s … vegetation management within the campground, getting things cleaned up and back to the way they were intended to be when the site was first constructed. And there’s a water system replacement-slash-upgrade project for the campground (that the collaborative is working on).”

“There’s also some noxious weed treatments that the collaborative group is wanting and willing to do within the Hells Canyon corridor,” he said.

Since the partnership began, volunteers from the collaborative have logged approximately 960 work hours on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.

For more information about the Hells Canyon Recreation Collaborative, visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/HellsCanyonRecreationCollaborative.


Source information: Wallowa-Whitman National Forest and USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region (staff reports)

BEFORE: A comfort station at the Pittsburg Landing campground, located on Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, as it appeared in Sept 2018, prior to the start of a volunteer-supported renovation effort. The Hells Canyon Recreation Collaborative, whose mission is maintaining and improving recreation access in the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, recruited volunteers from a number of member organizations to refurbish the aging facility, which district facilities engineer Jeff Stein called "fairly typical" of deferred maintenance needs found at recreational facilities across the Forest Service. USDA Forest Service photo.
BEFORE: A comfort station at the Pittsburg Landing campground, located on Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, as it appeared in Sept 2018, prior to the start of a volunteer-supported renovation effort. USDA Forest Service photo.
AFTER: A comfort station at the Pittsburg Landing campground, located on Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, as it appeared in Sept 2019, following a volunteer-supported renovation effort. The building received a new roof, updated siding, and a fresh coat of paint. The Hells Canyon Recreation Collaborative, whose mission is maintaining and improving recreation access in the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, recruited volunteers from a number of member organizations to refurbish the aging facility. USDA Forest Service photo.
AFTER: A comfort station at the Pittsburg Landing campground, located on Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, as it appeared in Sept 2019, following a volunteer-supported renovation effort. The building received a new roof, updated siding, and a fresh coat of paint. USDA Forest Service photo.

Field Notes: Strengthening roots through LatinX communities outreach

USDA Forest Service staff from Mt. Hood National Forest, Resource Assistants Leslie Garcia and Kira McConnell, and VIVE Northwest participants pose for a group photo during a stewardship event at Zig Zig Ranger Station April 6, 2019. Courtesy photo VIVE Northwest.

As the Hispanic/LatinX Communications and Community Engagement Specialist for the USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Regional Office in Portland, Ore., I’ve been able to connect with many organizations and community leaders that are working to ensure members of LatinX communities feel comfortable and welcomed in outdoor spaces.

It’s important to understand the backgrounds and diverse cultures within the LatinX communities.

The ability to provide bilingual educational and nature-based programs is critical to educating all populations about the importance of public lands.

There is a need for diversity, equity, inclusion and cultural relevance when trying to engage communities in the outdoors, and the USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Region has had several opportunities to be part of community engagements led by these organizations.

Their work is not only helping the Forest Service meet a need for outdoor and conservation education in these communities, it’s also helped Forest Service employees recognize the importance of intentional, meaningful and culturally relevant outreach.

VIVE Northwest participants join Resource Assistant Leslie Garcia in clearing ivy on Bear Creek during a stewardship event April 6, 2019 on Mt. Hood National Forest. USDA Forest Service photo by Resource Assistant Kira McConnell.
VIVE Northwest participants join Resource Assistant Leslie Garcia in clearing ivy on Bear Creek during a stewardship event April 6, 2019 on Mt. Hood National Forest. USDA Forest Service photo by Resource Assistant Kira McConnell.

Founded in 2016, Vive NW was created to provide a solution to the lack of diversity in the outdoors through powerful and enriching experiences here in the Pacific Northwest.

VIVE connects Latino communities to the outdoors by providing powerful and enriching experiences offered through nature. The end goal, Diversifying the Outdoors.

In early spring, VIVE Northwest partnered with Mt. Hood National Forest for a stewardship day.

Families, children, friends, and LatinX communities members from all parts of Portland met at the Zig Zag Ranger Station to help clear ivy and plant a hundred trees in pouring rain.

Photograph of young VIVE Northwest participant planting a tree with Resource Assistant Leslie Garcia at Bear Creek on Mt. Hood National Forest, Ore. April 6, 2019. Courtesy photo by VIVE Northwest.
Photograph of young VIVE Northwest participant planting a tree with Resource Assistant Leslie Garcia at Bear Creek on Mt. Hood National Forest, Ore. April 6, 2019. Courtesy photo by VIVE Northwest.

This photo is one of my favorites from this event. Besides this being such a great picture, the memories attached to it truly make me smile! I love that it was captured, because of all the moments leading up to the taking of this photo.

While we were all working together to clear the ivy, I had the opportunity to meet this young girl, along with her mother and older sister. I had a very heart-felt conversation with the mom. I was curious to know how they’d heard of the event, and what they thought of it so far.

Her response was one I could immediately relate to, and sparked so many memories from my own life and the lives of my family.

In her hometown of Michoacán, Mexico (which is where my mom is from), she would help her family en el campo de aguacates (avocado fields) as a young kid. She told me how much she missed doing this type of work. She was happy that she could share a similar stewardship experience with her daughters and that organizations like VIVE Northwest were organizing these types of opportunities.

I grew up hearing this same story from my mom. Although I don’t remember much of that time, I know I, also, roamed the campo de aguacates in Michoacan as a child. Now this is shared stewardship!

Not everyone will have the same positive experience or interest in doing field work, but acknowledging the stories behind others experiences in stewardship work allows us to see the roots that connect us all, together, to the land. 

Latino Outdoors is a Latino-led organization that aims to inspire, connect, and engage Latino communities in the outdoors by embracing cultura y familia as part of the outdoor narrative, ensuring Latino history and heritage are represented and appreciated alongside those of other communities and cultures.

Members of the Latino Outdoors Seattle Chapter with Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie Youth and Community Engagement Resource Assistant Kelsey Chun and Latinx Resource Assistant Leslie Garcia at Snoqualmie Pass March 10, 2019. Courtesy photo by Latino Outdoors.
Members of the Latino Outdoors Seattle Chapter with Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie Youth and Community Engagement Resource Assistant Kelsey Chun and Latinx Resource Assistant Leslie Garcia at Snoqualmie Pass March 10, 2019. Courtesy photo by Latino Outdoors.

In March, I joined Kelsy Chun, Youth and Community Engagement Resource Assistant for Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, on a snowshoeing expedition with Latino Outdoors Seattle Chapter at Snoqualmie Pass.

At that time, Latino Outdoors Seattle was the only active Latino Outdoors chapter in the Pacific Northwest.

It was amazing to see such a fun group of people enjoying a day out in the snow. It was my first time snowshoeing, just like several of the participants, but sharing the first time experience even as a facilitator was truly amazing!

I was so inspired, I’m currently serving an Outings Leader for the Latino Outdoors Portland, Oregon Chapter.

Members Latino Outdoors Portland Chapter pose with outings leaders, members, a State Park Ranger a Forest Service employee, and an interns during a conservation education activity at Tryon Creek State Park, Ore. July 21, 2019. USDA Forest Service photo.
Members Latino Outdoors Portland Chapter pose with outings leaders, members, a State Park Ranger a Forest Service employee, and an interns during a conservation education activity at Tryon Creek State Park, Ore. July 21, 2019. USDA Forest Service photo.

On July 21st, for the last day of Latino Conservation Week, our chapter organized a nature hike at Tyron Creek.

The hike was led by a state park ranger, and Forest Service employees joined us to share Leave No Trace principles and engage with the community members.

Serving communities often means meeting them where they are and where they are interested in being. Local parks can be a place for all nature lovers and conservationists to come together.

The chapter partnered with the Forest Service for an outing at Mt. Hood, their first trip on National Forest, earlier this month.

My position (a short-term Resource Assistant position supporting the USDA Forest Service’s Regional Office, provided through an agency partnership with Northwest Youth Corps), has been an incredible opportunity to connect and work alongside these organizations, and others.

I’ve been able to take part in new activities and see new places, but what I will cherish is the sense of culture and community that was present during those moments.


Source information: Leslie Garcia recently completed a 14-month assignment supporting the USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Region Office of Communications and Community Engagement and its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion outreach programs through an agency partnership with NW Youth Corps. For more information about education and employment opportunities for young people, including the Youth Conservation Corps, Resource Assistant Program, internships and fellowships, visit https://www.fs.fed.us/working-with-us/opportunities-for-young-people.

In the News: ‘Fire and smoke – we’re in it together’

Fire & Smoke. . . Chris Chambers, City of Ashland, Ore. and Merv George Jr., Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, speak at a TEDxAshland event in Talent, Ore. May 20, 2019. (Screen capture via YouTube, Aug. 20, 2019).

Last year, we had 300,000 acres on fire on and near the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. We welcomed 15,000 firefighters from all over the country, and actually from New Zealand and Australia as well, to come here, to help keep you safe. I spent over 200 million dollars last year, making sure that we got these fires out. In the past 2 years on the Rogue River -Siskiyou National Forest, 500,000 acres have burned.

So, what’s changed? Has it always been this way?

Merv George, forest supervisor for the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, joined Chris Chambers, city forestland manager, author of the Ashland Community Wildfire Protection Plan, Jackson County Integrated Fire Plan, and creator of Ashland, Ore’s FireWise Communities and Fire Adapted Communities programs, to present a 20-minute talk at TEDxAshland in May. A video of their presentation was posted to YouTube last month.

The city and federal officials teamed up to explain why wildland fires have become landscape-scale challenge in many U.S> communities, and how the City of Ashland and the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest are answering that challenge by collaborating with each other and their entire community on creative solutions that have been demonstrated to reduce risk and save homes (and possibly lives), right in their own backyard.

You can view the complete presentation on YouTube, or watch it below.

Watch:

TEDxAshland in Talent, Ore., recorded May 20, 2019 (link via YouTube).

Forest Service partners to extend outreach in Slavic community

USDA Forest Service staff, Slavic Family Media employees, and their families gather for a group photo following the signing of a partnership agreement July 17, 2019. The media company manages a number of Russian-language news and information platforms serving the Slavic community in and around Portland, Ore. and across the Pacific Northwest. Under the agreement, the group will assist the agency in translating and sharing Forest Service information about conservation, permits, fire prevention, recreation. volunteerism, and other public lands news and information for the Slavic community through spring, 2020. USDA Forest Service photo.

PORTLAND, Ore. (Aug 20, 2019) — The USDA Forest Service has signed an agreement with Slavic Family Media to expand the agency’s outreach to the Russian -speaking immigrant and refugee community in and around the Portland metro, which includes Multnomah County, Ore. and Clark County, Wash.

“Our community loves recreating, and they love to hike, camp, and enjoy day trips to harvest mushrooms and berries. Our goal as a community organization is to ensure make sure that our people our members have the proper information and resources to do so safely and legally,” Timur Holove, the media organization’s creative director, said. “We want to give our audience this valuable information in their native language so they can understand and take advantage of all the programs offered by the U.S. Forest Service,” some of which they may not have even known existed, he said.

To underscore the importance of this outreach effort to the agency, the agreement was signed live, on-air, by Nick Pechneyuk, Slavic Family Media chief executive officer, and Glenn Casamassa, Pacific Northwest regional forester, at the Slavic Family Media radio and television studios in Portland, Ore.

From left: Timur Holove, creative director for Slavic Family Media, Nick Pechneyuk, chief executive officer, and Glenn Casamassa, Pacific Northwest regional forester, on the set at Slavic Family Media radio and television studios in Portland, Ore. July 17, 2019. USDA Forest Service photo.

“This agreement … is really another step forward in our commitment to shared stewardship, and expanding our engagement to broader audiences, like the Slavic family,” Casamassa said during the July 17 signing. “This is a great opportunity, for us, noth only for this generation, but for future generations as well, to be able to work together.”

The agreement that outlines how the two organizations will work together to bring information about the national forest system to the Russian-language speaking population in and around Portland, Ore.

“We’re providing information that we need disseminated to the Slavic population,” Shandra Terry, Forest Service regional program coordinator for community engagement and inclusion, said. “And what we are providing is information that they can use – about recreation, and special use permits for special forest products, such as mushrooms, huckleberries, Christmas trees – things that are special to this community. These are opportunities that public lands offer, and this demographic will now have better opportunities to access these public lands and services.”

Under the agreement, Slavic Family Media will translate information provided by the Forest Service into Russian, then communicate it via the company’s various Russian-language media platforms. These include television, radio, a website, social media, and print publications – including a newspaper, business journal, and a magazine that, combined, potentially reach more than 150,000 Russian -speakers across the Pacific Northwest.

Information will include conservation education, recreation, and land stewardship topics, wildland fire prevention and preparedness information, and information about special places on nearby National Forest lands, such as the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Mt. Hood National Forest, and the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Terry said.

From left: Shandra Terry, Forest Service regional program coordinator for community engagement and inclusion, and Glenn Casamassa, Pacific Northwest regional forester, pose with an example of a wildland fire prevention product that was translated into Russian while at the Slavic Family Media radio and television studios in Portland, Ore. for the July 17, 2019 partnership signing ceremony. USDA Forest Service photo.

The Slavic language family is diverse, consisting of languages that include Russian, Ukrainian, and Moldova. But many immigrants from former Soviet countries learned to speak, read, and write in Russian in school, or from family members who were taught in Russian and otherwise discouraged by that government from using their native language in public life, prior to the dissolution of the U.S.S.R.

After English and Spanish, Russian and Ukrainian are the 3rd largest language-group spoken in Oregon. Large Slavic communities are also present in Washington State, in the Seattle-Tacoma metro, and smaller populations of Russian-language speakers are found in several areas of rural Washington and Oregon.

In the U.S., English, is the language most often used for communicating government information, placing non-fluent speakers at a disadvantage when it comes to receiving information or from benefiting fully from public services – including public lands, and specifically opportunities available on National Forests and Grasslands.

Terry said that while working on this partnership and related Slavic outreach efforts, she’s learned many in the community deeply value opportunities to spend time in the outdoors, and are very interested in information that will expand their opportunities to access public lands.

“Fishing is a huge area of interest. So is finding places the family can gather, and make memories,” she said, noting that Christmas tree -cutting permits and the Every Kid Outdoors (formerly, Every Kid in a Park) program for fourth-graders have been a particularly strong draw in previous Forest Service engagements with Portland’s Slavic community. “They’re wanting to know more about what the regulations are, so they can access those places. We’ll be sharing a lot of information, about our special places and how to access them, so they can do that.”

Terry said she hopes the Forest Service’s partnership with Slavic Family Media will help more members of this community find connect with public lands stewardship and volunteer opportunities, as well.

“These are public lands. They are for everyone, and we are all responsible for them,” she said.

Regional Forester Glenn Casamassa will also deliver remarks to the Slavic community Sept. 1, 2019 at the Slavic Family Festival 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Gateway Discovery Park (10520 NE Halsey St.; Portland, Ore.). Casamassa will deliver his remarks at approx. 11 a.m. The agency will have employees present to provide forest user information throughout the day, and Smokey Bear is scheduled to make an appearance at the event.

From the Memorandum of Agreement (signed July 19):

  • National Forest System lands are open and welcoming to everyone.  Slavic Family Media and USDA Forest Service value the opportunity to communicate and highlight National Forest recreation opportunities, forest products, eco therapy, forest safety, smoke health, fire recovery information, conservation education, volunteer and employment opportunities and National Forest System events to audiences primarily in the Portland-Vancouver metropolitan area through multimedia opportunities. 
  • The partnership between Slavic Family Media and the USDA Forest Service signifies our partnership and commitment to connecting Russian-speaking communities to national forest lands and Forest Service engagement opportunities. 
  • The USDA Forest Service is committed to shared stewardship to protect public lands and deliver benefits to the people and communities we serve in Oregon and Washington. 
  • Through Slavic Family Media, the USDA Forest Service aims to leverage its communications and reach the Slavic community through bilingual (Russian and English) print, radio, and social media platforms.  This partnership initially became effective in March 2019.

Watch the signing ceremony, here:

USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region and Slavic Family Media partnership signing; July 17, 2019.

Source information: USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region, Office of Communications and Community Engagement (staff report)

Backcountry Horsemen volunteers help build 66-foot bridge

From left: Tristan Rivers, Sawyer Meegan, and Taylen Howland, all USDA Forest Service employees assigned to the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument backcountry recreation crew, build a rock gabion that supports a 6' tall earth-covered ramp to a new 66-foot equestrian bridge over Fossil Trail #242 on Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Washington. USDA Forest Service photo, 2019.

AMBOY, Wash. (Aug. 19, 2019) — Backcountry Horsemen of Washington‘s Mount St. Helens Chapter and the USDA Forest Service’s Gifford Pinchot National Forest recently completed a 66-foot equestrian bridge over a creek on Fossil Trail #242, located in the southwest corner of Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument (near Goat Mountain).

Decades ago, the trail was an active logging road, with a bridge that connected both sides of the narrow gorge. Equestrians have long been interested in replacing the bridge to provide better access to what is now a non-motorized loop trail for riders on horseback, Camille Stephens, Recreation Assistant for the Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, said.

While hikers and even mountain bikers could climb down the gorge’s steep embankment to ford the creek, the embankment was too treacherous for horses, and most riders, such as those staying at the nearby Kalama Horse Camp, were forced to experience the loop only as two disconnected segments, she said.

Forest Service employees Dean Robertson and John Cruse install bridge stringers. USDA Forest Service photo
Forest Service employees Dean Robertson and John Cruse install bridge stringers. USDA Forest Service photo

The non-profit organization had secured grant funding for the project several years earlier, and USDA Forest Service employees placed the bridge’s supporting beams in 2018.

The Backcountry Horsemen volunteers installed the bridge’s decking later that same year.

Backcountry Horsemen of Washington members Jim Anderson and Mitch Hensley use a skidsteer to build the bridge approach. USDA Forest Service photo.
Backcountry Horsemen of Washington members Jim Anderson and Mitch Hensley use a skidsteer to build the bridge approach. USDA Forest Service photo.

This summer, agency employees from the forest’s Mt. Adams Ranger District and Backcountry Horsemen volunteers worked together to complete a 6′ tall rock and gabion support structure for a ramp leading up to the bridge. The structure was then covered in dirt to create an approach to the bridge.

“This trail is now ready to be hiked, biked, or ridden,” Stephens said. “I think all of the partners involved should be very proud of bringing this project to fruition.”

Forest Service employee Camille Stephens harvests rock for the bridge approach. USDA Forest Service photo.
Forest Service employee Camille Stephens harvests rock for the bridge approach. USDA Forest Service photo.

Source information: Gifford Pinchot National Forest – Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument recreation staff.

Forest Service, Oregon officials sign Shared Stewardship agreement

Four people ceremonially sign a document together

PORTLAND, Ore. (Aug. 14, 2019) — On Tuesday, state and federal forestry officials joined Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and James Hubbard, USDA Under Secretary for Natural Resources and the Environment in Salem, Ore., to sign a Shared Stewardship agreement between the state and the USDA Forest Service.

Oregon State Forester Peter Daugherty and USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Regional Forester Glenn Casamassa, building on years of strong state-federal partnership, also signed the agreement to seek even greater collaboration between the agencies..

Under this agreement, the Forest Service and Oregon Department of Forestry will work together to identify shared priorities and implement collaborative projects focused on healthy and resilient forested ecosystems, vibrant local economies, healthy watersheds with functional aquatic habitat, and quality outdoor opportunities for all Oregonians.

“Federal and state agencies face many of the same challenges, including longer and more destructive wildfire seasons; forests facing threats from insects and disease, and the need to ensure the continued long-term ecological and socioeconomic benefits our forests provide,” Casamassa said. Pacific. “Working together in a spirit of shared stewardship, we are better prepared to tackle these challenges on a landscape scale.”

The Forest Service and the State of Oregon have a long history of working together, including coordinated fire protection and grant programs to cooperatively manage forest health issues across all forest lands in Oregon.

In 2016, the Forest Service signed a Good Neighbor Authority Agreement with the State of Oregon to increase the pace and scale of forest health and restoration projects.

Now, there are Good Neighbor projects underway on every national forest in the State of Oregon.

The Forest Service and Oregon Department of Forestry are working more closely and effectively on a wide variety of projects, including forest restoration, watershed restoration projects, timber sales, and other fuels reductions projects.

In May, the Forest Service signed a Shared Stewardship agreement with the Washington Department of Natural Resources.

With this newly signed Oregon agreement, the Forest Service anticipates working even more effectively with state partners, on a landscape scale, across the Pacific Northwest.

Video:
via @YourNorthwestForests on Facebook


Source information: USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region (Office of Communications and Community Engagement)

After a century’s absence, migratory steelhead return to Beaver Creek

three migratory steelhead are pictured swimming in turbulent waters

LA GRANDE, Ore. (July 29, 2019) Earlier this summer, Tim Bailey and Winston Morton of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife were looking for signs of spawning steelhead in the headwaters of Beaver Creek southwest of La Grande. 

They’d surveyed miles of the creek, tediously making their way over downed trees, rocks, and slippery stream banks while scanning the streambed. 

Then they found four redds, depressions in the river gravel made by fish to lay their eggs. 

This simple discovery represents a breakthrough for migratory steelhead, which had not been able to reach the headwaters of Beaver Creek for over 100 years.

A migratory steelhead leaps from the water in an effort to clear a rocky outcrop blocking it's passage upstream.
Human development that blocks migratory steelhead access to historical habitat, as well as poorly-designed passages that create strong currents can tire young fish expose them from predators, have resulted in several species being listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Courtesy photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Migratory steelhead are amazing fish. After they are born and raised in cold freshwater streams, they will swim hundreds of miles to feed and grow in the ocean. Then they swim back to the stream of their birth to reproduce. 

For many thousands of years, steelhead followed this life cycle in the Grande Ronde River and its tributaries, including the headwaters of Beaver Creek.

That changed a century ago with the construction of the Beaver Creek Dam and four water diversions in the La Grande municipal watershed.

Steelhead and other migratory fish could no longer swim past the dam and diversions to reach the high-quality spawning and rearing habitat in upper Beaver Creek. 

A man looks out at a concrete weird under construction along a streambed.
A concrete weir under construction as part of the Beaver Creek Fish Passage Project. Just two years after construction, fish biologists have found signs of migratory steelhead returning to the river for the first time in a century. Courtesy photo: Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife)

To solve this problem, several local, state, and federal entities teamed up to implement the Beaver Creek Fish Passage Project.

When the construction crew broke ground in June of 2017, the project had been in various stages of planning for 20 years.

Why did it take so long?

Designing a structure to provide fish passage up to, and down from, the Beaver Creek Dam was a significant engineering challenge. The structure had to be low-maintenance and work without electricity; it also had to accommodate high flows in the spring as well as low flows later in the summer.

A series of precast concrete weirs is laid into the Beaver Creek streambed.
A series of precast concrete weirs under construction as part of the Beaver Creek Fish Passage Project. Courtesy photo by Anderson Perry & Associates Inc.

The City of La Grande worked with a local civil engineering firm, Anderson Perry & Associates, to evaluate several alternatives for a fish passage structure, and other project partners provided technical feedback.

They ultimately landed on a one-of-a-kind solution: a series of 59 precast concrete weirs (little dams). Each weir weighs 27,000 pounds and had to be constructed off site.

Stacked one-by-one along about 400 feet of the dam’s eastern spillway, the weirs create a staircase of resting pools that allow fish to jump & swim up and over the top of the dam.

To date, there are no other fishways like this in the Pacific Northwest.

Construction workers install a series of precast concrete weirs in a temporarily-drained stream bed.
A series of precast concrete weirs under construction as part of the Beaver Creek Fish Passage Project. The 2017 installation of 59 weirs provides a series of resting pools for fish to swim up to, and down from, the Beaver Creek Dam. Courtesy photo by Anderson Perry & Associates Inc.

Implementing the Beaver Creek Fish Passage Project took a total of $1,125,700 and vital contributions from several partners:

  • The City of La Grande provided technical expertise, project funding, and grant administration.
  • Anderson Perry & Associates of La Grande provided engineering design and construction project management.
  • Lindley Contracting of Union constructed the project, including the fish passage structure, upgraded several intake structures, and replaced worn out utility infrastructure.
  • Grande Ronde Model Watershed facilitated project funding, including $150,000 from the Bonneville Power Administration, as well as technical feedback that contributed to the enhancement of the project.
  • The Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board contributed $150,000.
  • The Oregon Water Resources Department provided $600,000 in grant funding.
  • The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife provided expert advice, design review, and project monitoring.
  • The Wallowa-Whitman National Forest provided environmental analysis, planning, technical feedback, and implementation support.

“I’m grateful for the collaborative effort put forth by everyone involved,” Kyle Carpenter, La Grande’s director of public works, said.  “The wealth of knowledge and experience that we all pooled together, along with our cooperative move-it-forward mentality, were invaluable in the successful completion of this project.”

“The La Grande Municipal Watershed provides some of the best drinking water in the world, straight from our National Forest,” Lee Mannor, water superintendent for the city of La Grande, said.  “Now we also provide some of the best native fish habitat in the world.  That is something we can all be proud of when we turn on the tap.”

“The Beaver Creek Fish Passage Project was a special one for our team,” Brett Moore, P.E., with Anderson Perry & Associates, Inc., said  “The City of La Grande asked us to help them solve a unique engineering design problem, which is always rewarding.  This project also gave us a chance to be part of something much bigger right here in our own backyard.”

“This is a testament to nature’s resilience,” Jesse Steele, interim director of the Grande Ronde Model Watershed, said.  “I’m looking forward to more success stories as we continue to connect and restore habitat in the Grande Ronde Basin.”

“After more than 100 years away, migratory steelhead now have access to over 14 miles of pristine spawning and rearing habitat above the Beaver Creek Dam, and they are moving back in,” Tim Bailey, a fisheries biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, said.  “Finding those first four redds was an important milestone, and I expect we will find even more in the future.”

“It really made my summer when I heard that steelhead were once again spawning in upper Beaver Creek,” Bill Gamble, district ranger for the La Grande District, Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, said.  “There is a lot of credit to go around. We in the Forest Service were just privileged to work with so many great partners over the years to help make the Beaver Creek Fish Passage Project a reality. This is another win for our local restoration economy – where habitat restoration projects are driving more investments and jobs while improving everyone’s access to natural resources.”

An Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife employee, in the foreground, inspects a portion of Beaver Creek being restored for improved fish passage.
An Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife employee, foreground, inspects a portion of Beaver Creek being restored for improved fish passage. Courtesy photo by Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife

For more information, please see the article, “Reconnecting the Habitat Dots,” published in Ripples in the Grande Ronde and the La Grande Observer in the summer of 2017.


Source information: Wallowa Whitman National Forest (press release).

Forest Service employees on team recognized by EPA award for Drinking Water Partnership

A view of the Blue River Reservoir, located between Finn River and McKenzie Bridge on the Willamette National Forest, Oregon. USDA Forest Service photo (undated file photo)

PORTLAND, Ore. (July 20, 2019) — The Environmental Protection Agency recognized the USDA Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest regional fisheries biologist and regional Aquatic and Riparian Effectiveness Monitoring Plan program lead for their contributions as part of a multi-agency federal team that established a now four-year-old partnership to encourage and fund watershed improvement efforts.

James Capurso, Pacific Northwest regional fisheries biologist for the USDA Forest Service, and Christine Hirsch, Pacific Northwest Aquatic and Riparian Effectiveness Monitoring Plan (AREMP) Program Lead, were among six federal employees honored at the 2018 EPA National Honors awards July 10 for Outstanding Leadership in Collaborative Problem Solving, in recognition of their contributions as the Forest Service representatives to the Drinking Water Providers Partnership, of which the EPA and Bureau of Land Management are also members.

Christine Hirsch, USDA Forest Service - Pacific Northwest Region
Christine Hirsch, USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region

“I think this is the first time we’ve had a funding partnership which also includes state funding in the mix. This particular partnership also includes non-profits that have been instrumental in reaching out to the municipal water providers,” Hirsch said. “Traditionally, the Forest Service hasn’t partnered very frequently with water providers so this is bringing new partners into the fold to accomplish key restoration work.”

The Drinking Water Providers Partnership is a regional interagency program that protects and restores drinking water quality and native fish habitat within municipal watersheds, benefiting the towns depending upon them for clean, pure water.  A component of the partnership pools agency financial resources to fund restoration projects and outreach efforts within municipal watersheds.

Members of the Drinking Water Providers Partnership regional interagency team.

Mike Brown and Scott Lightcap, from the Bureau of Land Management, and Teresa Kubo and Michelle Tucker, from EPA Region 10, were also recognized as members of the federal team.

The Partnership provides a mechanism for federal, state, local, and several non-government partners to collaboratively evaluate projects and distribute pooled funds towards projects benefiting municipal watersheds, including those  reducing erosion and sedimentation, improving aquatic organism passage, increasing the complexity of habitats in streams and floodplains, addressing contamination or other issues related to legacy mining projects, performing vegetation management, and conducting public outreach and education efforts.

Local partners create the projects and pool resources for action – but if they need additional resources to complete the work, they submit applications for regional funding.

Jim Capurso, USDA Forest Service - Pacific Northwest Region
Jim Capurso, USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region

“When we were establishing this partnership, we literally went door to door visiting city and town water providers in the Cascade Mountains and Coast Range,” Capurso said. “Everywhere we went, from the ‘one traffic light towns to the larger cities, water providers were supportive, even excited, about the partnership.”

During its first four years, the Drinking Water Providers partnership has awarded more than $2.3 million in federal, state, and private funding towards watershed restoration, protection and improvement projects in Oregon and Washington.

“It sounds straightforward; like everyone puts their money in, then we pick the projects and write checks. But there are so many rules and limitations on what we use the money for among the various agencies and partners… that’s where a lot of the creative problem-solving comes in.  We rank the projects and determine whose funding can legally be used to support it,” Hirsch said.

Projects on seven national forests, including the Willamette, Umpqua, Wallowa-Whitman, Olympic, Okanogan-Wenatchee, Siuslaw, Gifford Pinchot, and Umatilla National Forests, to protect or improve drinking water supplies in more than a dozen communities (including Walla Walla, Cashmere, Leavenworth, Port Townsend Wash. and Glide, Eugene, Langlois, Cave Junction, Myrtle Point, Lincoln City, and Yachats, Ore.) received funds from partnership in 2019.

In addition to traditional projects, such as infrastructure repair, vegetation planting, and returning large wood to restore water current complexity to streams, some of the 2019 awards funded conservation education efforts:

The Umatilla National Forest and City of Walla Walla received funds for a documentary film on the Mill Creek Municipal Watershed as a drinking water source and how it serves as important wildlife habitat which will be used for education and outreach in the surrounding community.

Cascadia Conservation District partnered with Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest on a project to education farmers, tree-fruit growers and viticulturalists in the Wenatchee watershed about best practices for protecting water quality and potentially achieving the Salmon-Safe certification for their products.

And the Olympic National Forest and City of Port Townsend will use some of the funds awarded for protecting the Big and Little Quilcene Rivers through improved sanitation facilities for managing human waste at recreation areas, and signage and even field ranger outreach to inform the public about proper human waste disposal and the dangers presented by fecal contamination of the city’s drinking water supply.

Other funds are allocated for research towards future water quality improvement and watershed protection opportunities.

The partnership awarded a 2019 grant to Trout Unlimited towards developing a GIS model that uses existing data to identify high-impact opportunities for beaver location on the Upper Columbia River. The McKenzie River Trust received funds to research into potential land protection opportunities to protect the drinking water source watershed for the City of Yachats.

More information:

Gallery: The Drinking Water Providers Partnership is a collaboration of the USDA Forest Service Region 6, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, the Washington Department of Health, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 10, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management OR/WA Office, the Geos Institute, and WildEarth Guardians. The floodplain enhancement work on the lower South Fork of the McKenzie River, located on the Willamette National Forest in Oregon, pictured here, was funded in part through funds allocated by the partnership; approximately one third of the funds awarded were from non-Forest Service partners.


Source information: USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region (staff report)

Fivemile-Bell Watershed project selected for Riparian Challenge award

A bird perches on a stump in the Fivemile-Bell watershed, Siuslaw National Forest. Courtesy photo by Morgan Heim / Morgan Heim Photography (used with permission)

REEDSPORT, Ore. (July 19, 2019) The Fivemile-Bell Watershed Restoration project has been selected for the 2019 Western Division of the American Fisheries Society (WDAFS) Riparian Challenge Award in the USDA Forest Service category.

The project is located on the Siuslaw National Forest, approximately 10 miles south of Florence, Ore., on the Central Coast Ranger District.

WDAFS presents this award to managers and resource specialists to recognize their efforts in maintaining, restoring, and improving riparian and watershed ecosystems.

The Fivemile-Bell restoration project is a decade-long innovative project that covers about 5,000 acres of national forest land working to restore a critical floodplain to dramatically improve habitat for Oregon Coast Coho salmon, which is listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act, and other aquatic and terrestrial animals.

An amphibian found in the Fivemile-Bell watershed, Siuslaw National Forest. Courtesy photo by Morgan Heim / Morgan Heim Photography (used with permission)
An amphibian found in the Fivemile-Bell watershed, Siuslaw National Forest. Courtesy photo by Morgan Heim / Morgan Heim Photography (used with permission)

The project, a joint effort by the Siuslaw National Forest and numerous partner organizations and agencies, uses new research to guide the re-establishment of historic stream and floodplain interactions, and restore a native riparian plant community on land formerly used for farming.

This cooperative effort is improving and creating habitat in one of the most productive stream systems in Oregon.

Additionally, the restoration accelerates the development of late-successional and old-growth characteristics in surrounding forest and uplands, benefiting a variety of species – such as the northern spotted owl and marbled murrelet, which are also federally listed under the ESA, creating a more sustainable and resilient landscape.

“This is a representation of all the hard work that has occurred over the last decade” Paul Burns, the Forest Service project lead, said. “We share this recognition with the many partners that have worked on this project.”

Additional partners on the project include Siuslaw Watershed Council, Siuslaw Institute, Elkton Community Education Center, Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians, Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indians, Ecotrust, Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Western Rivers Conservancy.

“The Fivemile Bell project showcases the incredible social and ecological outcomes that result when diverse project partners work together” Eli Tome, executive director of the Siuslaw Watershed Council, said. “Partners have invested over $1 million in this innovative restoration project over the past decade. Research indicates this investment has supported over 15 local jobs which is critical in our rural community. Restoring this area is supporting one of the strongest runs of threatened Coho salmon on the Oregon Coast. This project is an investment in our community, economy and environment today, and for future generations.”

To learn more about the Fivemile-Bell Watershed Restoration Project visit: https://go.usa.gov/xmAV8. For personal narratives from local project partners at Fivemile Bell and other restoration projects throughout the area, visit the Siuslaw Watershed Council’s website at https://www.siuslaw.org/why-we-restore/.


Source information: The Siuslaw National Forest manages more than 630,000 acres of temperate rainforests along the Oregon Coast Range, from Tillamook to the end of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area in Coos Bay. Additional information is available online at www.fs.usda.gov/siuslaw, www.twitter.com/SiuslawNF and www.facebook.com/SiuslawNF.

The Siuslaw Watershed Council supports sound economic, social and environmental uses of natural and human resources in the Siuslaw River Basin. The Council encourages cooperation among public and private watershed entities to promote awareness and understanding of watershed functions by adopting and implementing a total watershed approach to natural resource management and production.

Fivemile-Bell watershed, Siuslaw National Forest. Courtesy photo by Morgan Heim / Morgan Heim Photography (used with permission)
Fivemile-Bell watershed, Siuslaw National Forest. Courtesy photo by Morgan Heim / Morgan Heim Photography (used with permission)

Forest Service seeks proposals for Mount St. Helens visitor center site

Coldwater Visitor Center exhibit area, with a view of Mt. St. Helens. USDA Forest Service photo, May 17, 2015. For more photos of the center, visit https://www.flickr.com/photos/forestservicenw/albums/72157708704802574

VANCOUVER, Wash. (June 3, 2019) — What would you do with 24,600 square feet and a view of one of America’s most powerful and dynamic landscapes?

Gifford Pinchot National Forest recently released a “Request for Expressions of Interest” from individuals, organizations and companies with a vision for the facility currently in use as the Coldwater Visitor Center on Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.

The center was built in 1993, and is located seven miles from Johnston Ridge Observatory, the primary Forest Service visitor center at Mount St. Helens, and is located approximately 45 miles from Interstate 5.

Coldwater Visitor Center kitchen at Mount St. Helens. USDA Forest Service photo, April 19, 2019. For more photos of the center, visit https://www.flickr.com/photos/forestservicenw/albums/72157708704802574
Coldwater Visitor Center kitchen at Mount St. Helens. USDA Forest Service photo, April 19, 2019.

The building boasts spacious atriums with peaked roofs and skylights that both reflect and capture the mountain peaks beyond, a large commercial kitchen, small theater, exhibit areas, dining terrace, and gift shop among its amenities, and is currently used to host educational programming offered by the Mount St. Helens Institute.

But the building also costs $23,000 per year to operate, and $110,000 per year in maintenance expenses, and an estimated $3.3. million is needed to catch up on deferred maintenance needs.

Coldwater Visitor Center patio area, with a view of Mt. St. Helens. USDA Forest Service photo, May 17, 2015. For more photos of the center, visit https://www.flickr.com/photos/forestservicenw/albums/72157708704802574
Coldwater Visitor Center patio area, with a view of Mount St. Helens. USDA Forest Service photo, May 17, 2015.

The request, or RFEI, is part of the forest and the monument’s sustainable recreation initiative, an effort to build a high-quality, sustainable recreation program.

Throughout the Forest Service, officials are evaluating existing facilities and infrastructure and re-organizing to ensure forests are managing a sustainable number of sites to a high standard, rather than juggling a large number of sites in poor condition that do not meet safety or sanitation standards.

The agency’s goal is to explore creative options to develop community-based solutions for future management of some facilities, and to identify infrastructure that is no longer needed by the agency or the community.

Forest officials said at this stage, they are not looking for a finished proposal – but they are interested in exploring possible options for the site with entities interested in partnering with the forest to make use of the site.

Proposals could include public, non-profit, private or commercial uses in the existing facility, or demolishing the current structure and building something completely new on the site, Heather Ibsen, a forest spokesperson, said.

Coldwater Visitor Center overlooks Mount St. Helens and is located within the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument area. The center serves thousands of visitors to the monument every year, hosts programming for the Mount St. Helens Institute.

Coldwater Visitor Center front desk, at Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. USDA Forest Service photo, May 17, 2015. For more photos of the center, visit https://www.flickr.com/photos/forestservicenw/albums/72157708704802574
Coldwater Visitor Center front desk, at Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument. USDA Forest Service photo, May 17, 2015.

Built in 1993, the structure is located 7 miles from Johnston Ridge Observatory, the primary Forest Service visitor center at Mount St. Helens, and 45 miles from Interstate 5.

You can read more about the sustainable restoration initiative and the Coldwater Visitor Center at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/giffordpinchot/recreation/?cid=fseprd629684.

Anyone interested in proposing a new use for the space should submit:

  • A cover letter expressing your interest which includes your name, company or organization, and contact information (phone, address, email address).
  • An explanation of your concept, including the type of use proposed, and how this use supports the purpose and mission of the Monument and the Forest Service. This section should also include a description of planned improvements and any additional information or considerations relevant to your concept or experience.
  • Business and financial considerations: Address the nature or any partnerships proposed, including the roles and responsibilities of each entity in the proposed use. Describe the cost of planned improvements and your funding source. (Note: If a permit is issued, a fee will likely be charged. The fee can be for items such as covering the cost of administering the permit, functioning in lieu of rent, or funding a share of building maintenance. Proposals should not be contingent upon the availability of Forest Service funds).

Proposals are due no later than July 31, 2019. The Forest Service will host a site visit June 25, 2019 for interested parties who would like to tour the entire Coldwater Visitor Center facility. To RSVP, email sm.fs.rfie@usda.gov by June 18, 2019.

To submit your concept, provide both a paper copy and an electronic copy on USB flash drive (jump drive). Submissions should be mailed or hand-delivered to: Mount St. Helens NVM (attn: RFEI); 42218 NE Yale Bridge Rd., Amboy WA 98601.

The Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors from across the globe. Created by Congress after the 1980 eruption that radically transformed the landscape, the Monument protects the scientific, geologic, and ecological resources surrounding the volcano. Nearly 40 years later, scientists still continue to study this area to learn more about volcanic activity and how landscapes recover from disaster.

For more information and a guide to submitting a proposal in response to the RFEI, visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/giffordpinchot/recreation/?cid=fseprd629684.

For more photos of the center, visit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/forestservicenw/albums/72157708704802574


Source information: Gifford Pinchot National Forest (press release).

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