Friday, October 4, 2013

Restoring alpine vegetation in the Cascade mountains

 We kicked off a Treasured Landscapes Volunteer Vacation this summer with citizen scientists, National Forest Foundation's  (NFF) Kathleen Dowd-Gaily, the North Cascades Basecamp's Bondi family, and Therese Ohlson (retired USFS botanist) as they hiked the Maple Pass Loop to enjoy the wildflower display and learn about alpine ecology and restoration as part of a week long program to explore areas that are a part of the NFF’s Treasured Landscapes, Unforgettable Experiences conservation campaign.

The Maple Pass Loop is a great example of a trail being over-loved in our eastern Cascades mountains.  The views are incredible of Black Peak, Cutthroat Pass, Golden Horn to the north, and Glacier Peak to the south.  It is a strenuous but satisfying 8 mile round trip loop.  This beloved trail has earned its popularity with over 10,000 visitors /year (explained T. Ohlson), and it is written up in many of our North Cascades hiking guide books.  However its abraided trails through the mountain heather, the bare soil on every potential overlook, and the lack of vegetation at Maple Pass show its high volume use.

The US Forest Service and NFF are working to change over-loved trail with restoration of the alpine plant communities.  The Treasured Landscapes Initiative is collaborating its efforts with citizen science volunteers and forest service employees to designate a sound user path along the trail, plant and restore native plants outside the newly designated paths, and gently block off restored areas for future generations to enjoy.   The outcome will be incredible if folks respect the efforts and take charge of their actions on this and other trails above treeline.  A grand hope is that if this restoration effort is successful, it will lead to a greater understanding of how to love and protect our alpine trail systems.

If you'd like to be part of this effort, please contact Kathleen Dowd-Gailey by email at or phone at 206/832-8280.  Or let us know if you'd like to partake in the project as part of a North Cascades Basecamp citizen science effort and we can help organize a summer project for 2015. 

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