On July 13th, Wet Planet volunteers partnered with the Mount Adams Resource Stewards and AmeriCorps to work to protect the health of the watershed near the source of the White Salmon and Klickitat Rivers. Mt. Adams Resource Stewards is a non-profit organization which “works to promote sustainable connections between the land, local economies and rural communities in the Mt. Adams Region.” www.mtadamsstewards.org. AmeriCorps is a federally funded service organization which joins two long-standing national service programs: Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) and the National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC). www.americorps.gov/about/ac/index.asp
Located in the Cascade Range in southern Washington, Mount Adams is a 12,300 foot tall dormant volcano. It stands in dramatic contrast to the surrounding landscape of rolling hills covered in evergreen forests. Klickitat Indian tribes called this mountain Pahtoe. The snow and glaciers on the southwest and southeast sides of Mt Adams are the source of the water which eventually flows through the White Salmon and Klickitat rivers, respectively. As the winter snowpack on Mt Adams begins to melt, it trickles through the forests on its flanks, and as these streams converge, they form the source or “headwaters” of the rivers we most frequently raft and kayak here at Wet Planet. The term “watershed” describes the relationship between the flora, fauna, and flowing water in an ecosystem. It is important that all the components of the system are intact and healthy.
Currently, the population of Aspen trees in the Mount Adams watershed are in decline, and the health of the whole ecosystem has been compromised as a result. The presence of parasitic organisms like the Western Spruce Bud Worm Choristoneura occidentalis, have begun to decimate the populations of Spruce, Grand fir, Douglas fir and Ponderosa pine in this region. This is an indicator that the ecosystem has become unbalanced and unhealthy. Forestry scientists indicate that Aspen trees are what’s missing. Aspens use very little water due to their leaf structure and the resulting “quaking” effect when wind blows through the trees. The trees are essentially able to “fan” themselves, creating a cooler mirco-climate, and removing less water from the system. The root of the population decline problem lies in antiquated forestry management practices, especiall wildfire suppression.
Wet Planet Whitewater staff volunteered to work with the Mount Adams Resource Stewards and AmeriCorps to build fences surrrounding stands of Aspen trees that are in the process of regrowing. If these stands of tiny Aspen trees are given the opportunity to grow without being grazed, they will be able to flourish, and resume their role in the ecosystem.
Nicole Lynch is the Environmental Stewardship Director and Sustainability Coordinator at Wet Planet Whitewater who organized the volunteer program for employees. She indicated that the volunteers were inspired to work on the project because it is in the best interest of Wet Planet to work to promote the health of the resources on which we depend for our livlihoods. She also pointed out that healthy, productive forests, and rivers flowing with clean water are in the best interest of everything in our local ecosystem and everyone in our community.