Nov 2013 Spotlight – Whidbey Watershed Stewards

Whidbey Watershed Stewards Outdoor Classroom

Whidbey Watershed Stewards Outdoor Classroom

Whidbey Watershed Stewards works to promote the health of our environment and the people that live here. We restore degraded lands, involve citizens in science projects and provide watershed education to people of all ages. You probably know us best from a visit to our Outdoor Classroom in Maxwelton, if you haven’t visited – you’re invited!

Planting in fall and winter is best for successful growth

Planting in fall and winter is best for successful growth

As November ushers in the dark and colder months, we are busy getting ready for planting – we hope you are too! The cool winter months are the best time to plant native ornamental plants whether on your property or in a restoration project. We work with local landowners to enhance their habitats, and this is just one way you can participate in our theme this year of  “Whidbey’s Waters are in our hands”. 

Project Highlight

In September we completed the construction phase of a wetland restoration project on Cultus Bay Rd, at the headwaters of Glendale Creek. Over the next few months we will hold work parties  to help us plant native trees and shrubs to complete the restoration.

The knoll at "the old Jackson place"

The knoll at “the old Jackson place”

 Around the turn of the last century, a wagon road lead to a brushy wetland at the head of the Glendale Watershed. Real estate advertising at the time highlighted how productive this area could be for farm and orchard production, with rick black soils, plentiful water, and the added benefit that the wetland didn’t have the large stumps that were so difficult to remove.  Roads were improved, ditches dug and parcels divided, and by early in the century the Jackson family had built a small house. Consuela Jackson is fondly remembered for selling milk and eggs from her homestead into the 90’s.  With the clearing and installation of drainage tile, underground pipes to isolate ground water, early farms had quickly became productive, but over the years, these farm soils subsided and drainage became difficult to maintain, making it too wet for farming.

Excavating drainage tile

Excavating drainage tile

When Suzannah Dalzell purchased the land, it was with an eye toward re-creating the productive wildlands that once were found at the head of the watershed. The wetland soils on the property help keep stream flows constant by acting as a sponge and slowly releasing water during dry times. Along with water and cover, wetlands provide critical habitat for much of our island wildlife.

Ceramic drain tiles in semiamoo muck soils

Ceramic drain tiles in semiahmoo muck soil

To being to restore this property, and the ecological functions that it had provided, the wetland hydrology had to be re-established. By filling ditches, and removing underground drain tiles, the water now moves through the site much as it originally did.

Moving habitat logs into place

Moving habitat logs into place

Habitat piles in the wetland

Habitat piles in the wetland

 Since there has not been trees and other woody plants on the property for over a century, we brought in logs to create habitat piles for amphibians and birds.

The addition of this wood will serve the functions of fallen logs until the site begins to produce it’s own structure as trees grow. 

A perch pole near sitting above the wetland

A perch pole near sitting above the wetland

We also installed perch poles to attract raptors and recreate standing structure on the property that would mimic dead snags that would have been present. Aday after the perch poles were installed, raptors began hunting and resting on the poles!

The project is on a conservation easement held by the Whidbey Camano Land Trust, and is supported by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, part of the US Department of Agriculture. Partnerships with landowners, schools and agencies are important elements of bringing communities together to invest in the future health of our island. You can support these efforts by volunteering, supporting local funding sources such as the Conservation Futures Fund, and other policies that support habitat protection and restoration.