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Forest Features








A love of nature, 40 years working with the Forest Service

Turning forty is a major milestone in any person’s life; an event many people reach, but serving the public for 40 years to the US Forest Service is rarely achieved.

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River Restoration, Return of Salmon

Greenwater community members look at the spawning pink salmon in the river, photo by Renee Bodine, US Forest Service.

It was a clear, warm fall day and the pink salmon crowded the Greenwater River, glinting and splashing as they made their way upstream to spawn. About 40 people gathered to tour the Greenwater Floodplain Restoration Project to see how natural processes are being restored to create and enhance habitat for federally listed salmon, bull trout and other species. Most were associated with the project: South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group, Puyallup and Muckleshoot Tribes, community of Greenwater, contractors, cooperators and funders.

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One Volunteer’s Passion

Annik Wolfe, photo by Renee Bodine, US Forest Service.

It is true. One person can make a difference. Take Annik Wolfe: in 25 years she has designed, built and repaired miles of trail on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, removed invasive weeds and planted natives, trained and led trail crews.

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Wilderness rangers have work cut out for them in backcountry

Volunteer Wilderness Rangers trudge up Granite Mountain. photo by Kelly Sprute, US Forest Service.

Hiking the backcountry in a national forest you expect to find mosquitoes, spot wildlife, discover a cache of mushrooms and see fellow hikers. If you are lucky you will encounter a wilderness ranger.

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 Native youth connect to traditional tribal foods

Samantha James, Ferndale High student and Lummi by Kelly Sprute, US Forest Service.

Eating skunk cabbage leaf, salmon or stinging nettle soup doesn’t sound like an entrée at a local restaurant, but Pacific Northwest Native Americans have eaten these foods for centuries.

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Hiking, Biking, Rafting: 
Kids experience more than a weekend outdoors

Seattle Parks and Recreation Special Population students, Evan Going, 12, and Asher Brown, 16, race up and down the Clear Creek by Kelly Sprute, US Forest Service.

May brings blooming flowers, budding saplings and fresh faces outdoors every year to the Hike, Bike and Boat event on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Fifty Seattle high school and elementary students ventured out last Saturday to experience the rush of rafting down the Sauk River, hiking through an old growth forest and biking along a campground trail.

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Skiing, learning and sharing 
Ski patrol brings awareness and aid to winter recreationists

Ski patrol instructor Dick Willy skis to the next learning station.

Every winter for 35 years teams of Cascade Backcountry Ski Patrollers volunteer their weekends on the Mt. Baker Snoqualmie National Forest at Stevens or Snoqualmie Pass areas patrolling wilderness trails. Their goal: to keep people safe.

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Neighborhood begins in the wild
Youth cultivate a sense of self through stewardship

Phi Ngo plays in the snow the first week of March after a long snowshoe hike by Stevens Pass Nordic Center.

It’s not easy being a teenager in a new country: you don’t speak the language, you don’t know how to act and you don’t fit in. For kids who arrive to the Chinatown/International District in downtown Seattle, a unique neighborhood program has an answer.

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Explorer, Adventurer Volunteer of the Year
Forest Service recognizes wilderness ranger from Woodinville

If he were living in the 1800s, Chuck Davis, a wilderness ranger, would be known as an adventurer and explorer. That is why his peers recognized him in January as the 2010 Pacific Northwest Individual Volunteer of the Year for his service patrolling the backcountry the past 10 years on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

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Kulshan Creek Neighborhood Kids orient in the woods, discover wildlife

Thirtyseven kids tore into Schriebers Meadow through thick low huckleberry brush with a clear view of Mt. Baker behind them and fall foliage ahead. They were learning to navigate their way with a compass for the first time, and looking for evidence of wildlife along the way. Several stopped to pick and eat berries. “What kind of animal do you think did this?” asked wildlife biologist Don Gay, pointing to a small tree with the bark freshly shredded. One boy thought it was a bear. Most weren’t sure. It turned out to be elk, but since most of the kids had not seen one before, Gay explained that elk are really just very big deer. Gay works for the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

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Local workers rebuild, restore Pacific Crest Trail

The Pacific Crest Trail is 2,650 miles of trail running from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon and Washington. It is one of only 11 designated national scenic trails in the country. Thousands attempt to through-hike it, are members of the association dedicated to it, journal about it, and volunteer to work on it. And since 2003, flood damage has made it close to impassible along 45 miles on the south end of Glacier Peak Wilderness, about 25 miles southeast of Darrington, Wash.  But thanks to beefed up trail crews and $150,000 Recovery money, Darrington Ranger District of the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest has made headway this summer on repairs and backlog maintenance. With this work and another project including involving a new bridge and 3.5 miles of  new trail being completed by contract crews, the PCT should be largely repaired by the end of next summer.

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Local students learn, work outdoors

When summer comes, learning doesn’t stop for high school students taking part in the North Cascades Institutes Wild program. Teens from around Puget Sound get a new perspective on outdoor education and leadership development through camping, hiking and working in the North Cascades National Park and the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

Wild is a program that introduces students to nature, stewardship and community. “Our aim is to connect youth to wild places by fostering the development of stewardship ethics while building awareness for wilderness and public lands,” said Amy Brown, NCI Wild coordinator.

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Volunteers maintain forest trails from horseback

The day starts early for the Backcountry Horsemen. First the stock must be fed and watered: horses and mules need two hours after eating before they can be rode. After the horsemen get their breakfast the animals must be tacked, saddled and loaded with tools and equipment. But this is nothing new, it is how forest trails in the west were originally built and maintained.

By 8 o’clock the crews were saddled and heading to Echo Lake and Arch Rock Trail inside the Norse Peak Wilderness Area on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. The Backcountry Horsemen’s annual tri-chapter work party brought together 30 people and more than 40 mules and horses.

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 Guard School transforms students into wildland firefighters

Wildland firefighters have a tough job: they work 16 hours a day, enduring hot, smoky, dusty conditions with little sleep, digging line, hauling hose and setting backfires day after day for up to two weeks at a stretch.  As summer starts, so does the beginning of fire season. Last June 10 students spent a week in Darrington, Wash., learning how to fight fires at Guard School.  They finished on a Sunday, and next week the Mt. Baker Initial Attack crew will be on their way to Alaska, Arizona or anywhere where there is a forest fire, or even a national disaster.

Most of the students, ranging in age 18 to 22, came from the area; some are from Seattle.  Their supervisor, Gerald Williams, trains six to eight new crew members every year to form his 20-person hand crew.  He is with the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

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Long-term volunteers give time, talent

Don and Joy Lambert are in their 80s, and they are thinking about maybe retiring someday, again.  Only this time from more than 20 years of volunteering for the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

Shortly after starting work in 1989 for the Snoqualmie Ranger District, Mary Coughlin couldn’t help but notice piles of neatly stacked garbage bags at the Ranger Creek airstrip during her routine rounds.  Ranger Creek was full of trash: old barrels, sheet metal, bottles and other camping remnants. Coughlin, the public services specialist for the district, encountered Don and Joy working at Ranger Creek soon after and signed them up as volunteers. 

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Estuary Soup – A recipe for environmental learning

Getting people outside to experience nature up-close requires a bit of ingenuity, determination, and a dose of estuary soup. And although the day started in typical Seattle fashion, rainy and overcast, more than a 100 people visited the first Migratory Bird Festival at Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve last April.

Several natural resource agencies sponsored an outing for elders and youth from the International District in downtown Seattle and youth with the Kulshan Creek Neighborhood Kids program, which exposes Hispanic kids to the outdoors and careers in natural sciences. “The appreciation of nature is the connection I want them to go home with,” said Jim Chu, international programs specialist with the Forest Service and one of the sponsors.

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Firefighters hit Seattle schools
Recruiting rounds realize results

About 22 South Lake High Schoolers crowded into the tiny room listening quietly to Gerald Williams describe what it is like to be a Forest Service firefighter. “I don’t want to sugar-coat this. This is hard, grueling work. You dig all day,” he said. He described fuel breaks and explained a controlled burn, digging lines, and how to fight a wildfire in the middle of nowhere. They liked the pictures he showed of what could be their office next summer: tents staked outdoors with fixed-wing airplanes and a helicopter in the background. “We ask you to show up, ready to work, have a strong work ethic and be in shape,” he said. Students asked questions about physical training, travel, fire camp and money.

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Nature preserve adventure
Kids brave rain and wind to view swans, shore birds

Almost 25 mostly little boys anxiously squirmed in their seats, barely able to contain their energy while they waited to hear the wildlife biologist answer their question: “Do they attack you?” Not daunted, Don Gay flashed a grin as he said no; the swans haven’t attacked him, not so far. They momentarily quieted while considering this, and then several hands shot up to ask the next question.

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Seattle youth group goes outdoors to learn and help others

Establishing the perfect relationship requires the right ingredients: communication, education, understanding and a touch of Mother Nature.

For kids from Seattle’s St. Mary’s Church Youth Group, a 90-minute snowshoe walk at Snoqualmie Pass in March was their first exposure to nature’s winter wonderland and the beginning of educational opportunities outdoors. The Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest brings city kids out into the woods to experience nature up close and personal.

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Shoring up Blum Creek bridge
Restoring a National Treasure the Pacific Northwest Trail

Washington is known for its winter floods. In 2003 they destroyed roads, trails, and bridges in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest; Blum Creek did not escape that damage.

“It was a terrible year for the Forest Service, and then they got hammered again in 2006 with almost the same devastation,” said Jon Knechtel, director of trail operations with Pacific Northwest Trail Association. 

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The search for the forest’s winged aerial acrobats

Hunting butterflies takes perseverance, excellent eyesight, and amble dexterity to look around obstacles; catching them takes the patience of a fisherman plus the agility of an eagle.

Summertime is butterfly season. “You don’t need a hunting license, but you might need a permit to carry a net,” said David Droppers, with the Washington Butterfly Association.

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Community and youth grow with nature

Most 10-year-olds don’t know what they want to be when they grow up. But Jonathan Suarez does. “I want to be a Forest Service Ranger like Orlando,” he said. Trying on Orlando’s Stetson was Jonathan’s first impression of being a forest ranger. Becoming a ranger takes years of school and a passion for nature. Developing that passion is what the Kulshan Creek Kids Neighborhood program is all about.

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Harold Buresh named Forest Service National Individual Volunteer of the Year

Harold Buresh volunteers weekend after weekend on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Since 1988, he has worked more than 8,000 hours, 400 average hours annually, and built at least 100 miles of trail. This year the Forest Service named him the Individual Volunteer of the Year for the nation.

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Model T's: A journey through time

Ocean-to-Ocean Endurance Race Re-enacts Trip Taken 100 Years Ago
Traveling 4,200 miles in a car is a long, exhausting and tiring experience, even sitting in today’s luxury automobiles. Try it coast-to-coast at 30 miles an hour in an antiquated rickety vehicle with hard bench seats, rattling doors, crank-up windows, and drafty interiors with no radio. But for 55 Model-T drivers, it was the dream of a lifetime.

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Celebrating Skykomish's 100th Birthday

The Town of Skykomish turned 100 years old June 5th and the Forest Service helped celebrate. “There has always been a Forest Service presence in Skykomish,” said John Robinson, forestry technician with the Skykomish Ranger District. “We are active in the community.”

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Celebrating Earth Day with EarthCorp

Kids and fire trucks go together like peanut butter and jelly. They love to explore the truck and see all the gadgets and tools needed to put out a fire. At Dearborn Park Elementary the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest South Zone Fire Engine Crew 22 demonstrated the proper way to handle a forest fire.

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