Things seem to be changing in the West – snowpack levels are lower than they used to be, and the snowpack melts earlier in spring. Fire seasons are longer and more severe. Megafires, wildfires over 100,000 acres, now occur more often, causing wide-ranging impact on homes, communities, and wildlands. These changes are expected to continue, and we need to increase the fire resiliency of our wildlands, while also completing defensible space work around homes and communities.
Life has been on an immense journey through time, and it turns out that much of the evidence for that journey is all around us in the natural world. On this short hike we will look for the evidence that the plants, animals and even the rocks have changed over time, creating ever more complex ecological relationships and ever richer ecosystems. This walk offered a condensed version of a 5-day program on this subject that Dana taught last summer in the Methow Valley.
Dana Visalli, botanist and editor of “The Methow Naturalist,” led a guided hike along a hidden canyon connecting the Burge Mountain road and the Highlands Nordic Sno-Park near Havillah.
On Saturday, July 19th, freshwater ecologist and emeritus professor Dr. Mark Oswood came to share his expertise in the Highland Wonders series. This event aimed to increase our community’s understanding of stream ecology, and how riparian zones and streams interact to support and affect populations of aquatic insects. Connections were made between populations of aquatic insects and what their presence indicates about water quality.
The April 11th, 2014, Highland Wonders event on Wild Mushrooms and Fungi Ecology was dedicated to OHA volunteer Marge McCormick, who recently passed away after a battle with cancer. We appreciate everything Marge did to help further OHA’s work in the highlands, and she will be greatly missed.
For those who missed the September 2013 grassland learning experience or needed an opportunity to reinforce the concepts from the event, OHA was thrilled to announce the return of one of the region’s premier grass experts, Don Gayton. Last September, Don’s Highland Wonders presentation and field trip were filled to capacity, and OHA received requests to offer an indoor presentation to a larger group. The March event was a great opportunity for those who were not able to participate in the previous grassland learning experience, as well as a chance for those who attended to reinforce the concepts that had been presented, and develop a deeper understanding.
This Highland Wonders event provided an opportunity to learn from one of the region’s premier grass experts, Don Gayton, who discussed our local grassland ecology and grass plant identification. Community members did not have to be botanists to enjoy this two-part indoor/outdoor event, as everyone from the greenhorn to the conversant could get something from Don’s wealth of knowledge. Topics covered included grassland types, invasive plants, grazing and fire interactions, and simplified methods of identifying grasses.
On April 1st, 2011, WA Department of Fish and Wildlife Aquatic Habitat Engineer, Gina McCoy, provided perspective on the factors that affect stream processes. From “slower is better” water storage effects on watersheds and stream habitat, to the ways in which streams reach equilibrium, awareness of stream processes is the first step toward supporting healthy streams. Understanding channel and floodplain development, channel stability, and the role of wood in streams helps guide the restoration process in degraded streams. Gina also discussed the Myers Creek subwatershed existing conditions and restoration issues.
For the past 17 years, McCoy has provided technical assistance for stream-related projects throughout central Washington. She is currently participating in a project sponsored by the Colville Confederated Tribes to relocate and restore a 3,200 ft section of Bonaparte Creek. She is author of the ‘Stream Processes’ chapter of the Washington State Stream Habitat Restoration Guidelines manual. Prior to her current position, she co-created and managed a watershed-scale restoration project on the Yakama Reservation. McCoy’s graduate studies were in watershed hydrology and landscape ecology. She loves sharing her knowledge of streams with anyone who is interested – and that seems to include just about everyone.