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Boots on the ground with Washington Tribes: Environmental service partnership

Boots on the ground with Washington Tribes: Environmental service partnership

Partnerships are key to our Washington Conservation Corps (WCC) mission to restore the environment while providing service opportunities to young adults and military veterans. Our partners include state and federal agencies as well as non-profit organizations. We have a long-standing history of partnering with Washington Tribes.

 

Our partners provide the hands-on environmental projects that help our AmeriCorps members gain valuable field skills while restoring habitat for salmon and other wildlife, and increasing trail access for Washington communities. 

 

Take a look at some of the projects WCC has done with Tribes over the years. 

Increasing trail accessibility for Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe

Six people sit side by side on a wooden puncheon along a forested trail. The photo is taken from below, so members appear higher up..

Our Port Hadlock-based crew poses along the freshly improved trail up to Tamanowas Rock. Owen French submitted the photo.

AmeriCorps members who served in Jefferson County in 2019 and 2020 supported a trail project. Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe with Jefferson Land Trust. Members improved the trail bed and added switchbacks up to Tamanowas Rock, a site sacred to the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe and other Tribes in the region. These improvements will prevent erosion and increase accessibility for Tribal elders. To maintain respect and continued preservation, the Tribe has identified specific, allowable uses for limited public entry to the site.

 

“Tribal elders haven’t been able to access the rock because the trail was in such poor condition,” said David Brownell, Jamestown S’Kallam Tribal Historic Preservation Officer. “Now you can push a wheelchair up the trail they worked on a week ago. What they did in terms of human impact is really going to be meaningful for the Tribe in the next 10 to 20 years.”

 

Through the project, members had a chance to gain trail skills and learn about the history of the land. “I’d never heard of Tamanowas Rock. It was really cool getting to go out there and learn about the history, and how culturally important it is to the Tribe,” said AmeriCorps member Torin Blaker. “Every piece of it — cultural, geological — was so interesting.” 

 

Jefferson Land Trust and Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe granted AmeriCorps members special access to the site for this trail improvement project.

Testing water qualityWith Snoqualmie Indian Tribe

One of our 51 field crews is dedicated to supporting projects. Snoqualmie Indian Tribe. While this typically means assisting with habitat restoration projects, in 2021 this crew joined the Tribe’s Environmental and Natural Resources Department to help conduct water quality surveys.

 

Two people stand near a forested river. One person is pouring stream water from a cup into a small device the other is holding.

AmeriCorps members Antonio Flores (left) and Josh Gest (right) collect stream water as part of the sampling process. Kelsey Taylor took the photo.

 

The surveys are used to ensure water quality is in compliance with Tribal code. This helps protect the Snoqualmie River, its tributaries, and the health of its inhabitants. This project provided assistance to the Snoqualmie Tribe and AmeriCorps participants with new skills and exposures to career paths. This blog was written by members.

Yakama Nation installing large woody debris

Oak Creek, which is a tributary the Naches River, would make an ideal spawning or rearing ground for young salmon. The creek has however been affected by wood-deficiency. Our field crews in Central and Eastern Washington were available to assist the creek. Confederated Tribes of the Yakama Nation Bands and Confederated Tribes and other partners on this multi-year project when it kicked off in 2015.

 

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The Yakama Nation is also known as the Department of Fish and Wildlife of the State, Nature Conservancy, Mid-Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group, and our AmeriCorps members, added logs, or “stems,” to the creek to help create a more habitable space for salmon migration. Our AmeriCorps members strategically placed over 1,250 stems in 2017 after removing trees from the creek’s edge. To minimize habitat damage, they used low-impact methods and hand tools.

  

Oak Creek should be stocked with large woody debris stems. This will ensure that salmon have safe refuge and expand the habitat for a diverse ecosystem. It will also help to prevent erosion.  

Marine debris removed from traditional Samish Indian Nation territory

Our AmeriCorps members have supported efforts by the American Red Cross for eight years. Samish Indian NationTo protect and preserve natural resources in multiple locations throughout Washington by removing toxic Creosote material that is sensitive to shoreline habitat. 
Two people wearing yellow hard hats walk along a beach covered in wood and debris, surveying for material with creosote.

One of the WCC field crews is specialized in marine debris removal. Here, members remove creosote-coated material from Elger Bay on southern Camano Island in May 2021. Photo by Chris Robertson

Creosote chemicals, which are often used as a preservative for wood, can be toxic to people and sensitive marine plants and wildlife. Members help to survey the shoreline habitat for creosote treated material. Project locations included the San Juan Islands and Skagit County. 

 

Learn more about the Samish culture and their efforts to preserve and restore beaches on this page Story map.

Do you want to work with us? 

WCC accepts projects through an online application, which opens each February. Our crews may have limited time during the rest the year. Find out more at our Partner with WCC page.
A WCC AmeriCorps member holds a potted native tree while walking across a mulched area near a fence with Mount Si in the background.

WCC AmeriCorps members serve beautiful places in rain or shine – like this restoration site near Mount Si. Colleen Slater submitted the photo.

Are you interested in joining AmeriCorps’ WCC as a member of AmeriCorps?

Our next recruitment season begins in April, when we open applications for three-month positions that begin in June. For our 11-month positions, we also accept applications each year during the summer. Visit our member positions page to learn about our application process and more.
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