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Better with Beavers: How partnerships with a rodent are helping restore watersheds in the Pacific Northwest

October 15th, 2017 | Posted by in Naturalist Notes

By Rob Rich

“In the beginning, there was nothing but water and ice and a narrow strip of shoreline,” says the oral tradition of the Nuxalk, the coastal people who have lived for millennia near present-day Bella Coola, British Columbia. As the last ice age waned 12,000 years ago, their ancestors found home in that fertile rim of land and sea. And as temperatures rose, the once-frozen land must have churned in a vast soupy spillage, learning with ice-melt the forms we now call river, stream, pond. In this great thaw, when the earth emerged soaked and naked and surging to green, I trust a beaver knew what to do. I trust beavers were there, and also farther south in present-day Whatcom County, Washington, where I live. Before the county – and the creek, town, and lake – took the Whatcom name, I trust beavers were near the creek mouth and fish camp the Nooksack people dubbed Xwótqwem after the sound of water dripping, fast and hard.

» Continue reading Better with Beavers: How partnerships with a rodent are helping restore watersheds in the Pacific Northwest

2011 Instructor Exchange Eagle Watching

Time Along the Skagit: Eagle Watching With Kulshan Creek Neighborhood Youth Program and Latino Outdoors

March 24th, 2017 | Posted by in Adventures

January can be warm on the lower Skagit and this late January Saturday was no exception. As Becky Moore, Alexei Desmarais and I arrived at the Howard Miller Steelhead Park on the Skagit River in Rockport, WA, we looked to see if there were any Bald Eagles present around the river.

As graduate M.Ed. students at North Cascades Institute, we live and study near the headwaters of the Skagit River. We had come to the river this morning to meet a fellow graduate student and along with the US Forest Service, provide an interpretive and educational experience for two unique organizations – Kulshan Creek Neighborhood Youth Program and Latino Outdoors. Both organizations mean to bring families and kids to rural areas with open public lands, giving them opportunity to have fun and get outside.

That morning we met to learn about salmon and what they mean to the Skagit River and the animals, plants and humans that live here. We hoped to see Bald Eagles, which spend the winters here feeding on dead salmon which have spawned during the fall and winter. These salmon carcasses provide high energy food for many predators in this ecosystem.

Participants from the Kulshan Creek Neighborhood Youth Program and Latino Outdoors enjoying the afternoon learning about salmon ecology and the Skagit River watershed. Photo by Daniel Dubie

Having a large number of participants, we split up into four smaller groups, deciding to mix up their time with games and a chance to walk around and enjoy the river. In my group we decided to play a salmon game in which a group of folks are chosen to represent salmon fry which go out in the ocean, grab food, and make their way back to the stream where they were born without getting tagged by other folks who represent dangers such as whales, fisherman, eagles, and bears. We played the game a few times, increasing the numbers of dangers in order to show how hard it really is for a salmon population to sustain itself without a large robust population.

Students have fun while learning about salmon population! Photos by Daniel Dubie

As the day continued, we interpreted salmon and eagle ecology in relation to the Skagit River to our groups and visited the Skagit River Bald Eagle Interpretive Center. I feel that these peaceful and fun experiences here along the river and the land surrounding it, can be instrumental in forming relationships with the lan and our greater world.

Written by Daniel Dubie, avid naturalist and graduate M.Ed. student at North Cascades Institute. 

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Creating Tradition: Sixth Annual Migratory Bird Festival

May 7th, 2016 | Posted by in Field Excursions

Any cool event can happen once. Maybe twice. After so many years the “just a cool idea” starts to be folded into the fabric of a community. Hosted by the U.S. Forest Service at Ebey’s Landing National Historical Park with support from all the following partners, the Migratory Bird Festival is becoming one of the newest traditions in the Northwest Region.

Partners of the Migratory Bird Festival
National Park Service
International District Housing Alliance
Mount Vernon Police Department
Catholic Housing Services of Western Washington
North Cascades Institute

Three groups of learners ranging in ages of 5 to 85 descended on Fort Casey at Ebey’s Landing National Reserve near Coupleville, WA for two days of learning, service and fun on April 30, 2016.

The Kulshan Creek Neighborhood Youth Program is a year-round educational program that engages young people ages 5 to 18 from two Skagit Valley neighborhoods in a series of monthly field trips to explore the outdoors and learn about our local watersheds.
Outdoor Opportunities is an outdoor expedition program designed to expose multi-ethnic teens (ages: 14-19) to environmental education, urban conservation and stewardship in the Seattle area.
InterIm Wilderness Inner-City Leadership Development (WILD) is a youth leadership program that provides opportunities for wilderness and inner city environmental education and leadership skills development.

Joining the youth were parents of the Kulshan Creek students and elders of the InterIm WILD community.

» Continue reading Creating Tradition: Sixth Annual Migratory Bird Festival

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John McMillan’s Cabin: Traveling the paths of ghosts

April 14th, 2016 | Posted by in Adventures

By Hannah Newell, a M.Ed. Graduate student of the Institute’s 15th Cohort

Where would one place their grave in these woods? And how could one bury themselves? These two questions came to me as I was half delirious with exhaustion, wandering around on the west bank of Big Beaver Creek along Ross Lake. My cohort member and work study compliment, Joe Loviska, and I were on a two day excursion into the Ross Lake Recreation Area to document wildlife and for him, phenological stages as our season turns to spring. I was on a personal quest as well. The previous months leading up to this trip, I had been in contact with a number of resources to lend a hand in my discovery of the history of trapping in this area of the North Cascades.

The trappers and homesteaders were few and far between in this vast landscape of pinnacle mountains and dense forests. One could get lost among the giant cedars and accidentally wander into a forest of Devil’s Club without notice until their fate was sealed with this prickled plant. This is not a forgiving land to those foreign or unprepared for their travels.

I had heard John McMillan’s name in my first round of research into the topic of fur trapping and soon started to hear stories of his cabin. All that was shared with me about the location of this cabin was that it is somewhere on the west side of Big Beaver Creek, before the marsh and after the stream.Chinese Teapots Wholesale Chinese Teapots Amber Spiral Bracelets
Joe and I had the advantage of hearing about first hand accounts of finding the homestead through the use of roughly drawn maps and a faint trail that was previously used by McMillan and the Forest Service before Big Beaver Trail was established.

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Trail map around Diablo Lake. Photo courtesy of the United States Forest Service.

We found this faint line of a trail that lead directly into a fresh patch of fluorescent green moss and downed trees. We had immediately lost the trail, but continued on to meandering through the woods experiencing the true wonder of wandering among the old growth.

» Continue reading John McMillan’s Cabin: Traveling the paths of ghosts

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Reflection and Action: the 2014 North Cascades Youth Leadership Conference

December 3rd, 2014 | Posted by in Life at the Learning Center

by Kelly Sleight, Graduate Student and YLC Planning Team member

The sun appeared on November 7th for the first time in weeks to greet the leaders arriving to attend the 2014 North Cascades Youth Leadership Conference. For three days, North Cascades Institute, North Cascades National Park, and Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest hosted the fifth annual North Cascades Youth Leadership Conference at North Cascades Institute. Over sixty inspirational high school and college-aged participants, who travelled from various parts of the Pacific Northwest, arrived to see old friends, make new connections, learn about community action and environmental service, define their educational and professional goals, and enhance their leadership skills. These students were alumni of Youth Leadership Adventures, Student Conservation Association, and Recreation’s Outdoor Opportunities Program. The weekend would be packed full with hiking, learning, planning, dreaming, connecting, and inspiring!

 

 

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Students gather and take in some of the sights around North Cascades Institute

Once everyone arrived and oriented a bit to campus we gathered into our small groups to get out on the trails and get the weekend underway. Groups headed out on to different trails to get some fresh air, but also spent some time reflecting on what brought them to the conference and ways to start working toward their future goals now. One student reflected on how important it was to “be the butterfly” from Ray Bradbury’s A Sound of Thunder. “When the man stepped on the butterfly in the past, the course of human history changed,” she said. “We are also butterflies, and our actions can change the future.” (See what I mean about inspiring?)

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Students gather to discuss goals and work on Action Plans

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Inspiring words from our keynote speaker Vanessa Torres

After a delicious dinner provided by the North Cascades Institute’s Chef Shelby, we heard from our keynote speaker, Vanessa Torres. Vanessa currently works as the Youth and Special Initiatives Coordinator for the National Park Service. She shared a beautiful and powerful story with us about finding her own connection to nature and the power of following your passion. Then as a community we gathered around for campfire before heading to bed. Saturday was sure to be packed with adventure and learning.

» Continue reading Reflection and Action: the 2014 North Cascades Youth Leadership Conference

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Falling in love with the forest

August 2nd, 2013 | Posted by in Youth Adventures

When I first learned that I would be leading a Youth Leadership Adventures course on Baker Lake, I was a bit…wary. Don’t get me wrong—I knew Baker Lake would be lovely. And although it is much easier to access than Ross Lake (where many of our courses happen), I knew the students would still feel like they were in the middle of the wilderness. But. I had heard stories from other instructors who had led trips at Baker Lake before. Stories of rowdy groups camped out in our reserved sites, unwilling to leave. Stories of so many motor boats on the lake that crossing the narrow span of the reservoir by canoe was…challenging. I knew that our group would be fine, that whatever happened, we would figure everything out. But as we departed from the Learning Center last week, there was still a corner of doubt in my mind.

Before we got to Baker Lake for the canoe-camping portion of our trip, however, we would be backpacking to Mazama Camp, 3.7 miles from the Schreiber’s Meadow trailhead. I had hiked up Railroad Grade before, which shares much of the trail en route to Mazama Camp. We had checked the map ahead of time, and it appeared that we gained 400 feet in elevation, and then descended back down those 400 feet to the camp. That seemed pretty reasonable, even for the group’s first time backpacking. Now, I will be the first to admit that my math skills are not my strongest asset (my students will attest that sometimes counting to 12 can be hard for me)…but the hike was three miles of up, and then .7 miles back down 400 feet. (I still need to look at that topo map again…) Regardless, our group did eventually make it there, after a good amount of snow travel, and were greeted with a scene of incomparable subalpine beauty.

» Continue reading Falling in love with the forest

(7) Catagory Enviro Issue. Title, Old Growth, N. Cascades

Planning for roads in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

June 27th, 2013 | Posted by in Odds & Ends

Each year five million people visit the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in Washington State. They drive forest roads to experience spectacular vistas at places such as Mt. Baker, Heather Meadows, Skagit Wild and Scenic River and Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail and to access countless other public lands for recreation, field science and naturalizing, family activities, spiritual renewal and exploration.

Approximately 2,500 miles of roads crisscross the forest, from the Canadian border to the Mt. Rainier National Park on the western Cascades. The Forest Service can afford to maintain about a quarter of them. Guided by mandates in the 2005 Travel Management Rule, each national forest must identify a road system by 2015 within budget for safe travel, use, administration and resource protection. To complete this report, the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest staff wants to find out what roads are important to the public and why.

Eight meetings are scheduled June through October in Seattle, Sedro-Woolley, Issaquah, Bellingham, Enumclaw, Monroe and Everett. Those who do not attend a meeting will be able to give their input online. Partners and stakeholders representing a broad range of interests, from environmental, timber industry to off-road vehicle groups, have formed a “Sustainable Roads Cadre” to engage the public in the process.

MEETING SCHEDULE:

June 29, 10 a.m.-12:30 noon Seattle, REI downtown

July 9, 10 a.m.-12:30 noon Sedro-Woolley, Mt. Baker District office

July 23, 5:30-8 p.m. Issaquah Main Fire Station office

Aug. 6, 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Enumclaw Public Library

Aug. 21, 4:30-7 p.m. Darrington Public Library

Sept. 10, 5:30-8 p.m. Bellingham Public Library

Sept. 24, 1-3:30 p.m. Monroe Public Library

Oct. 9, 5:30-8 p.m. Everett Public Library downtown

A science-driven approach developed by the Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station and Portland State University will be used to understand how people use and value landscapes and resources. Social scientists from the lab will guide meeting participants in using maps to identify places of significance and assign values or activities associated with them.

For more information, contact Renee Bodine at rbodine@fs.fed.us.

Photo by Brett Baunton.