Innovative Pilot Project Seeks to Grow a Forest More Resilient to Climate Change

New habitat restoration near the Tolt watershed supported by $140,000 grant

 SEATTLE (April 5) – Seattle Mayor Jenny A. Durkan announced an innovative pilot project to reforest portions of the Stossel Creek area in the Tolt watershed northeast of Carnation. The Seattle City Light owned property will benefit from a $140,000 grant from the Climate Adaptation Fund of the Wildlife Conservation Society, established by a grant to WCS from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation – Seattle City Light, Seattle Public Utilities, Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust and the Northwest Natural Resource Group are partnered in this venture.

“Our region is known for its evergreen environment, scenic beauty, and natural resources,” said Mayor Durkan. “I am dedicated not only to maintaining and expanding our local natural areas but also to creating innovative approaches, capitalizing on our strengths to combat the negative effects of climate change.”

“Stossel Creek presents a unique opportunity to test innovative, new habitat restoration methods designed to increase resiliency to climate change for Western Washington forests,” said Jon Hoekstra, executive director of the Greenway Trust.

The restoration program will inform future climate-adapted restoration practices for lands owned by Seattle City Light, Seattle Public Utilities, and other land owners in the region. Long-term, the goal of this effort is to establish a diverse forest that will be adapted to the climate of the mid to late 21st century. The site once restored will host native conifer species, such as Douglas Fir and Western Red Cedar but will also include nonnative trees, that are better adapted to warmer temperatures and drier summers, sourced from southwestern Oregon.

“The climate of the Stossel Creek area is projected to be similar to southwest Oregon’s by the end of the 21st century,” explains Crystal Raymond, a climate adaptation specialist who helped secure the grant while she worked for City Light. “Therefore, the trees adapted to southwestern Oregon are expected to be better suited to the Stossel Creek site as the climate warms. By increasing the tree genetic and species diversity, the site’s resiliency to climate change will increase over time.”

Seattle City Light purchased the land in 2015 as part of its Endangered Species Act Early Action Plan to conserve and enhance habitat for steelhead. In 2012, trees on the 154-acre site were harvested by a private land company, since then, the site has experienced new plant growth, but with few trees. Invasive species have taken hold in some areas. Work to control invasive plant species and site preparation will begin this spring and planting new trees will begin in the fall. After planting, the team will have several opportunities to monitor success and share lessons learned from the project.

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