Thursday, March 2, 2017

Even on the 'dry side' we can have healthy streamsides

Eastern Washington riparian planting symposium a great success

Kent Apostol with Central Klickitat Conservation District shares current research on seedling survival.
Streamside vegetation is important, providing shade along a creek on hot days and refuge to fish and wildlife. Riparian vegetation, or buffers, not only keep streams cool, reduce bank erosion, and dissipate flood energy they can also improve water quality. This is especially true in the drier regions of eastern Washington. 

Naches River habitat restoration
So it isn’t a surprise that reestablishing healthy riparian corridors where they have been lost or degraded is a focus of many stream restoration efforts. 
In eastern Washington, riparian restoration experts face many challenges including poor seedling survival, slow tree growth, disconnected floodplains, livestock damage, and competition from noxious weeds.  And these challenges are all exacerbated in unique ways by the drier and hotter conditions east of the Cascades.

Many grant recipients of the Ecology Water Quality Combined Funding Program have developed new and creative ways to address these challenges.  But there are few forums for them to share what they’ve learned with other professionals, about what works, and what doesn’t.
This communication gap was the catalyst for the 2017 Eastern Washington Riparian Planting Symposium, held last month in partnership with Ecology (Central Region) and the Yakima Basin Fish & Wildlife Recovery Board.  The theme was, Addressing the Unique Challenges of Riparian Restoration East of the Cascades through Shared Ideas, Experiences, and Collaboration.

Weather didn't stop attendees
Originally planned as a small gathering of grant funded recipients, it quickly grew as the need for such an event became apparent.
Soon, we were getting emails from government agencies and the private sector asking if they could attend as well, and we couldn’t say no. The need for a place to share information about riparian planting east of the Cascades was clear, and we are all in this together.

The symposium, held Feb. 16th in Ellensburg, was attended by over 130 natural resources enthusiasts.  The harsh weather conditions across the state kept many more away, but the day was well worth the drive for those who did make it.
“(The symposium) addresses a real need for info sharing, networking, and increased collaboration,” said one attendee. “This area of restoration is evolving and the needs and challenges are changing, too.”
Plant selection, noxious weeds, LIDAR and bird habitat
Eight speakers presented on a wide variety of topics such as selecting plant materials, controlling noxious weeds, factors in seedling establishment, using LIDAR (light detection radar) in planting prioritization, and even bird habitat.

Mike Denny, a lifelong birder, spoke about the importance of riparian buffers to bird species. One attendee later shared that, “(Mike’s information) will help me explain to landowners the multiple benefits of riparian systems.”

Scott Nicolai, with the Yakama Nation, focused on failed projects he has worked on in the past, highlighting the importance of sharing these mistakes, not just our successes.  “Scott Nicolai put it very well about what we have done wrong,” commented one Conservation District attendee. “We cannot go forward without knowing where we have been.”
Another person commented that what they liked most about the day was, “getting to chat with folks on breaks, relating the presentations to work they are doing in other regions, and making contacts for how to integrate lessons learned from other areas into our future projects.”

"I took copious notes so I can share them with others" 

Many attendees commented that they look forward to taking the information back and sharing with others. “I took copious notes on the references provided by (Natural Resources Conservation Service plant expert, Richard Fleenor) so I can share them with others,” said one attendee. 

Ecology’s own Kelsey Collins (Water Resources, Central Region) spoke on water rights as they pertain to irrigating riparian plantings.  Access to water being one of the biggest challenges to planting success, one attendee said of her presentation, “Kelsey Collins really helped shed some light on water permitting that I hope to be putting to use in the near future.”

At the end of the day, a panel discussion with the presenters encouraged even more dialogue between them and the audience on additional topics like controlling reed canary grassl and deterring animal browsing. One participant appreciated hearing multiple solutions to restoration and the panel’s differentiating techniques and points of view.
Overall, the day was a great success and many connections were made. “Would love for this to be a yearly event!” and “Keep it going!” were common themes echoed in feedback we received.

We look forward to planning next year’s symposium!

If you would like to view the pdf’s of the presentations at the 2017 Eastern Washington Riparian Planting Symposium, go to:
If you are interested in being involved in next year’s symposium, please contact Heather Simmons,, 509-454-7207.

Heather Simmons, Water Quality Activity Grant Manager
Ecology, Central Region

Jennifer Hadersberger, Chelan County Natural Resources, talks about using LIDAR (light detection radar).

Scott Nicolai, Yakama Nation, speaks on forum panel led by Alex Conely, facilitating at the podium.

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