Trees that are three centuries old...and counting
Towering over the abandoned railroad town of Wellington, and surrounded by some of the most pristine and breathtaking scenery in the North Cascades, Windy Ridge is a place that time forgot. The area includes some of the last unprotected, never-logged forest in the state — 350 privately-held acres of imposing silver fir, Douglas fir and mountain hemlock. Many of these giants are nearly 300 years old.
Worth saving simply for its beauty, Windy Ridge is also of great significance ecologically. The extensive tree canopy shades lakes and streams on the property, cooling waters that ultimately flow to the Tye and Skykomish Rivers, important fish habitat. Tree branches, burrows and snags offer an ideal home to several imperiled species, and will be a vital refuge for many others amid climate change.
Protecting Windy Ridge is part of decade-plus effort by Forterra to secure lands and communities with a keystone role in a “corridor of sustainability” running from the Skykomish Valley near Stevens Pass to the Salish Sea at Everett.
Life Depends on It
Scientists have warned that, without urgent action, an eighth of the world’s species—a million different lifeforms—could soon be lost. Protecting habitat is fundamental, and Windy Ridge—with high-quality old-growth forest, talus slopes, montane meadows, pristine alpine lakes, and icy streams— provides habitat for a variety of wildlife that are endangered or threatened—or could be soon.
Northern Spotted Owl: With large Douglas fir trees and snags, the southeast corner of Windy Ridge has ideal nesting, roosting and foraging habitat for the endangered northern spotted owl. Such habitat is increasingly rare in Washington state, particularly on non-federal land.
Cascade Red Fox: The Cascade red fox is a candidate for protection in Washington state. Although very rare, some Cascade red foxes have been detected in the North Cascades. The sub-alpine meadows at Windy Ridge offer ideal habitat, especially if their range is reduced by climate change.
Marbled Murrelet: Endangered marbled murrelets forage near the ocean but fly inland to the large old-growth trees where they nest and rear their young. Murrelet numbers have plummeted over the last decade as habitat has been lost. Because it abuts the Henry M. Jackson Wilderness area, Windy Ridge, if protected, can remain part of a long, unbroken expanse of high-quality murrelet habitat.
Wolverines: Carnivorous scavengers who often follow behind lynx and wolves, wolverines have recently been documented in the North Cascades. For their dens, wolverines require the sort of deep snow that routinely falls at Windy Ridge’s highest reaches in winter and spring.
American Pikas and Hoary Marmots: The rocky talus slopes of Windy Ridge are prime habitat for American pikas and hoary marmots. While relatively common at present, these species are considered very sensitive to the effects of climate change. Intact high-elevation habitat could provide them a critical refuge in the future.
Ancient Forest…and Much More
Besides it venerable old trees, the Windy Ridge site has other extraordinary physical features including striking views, alpine lakes replete with brook trout, and mountain meadows that burst with colourful summer flowers.
The Future of Windy Ridge, If We Conserve It
If Forterra succeeds in securing Windy Ridge, we have the opportunity to add it to protected adjacent lands in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and perhaps include it in the Henry M. Jackson Wilderness Area. Whatever the land’s ultimate ownership, Forterra is committed to protecting its wilderness values.
Securing Windy Ridge will take resources — not only for the land itself, but all the human effort that goes with such a complex transaction: from mapmakers, to negotiators, to forest ecologists, to fundraisers.We’re well on our way to our goal, but still need your help.