From illegal bridges to invasives

What it takes to care for the land

Forterra manages and cares for over 15,000 acres across 12 counties in Washington. The properties range from remote mountain peaks to estuaries, urban nature preserves to rural lands, lands accessible by car and others only accessible on foot. While each acre of land protected is considered a victory, the continued maintenance of the land is often an overlooked—yet vital—aspect of conservation.

Forterra's Lands Manager working on the Big Creek Property

Once a property is conserved, the natural habitat must be maintained: Invasive plants such as ivy, blackberry, knotweed and reed canary grass pose a constant threat. These plants grow sometimes faster than we can keep up with, and affect the conservation values of a property.

Limited grant funds can help complete initial restoration projects but the real challenge is maintaining forward progress. Case in point: It takes three to five years of maintenance for native plants to become established enough to survive competition from common weeds and invasive plants.

Humans further impact the health of the land. Since Forterra doesn’t have the capacity to provide a constant presence on all of our acreage, we rely on dedicated land stewards who volunteer to serve as our eyes and ears on the ground. But issues still arise: The unauthorized use of off-road vehicles in endangered species’ habitat; dumping of garbage both small and large (cars and appliances); homeless encampments; tree theft; and even illegally built trails.

Just last month, an illegally built snowmobile bridge had to be dismantled and removed from Big Creek property, a 302 acre Forterra property in Kittitas County. Big Creek was purchased with funds from Section 6 of the Endangered Species Act to help conserve northern spotted owl and coho salmon habitat. The land is home to a 100-year old hiking and horse trail. But because of the Section 6 funds, only non-motorized users are allowed on the Big Creek property.

Thanks to several members of Yakama Nation’s Washington Conservation Corps Crew, the bridge was taken apart. It took the team an entire day to cut the bridge down from the cedar logs that served as the bridge abutments and rig it over to shore. The wood will be reclaimed for a natural playground area or a mountain bike skills area at Helen McCabe Park.

  • Hayes Swinney

    After roaming the country−leading outdoor adventure programs, teaching environmental education and studying ecology−and living in Ecuador as well as in Costa Rica, Hayes found her home in the Pacific Northwest working with communities to restore and manage our natural areas. She is constantly entertained, amazed and challenged by her curly-haired kiddo and enjoys helping him explore and discover the wonders of the great outdoors.
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