Innovative Pilot Project Seeks to Grow a Forest More Resilient to Climate Change

An innovative pilot project will replant portions of logged land now owned by Seattle City Light to grow a new forest that could be more resilient to climate change.

Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust and its partners – City Light, Seattle Public Utilities and the Northwest Natural Resource Group — received a $140,000 grant to reforest portions of the Stossel Creek area in the Tolt watershed northeast of Carnation. The grant money is being provided by the Wildlife Conservation Society through its Climate Adaptation Fund, a program supported and established by a grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

“Stossel Creek presents a unique opportunity to test innovative, new habitat restoration methods designed to increase resiliency to climate change for Western Washington forests,” said Jon Hoekstra, executive director of the Greenway Trust.

A volunteer from Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust clearing invasive brush.

Trees on the 154-acre site were harvested by a private land company in 2012. Since then, the site has experienced new plant growth, but with few trees. Invasive species have taken hold in some areas. City Light purchased the land in 2015 as part of its Endangered Species Act Early Action Plan to conserve and enhance habitat for steelhead.

Crews and volunteers will reforest the site with native conifer species, such as Douglas Fir and Western redcedar. Instead of using only subvarieties that are native to Washington, this project also will include trees sourced from southwestern Oregon that are better adapted to warmer temperatures and drier summers.

“The climate of the Stossel Creek area is projected to be similar to southwest Oregon’s by the end of the 21st century,” explains Crystal Raymond, a climate adaptation specialist who helped secure the grant while she worked for City Light. “Therefore, the trees adapted to southwestern Oregon are expected to be better suited to the Stossel Creek site as the climate warms. By increasing the tree genetic and species diversity, the site’s resiliency to climate change will increase over time.”

Work to control invasive plant species and site preparation at Stossel Creek will begin this spring and planting new trees will begin in the fall. After planting, the team will have several opportunities to monitor success and share lessons learned from the project.

This pilot project will inform future climate-adapted restoration practices for lands owned by City Light, Seattle Public Utilities and other owners in the region. The long-term goal of the reforestation effort is to establish a diverse forest that will be adapted to the climate of the mid to late 21st century.

Recently, KING 5 visited the site to cover the project. Click here to watch the story featuring City Light’s Denise Krownbell.

Conserving Stossel Creek

Steelhead – photo by Oregon State University

Seattle City Light recently acquired 154 acres of land on Stossel Creek east of Duvall to preserve important habitat for coho salmon and steelhead.

The utility owns more than 13,000 acres of conservation lands to protect habitat for fish and wildlife. It’s part of our commitment to environmental stewardship in the areas where we generate clean hydropower to meet our customers’ electricity needs in a responsible manner. That’s one more reason we are the nation’s greenest utility.

Here’s what Mountains to Sound Greenway wrote about the Stossel Creek purchase in their Spring issue of the Connections newsletter:

Seattle City Light acquired 154 acres on Stossel Creek, an important coho and steelhead tributary to the Tolt River, for the purpose of habitat restoration. The property is located just east of Duvall and adjacent to the Marckworth State Forest, managed by Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The acquisition is a key component of a regional conservation strategy, led by DNR, King County, and the Tolt Fish Habitat Restoration Group, to undertake restoration in the basin, including reconnecting wetland complexes to the creek and removing and reducing sediment input to Stossel Creek and the Tolt River. Seattle City Light is the 10th largest public electric utility in the United States and has been greenhouse gas neutral since 2005, the first electric utility in the nation to achieve that distinction.

Salmon habitat preserved by City Light

City Light recently purchased 40 acres of Day Creek Slough in the Middle Skagit River.

The property is one of the most productive habitats of juvenile salmonid in the area, and will provide refuge and a safe place for rearing for salmon and steelhead. The purchase has been added to the 274 acres of land bought through the Fisheries Settlement Agreement mitigation funds as well as over 3,288 acres of habitat conservation lands City Light currently owns.

The property was acquired with City Light funds under the Skagit River Hydroelectric Project Revised Fisheries Settlement Agreement, and also with funds under the city’s Endangered Species Early Action Program.

 

 

 

City Light Biologist Co-Authors Baseline Report for Steelhead Recovery Effort

Steelhead – photo by Oregon State University

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) published a report on the historic populations of steelhead in the Puget Sound co-authored by Ed Connor, a senior fish biologist at City Light.

Ed Connor

The report identifies and describes fish based on genetics, life history, and geographical, hydrological and habitat characteristics. It will be used to develop a steelhead recovery plan for Puget Sound, which is expected in 2018.

Two of the most important steelhead populations in this region are downstream of City Light’s Skagit and Tolt hydroelectric projects, which generate about 21 percent of the electricity City Light delivers to its customers.