Tree Planting and Habitat Restoration in the Nisqually Watershed Continues, Despite Global Pandemic

Local nonprofit offers family friendly fun to break up the “learning from home” routine.

Submitted by Nisqually River Education Project

Fall in the Nisqually watershed typically means busfulls of school children coming out to the banks of local streams and rivers to engage in real world science and community service by planting trees. This year, of course, students are mostly learning from home and field trips are on hold. To fill this gap, the Nisqually River Foundation is making a call to the community to get involved.

“When you look at the river from a salmon’s viewpoint, it’s surrounded by trees that provide shade, produce oxygen, and create habitat for the bugs that salmon eat”, says Maya Nabipoor, the foundation’s Americorps Volunteer. “It’s critical that these trees get planted to help the salmon, other wildlife, and really, our whole planet.”

For decades, hundreds of students have planted thousands of trees, each to benefit our local threatened steelhead and Chinook salmon. Working in partnership with the Nisqually Indian Tribe and the Nisqually Land Trust, these seasonal tree planting events will continue this fall.

“Once you’ve received the funding and coordinated all of the pieces, you really need to find a way to push forward and get these trees in the ground,” says Justin Hall, Executive Director of the Nisqually River Foundation. “We are confident that our community will come through and lend a helping hand.”

With support from Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s ALEA (Aquatic Land Enhancement and Acquisition) grant and the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office, more than 3,000 native trees and shrubs will be planted. The mainstem Nisqually River is important habitat for multiple salmonid species. Chinook salmon and steelhead, listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, are present as well as coho, odd-year running pink salmon, chum, and cutthroat trout. As a keystone of the ecological, cultural, economic, recreational, and aesthetic wealth of the Pacific Northwest, salmon are a major component of what makes this area unique.

The Nisqually River Foundation strives to educate the public and local students to become stewards of this important resource, and create an empowered community of aware citizens motivated to restore and conserve threatened salmonid populations through service-learning projects.

“Our approach is much more than just digging a hole and planting a tree,” says Nabipoor. “We create connections with the science behind the ecosystem recovery and bring school work to life for kids with shovels and work gloves.”

Plantings will begin October 22 and run through mid-November. Please check the website calendar to sign up.

Our planting sites are run in accordance with the state’s COVID-19 reopening plan. Volunteers and staff will maintain a social distance of at least 6 feet at all times, wear a mask when gathered as a group, supply their own gloves, water, and snacks. For the time being, food or coffee will not be served, and gloves will not be provided. Tools will be sanitized before each work party. Gas stipends are available for volunteers that need financial assistance.

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