Earlier this month, the U.S. Forest Service released scoping plans for the upcoming Little White Salmon timber sale. The project, which is officially called the Little White Salmon Forest Resiliency and Fire Risk Mitigation Project, is still in the early planning stages. The agency is seeking public input, which is due May 8, 2023. Public input, as well as further agency review, will be used to refine the plan before a more detailed Environmental Assessment is published for further public input in the future. Cascade Forest Conservancy (CFC) has been discussing the details of this project with the Forest Service for several years as part of our work within the South Gifford Pinchot Collaborative and will be submitting our own comments to the proposal. We ask that you take a moment to join us in speaking up for mature forests in the Little White Salmon Watershed.





The Little White Salmon watershed extends northward from the Columbia River toward high elevation meadows in the Indian Heaven Wilderness, the majority of which (79%) are located within the Mt. Adams Ranger District of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. This area is an important transition zone between drier eastside forests and moist westside forests containing a high level of biodiversity and many high-value habitat areas. Its transitional characteristics also make it uniquely vulnerable to climate change disturbances. 



A large group of people standing in a forest clearing discussing an upcoming timber sale.
CFC’s staff joined representatives of the U.S. Forest Service on a field trip with the South Gifford Pinchot Collaborative to discuss plans for the Little White Salmon timber sale in 2022.


The project described in the scoping notice proposes active management (including commercial and non-commercial thinning, fuel reduction activities, road decommissioning, and aquatic habitat restoration actions) on 15,600 acres. This includes thinning activities in 7,100 acres of middle and mature forests, 2,000 acres of which are described as complex stands.

CFC has concerns about the intensity of thinning activities proposed in mature forest stands and several other issues, which we outline below.





CFC is concerned that the treatments described in the scoping plans in mature forest stands are unnecessarily aggressive. The agency is proposing logging activities in over 3,000 acres of forests where trees are over 120 years old that would reduce total canopy cover to 40% or 45-55%. These mature forests are on the cusp of becoming much-needed old-growth habitat.

The intensity of the proposed logging activities in these stands will not confer fire-risk mitigation benefits (especially in the wetter west-side stands) that outweigh the negative impacts of the proposed activities to the health of the intact ecosystem, carbon sequestration capacity, and the development of old-growth forest stands. CFC is asking the Forest Service to employ less intense thinning activities for the older stands included in their plans.


Large conifer trees towering over maples in the foreground
Trees in a mature stand within the Little White Salmon timber sale planning area.


We are also asking the Forest Service not to cut any old-growth in the 32 units included in the plan where these important and rare habitat areas are present. Although we acknowledge that the scoping brochure mentions “no old-growth forests are proposed for treatment,” we are formally commenting in support of that promise to ensure that all old-growth stands are dropped from treatment plans and allowed a no-cut buffer.





Northern spotted owl watching from a tree branch
Northern spotted owls are highly endangered.


The proposed harvest overlaps with several northern spotted owl circles (areas around locations where northern spotted owls have been observed nesting in the past), and many of those units are proposed for thinning the canopy to 40% cover. Northern spotted owl numbers are already drastically dwindling due to the lack of available preferred habitat and competition from barred owls.

Thinning the canopy down to 40% is a heavy disturbance that will likely lead to decreased reproduction and/or site abandonment, impacting the recovery of this highly threatened species. There have been suggestions that northern spotted owls may not inhabit some of these areas any longer, and this has been used as a justification to underplay the importance of owl circles. However, critical habitat for NSOs, updated in 2021, still includes most of the project area as critical habitat. In the absence of new monitoring data, the Forest Service should continue protecting known historic nest sites.





Many of the proposed units appear to be within Riparian Reserves. These stream-adjacent forests and aquatic habitats are migration corridors and serve as important refugia where habitat resilience is frequently best improved or maintained by leaving these areas to grow unencumbered and intact. CFC believes commercial thinning is not appropriate within Riparian Reserves and is likely not compliant with current forest management policies. CFC is asking that any management within Riparian Reserves be non-commercial in nature and tailored to the aquatic habitat needs of the specific sites.





A man standing among a grove of large Western redceders
The Lost Creek Area is home to some of the largest ceders in the forest. Photo by Darryl Lloyd.


The Lost Creek area on the southwestern edge of the watershed is special to CFC and many others. It includes ancient cedar trees that are some of the largest in the Forest. Due to the special nature of this place, we have questions and concerns about the intensity of the proposed treatments in this area and request special attention and consideration be paid to ensure the features that make this site unique are protected. We are concerned that logging near this area will result in more open canopies, higher understory temperatures, less moisture retention, and therefore higher fire risk for the old-growth stands in the area. We request that any treatments in this area focus on the protection of this unique and important ecosystem and that the impact of logging on increased fire risk and forest resilience in this type of forest be sufficiently considered.





Public input from concerned citizens like you can have a positive impact on the end result of projects like the Little White Salmon timber sale. Please use the talking points above as an outline to write and submit your own comments to the Little White Salmon scoping plans by May 8th, 2023.

Comments may be mailed to Jessica Hudec, Mt. Adams Ranger Station, 2455 Hwy 141, Trout Lake, WA 98650.

Electronic comments may be emailed to Please submit comments within the e-mail message or as an attachment in .pdf, .doc, or .rtf format and specify in the subject that it pertains to the Little White Salmon Forest Resiliency and Fire Risk Mitigation Project.


We are disappointed that our lawsuit to protect the Pumice Plain from an ill-conceived road was not successful. A federal appeals court will allow the Forest Service to build a road across the Plain as early as this summer. 

Since 2017 we’ve been fighting the Forest Service’s short-sighted plan to construct a road through the Pumice Plain in order to access the Spirit Lake tunnel, which is in need of maintenance and repairs. We never questioned the need to maintain the infrastructure of Spirit Lake, however we strongly opposed choosing the option that created a road across the Pumice Plain without first duly considering all access options. The Pumice Plain is a place affording researchers with opportunities available nowhere else on Earth to study ecosystem recovery. The road will now compromise a large number of long-term ongoing studies, will infringe on the public’s right to experience a unique volcanic landscape by accessing the Truman trail, and will threaten the fragile watersheds and ecosystems that exist there. 


Read more here


We maintain that the Forest Service did not adequately study alternatives to access the Spirit Lake work site. The agency did not provide an Environmental Impact Statement, which we believe, should have been required for this project based on the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). They failed to adequately account for a number of impacts in their Environmental Assessment including impacts to the world-class research happening in this Class 1 Research Area, impacts of road construction and runoff, and the increased likelihood of introducing invasive species, all of which will impact recreation, wildlife, watersheds, and fundamentally alter the unique character of the Pumice Plain.  Additionally, the project was complicated by adding drilling to obtain information for long-term management to the tunnel repair project, making the need for an access road seem more urgent and necessary than it is and stifling the review of reasonable alternatives.

We are disappointed in the Court’s decision, and especially in the disregard for the long-term value and health of a world-renowned natural laboratory displayed by the actions of the Forest Service. This project needs more analysis and study. We will continue to stand with our coalition of partner organizations and members of the research community to continue putting pressure on the Forest Service to re-examine this decision and choose another access alternative to complete the repair work at the Spirit Lake tunnel before it’s too late.

NEWS RELEASE | December 6, 2022 Local conservation groups welcome recent US Forest Service announcement as a step forward for climate-smart forest management


December 6, 2022

Local conservation groups welcome recent US Forest Service announcement as a step forward for climate-smart forest management.

The announcement signals the beginning of a process to update current federal land management policies to account for wildfire, carbon sequestration, and climate change.  


On December 5th, the US Forest Service announced plans to establish a Federal Advisory Committee to provide the agency with recommendations for updates to the 1994 Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP). The NWFP was enacted during a period of intense national debate surrounding logging in old-growth forests and other unsustainable land management practices in the Pacific Northwest. It was the world’s first policy establishing a science-based, ecosystem-focused land management plan and remains the largest, affecting an area of more than 19 million acres of national forests in Washington, Oregon, and northern California. The committee’s recommendations will become the basis for the first significant updates to the NWFP in nearly three decades.  

The announcement calls for nominations for individuals to serve on a 20-member Federal Advisory Committee that will be comprised of representatives of the scientific community, non-governmental organizations, and individuals representing the interests of Tribes, governments, and the public at-large. Local conservation groups, like Cascade Forest Conservancy (CFC), are welcoming the move as a necessary opportunity to bring federal land management policy in line with current climate science.

“In a lot of ways the Northwest Forest Plan has been a huge success. It’s one of the most important tools we have for preserving old-growth habitats and maintaining and improving water quality,” said Ashley Short, Cascade Forest Conservancy’s Policy Manager. “But the plan hasn’t been updated since its adoption in 1994 and the conditions we see on the ground have changed. We’re already seeing the impacts of climate change in our region, like drought, higher water temperatures, and a longer fire season, and the science indicates these changes are going to continue.” 

CFC also pointed out that when it was adopted, the NWFP focused on conserving populations of a number of species dependent on old-growth habitat, but noted that the plan leaves many old-growth and mature forests still at-risk from logging and road building. Short says that “for example, in areas currently designated as “matrix lands,” where timber harvesting is focused, there are few protections for these rare patches of old forest. The small amount of old-growth left in the southern Washington Cascades is already facing growing threats like increased wildfires and drought. These magnificent places are worth preserving for their own sake, but they also play an outsized role in carbon storage. It is vital that we protect old-growth forests whenever possible.”

This week’s announcement carries the potential to shape the future of land management in Washington for years to come. It represents one of the administration’s more significant actions affecting national forests in the Pacific Northwest since Biden’s Earth Day Executive Order directing the Forest Service to develop a definition for old-growth and mature forests and map remaining stands on federally managed lands.   

Short said that “forming this Federal Advisory Committee is an opportunity for the Biden administration to ensure the continued success of the Northwest Forest Plan by listening to experts and community leaders like scientists, Tribal representatives,  and members of rural timber communities. We are hopeful this will eventually result in an updated forest plan that benefits people in Indigenous communities and rural communities and that it will ensure that land management policies are more aligned with our current climate realities. Getting the details of the plan right will be essential to conserving biodiversity, protecting mature and old-growth forests, and addressing the impacts of wildfires.” 



Just over a year ago, on October 5, 2021, we came together with supporters at Trap Door Brewing in Vancouver, Washington for our first ‘No Place For A Mine’ event under our new revamped campaign. That evening we formally announced the creation of the Green River Valley Alliance – a coalition of individuals, businesses, organizations, and policymakers organized to achieve the common goal of protecting the Green River Valley and Mount St. Helens from the threat of mining. In the year since, the Alliance has continued to grow so we wanted to take a moment to provide an update and acknowledge our progress!



That first gathering at Trap Door kicked off a series of monthly events in which we presented our campaign, held engaging Q&A sessions, and met hundreds of people who took action to support the campaign! To date, we’ve hosted 11 of these ‘Pint Night’ events at breweries across the region from Portland to Seattle and from Yakima to Packwood. In addition to these larger events, the Alliance has also held a number of smaller tabling sessions at a variety of venues which have offered further opportunities to expand and connect with our growing community of supporters.

The Alliance began working to collect signatures on our petition and business/organization sign-on letter asking Congress to enact a mineral withdrawal. We also produced postcards featuring a watercolor of Mount St. Helens and the Green River Valley by local artist Lindsey Fox, for a letter writing campaign aimed at winning over our federal elected officials. As of today, we have sent hundreds of postcards to federal officials and the Alliance has the endorsement of over 1500 individuals, 33 supporting businesses, and 21 Alliance Partner organizations!


Artist Lindsey Fox visited Goat Mountain and created a watercolor to support the GRVA campaign


In addition to our public outreach, we’ve also been forging relationships with local and regional stakeholders. We’ve met with several local elected officials and are engaging the local forest collaboratives. We have also been working in partnerships with both the Cowlitz Indian Tribe and the Confederated Bands and Tribes of the Yakama Nation, who are key allies in this work and who strongly oppose mining in this area. Finally, we’ve been strengthening our relationships with our federal elected officials, who we will ultimately need to champion legislation through Congress.

February 2022 was a particularly exciting time for the campaign as we had two exciting announcements to share at our event that month. First, we announced the launch of — a resource for learning about why the Green River Valley and Mount St. Helens are no place for a mine and our mineral withdrawal campaign, receive updates, hear about upcoming events, and take action.

We also were able to share the incredible news that we had won our most recent legal case to stop this mine from moving forward. A US District Court judge ruled that the US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management had failed to identify the existing condition of groundwater in the area, did not adequately account for all of the negative impacts on access to the Green River Valley area for recreational purposes, and did not define the length of time over which exploratory drilling would take place. Because of these deficiencies the exploratory drilling permits, originally granted by the agencies in 2018, were canceled–or in legal terminology, vacated. This meant that drilling would not take place in the summer of 2022 and that Ascot Resources, the Canadian mining company that currently holds the mineral rights to the area, would need to start the permitting process over again.


CFC’s Campaign Coordinator, Sean Roome, Executive Director, Molly Whitney, and Policy Manager, Ashley Short with campaign backers, legislative staffers, and representatives of the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation


With this legal win behind us, we continued to push forward. This victory may have bought some much-needed time, but it did not provide permanent protections against mining. We know from experience that it is likely that Ascot will seek exploratory drilling permits again.

This summer, we began hosting regular Green River Valley Alliance coalition calls, in which members from our partner organizations came together to share information and strategize about ways to engage the public and move the campaign forward. Alliance partners have assisted in campaign strategizing, written newsletter articles, helped spread our petition, engaged their networks, collected postcards, and shared about our efforts on social media. This collaborative aspect of the Alliance is a key component of our work and these coalition calls are now a cornerstone of this campaign and will remain so moving forward.

In support of our continued work as an Alliance, here are a couple of actions you can take right now to help us maintain the momentum we have built up over the past year. If you have already taken these actions, then please send this to three or more friends, family members, colleagues, neighbors, or anyone else you think may be interested in helping us protect this incredible landscape.




  • Sign on as an Alliance Partner with your business or organization! If you are a business owner or a member of an organization that you believe would be supportive of our work, use this sign-on letter to demonstrate your group’s support for this campaign. To convince elected officials to act, we need backing from the business community!



The Green River Valley Alliance accomplished a great deal in its first year. We’ve pulled together large numbers of concerned citizens, businesses, and organizations representing a variety of viewpoints, backgrounds, and interests around the shared goal of securing a legislative mineral withdrawal to ensure permanent protections for the Green River Valley and Mount St. Helens against the threat of mining. While we are proud of our progress so far, and grateful for all the support we’ve received up to this point, we still have a long way to go. I am optimistic we can make our goal a reality, and I am looking forward to continuing working with all of you to make this a priority issue for our elected officials!



We want to give a special thank you to our incredible Alliance Partners and Supporting Businesses! Thank you for your continued support as we continue to push forward!

American Whitewater; Backcountry Hunters & Anglers – Washington Chapter; Cascade Forest Conservancy; Clark-Skamania Fly Fishers; Columbia Riverkeeper; Conservation Northwest; Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance; Friends of Clark County; Great Old Broads; Mazamas; The Mountaineers; Patagonia; Trans-Cascadia; The Wilderness Society; Vancouver Audubon Society; Vancouver Wildlife League; WA Native Plant Society; Washington Council of Trout Unlimited; Washington Trails Association; Washington Wild; Wild Steelheaders United

Adorn Body Art; Base Camp Coffee; The Bicycle Doctor; Camas Bike & Sport; Carson Ridge Luxury Cabins; Compass Coffee Roasting; Coyote Ridge Ranch; C. Rose’s Ink; Definitely Mabie Consulting LLC; Domaine Pouillon; Full Plate Farm; French’s Farm; Harold’s Burger Bar; Kindred Homestead Supply; Oakshire Beer Hall; Optimism Brewing; Loowit Brewing Company; Lucky No. 3 Tattoo Company; Maple Tree Goatscaping LLC; Medical Vision Center; Monet Vineyards; Mountain Goat Tattoo Co.; North Bank Books; Octopi Ink; Packwood Station; Pariyatti; Raintree Nursery; River House Bake Shop; Roberta Church, Attorney at Law; Shanahans Pub & Grill; Soul Crafted Soap; Thatcher’s Coffee; TNS Archery Outdoors; Trap Door Brewing; Wickering Heights


Halfway through a day of collecting seeds from native plant species from forests north of Trout Lake, volunteers and CFC staff enjoyed a break with a unique view. Pahto (Mt. Adams) towered above an expanse of charred snags arranged among a green carpet of wildflowers, shrubs, berries, and new saplings flourishing in the abundant sunlight.




This area burned in 2015’s Cougar Creek Fire. Yet, seven short years later, it is well on its way to recovery and is currently providing valuable early seral habitat (areas characterized by the early stages of forest re-growth which are important to many plant and animal species) to the larger forest ecosystem. In dry mixed-conifer stands, like those found throughout the eastern half of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, wildfires are a natural and even necessary part of forest ecology. But not every fire-impacted area in this part of the forest is doing as well as this one.



In some instances, climate change has led to more intense wildfires and shorter intervals between burns occurring in the same stands. These high-intensity, low-interval fires can deplete buried seedbanks and the forest’s ability to replenish and rely on the supply, making it difficult for some stands to recover naturally. Not far from where we were enjoying our break another fire-impacted area is fairing much differently. The triple burn area was affected by three fires in a short period of time–2008’s Cold Spring Fire, 2012’s Cascade Creek Fire, and the 2015 Cold Creek Fire. This area is now struggling to recover, so CFC’s staff, the US Forest Service, and volunteers are stepping in to lend a hand through what could be called “assisted migration” of vegetation from healthy stands to areas that have been slow to regrow.



For the past 6 years, we have been working to gather seeds from native plant species like beaked hazelnut, wax currant, snowberry, western columbine, pearly everlasting, ocean spray, lupine, wild roses, Oregon sunshine (aka wooly sunflower), and many others. We collect these materials from forests closely resembling the triple burn area in species composition and elevation. The collected seeds are then being used to revegetate the area where seedbanks have been exhausted.


Guided by Evan Olson, a botanist for the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, volunteers learned how to identify, collect, and label seeds from targeted species, and spent a beautiful sunny Saturday gathering among the understory.



Leading up to the trip, volunteers were given several documents to get a chance to familiarize themselves with the history of the three fires that created the triple burn area and a resource guide of native plant species that we would be encountering in the field. At each site we visited, volunteers and staff split into groups and dispersed throughout the area to find the seeds. Some worked as generalists collecting any species listed in the pre-trip materials they came across. Others specialized in finding one or two species.


At the end of the day, we gathered around Evan’s Forest Service pickup and handed over the last of our haul to be sorted, stored, and then used in upcoming revegetation efforts, including our upcoming and final volunteer trip of the year where many of the same seeds gathered will be spread throughout the triple burn area.



“This is vital work,” Evan explained as he thanked the volunteers for their efforts. Climate change may be altering the ecology of wildfire and the landscape’s ability to regenerate after a burn, but helpful interventions like these can make a long-lasting difference. 


At the beginning of June, CFC hosted a virtual training session to teach volunteers how to survey for pika in the talus slope areas of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Pika survey efforts have been going on for years in the Columbia Gorge, Mt. Rainier, and other locations within the Cascades, but there’s a gap in pika population data in the Gifford Pinchot. 


Pika near Takh Takh Meadow by Susan Saul


Volunteers could go to sites where pika have previously been observed to conduct sitting surveys, or volunteers could send back reports if they happened to cross paths with a pika when out on a hike. Pika can be hard to spot as they are often well camouflaged by the rocks they inhabit, but wait long enough and they start to scurry around and make calls to the other pika nearby. So far this year, volunteers have conducted 30 sitting surveys and have had 34 opportunistic sightings.


Pika photographed at Goat Ridge Lookout by Jennifer Travers


These new pika sightings will allow us to have more sites to complete the sitting surveys next year. Most of our projects are not possible without the help of volunteers, and that is especially the case for the pika surveys. CFC sends a HUGE thank you to all the volunteers that have participated and are continuing to participate in the first year of these surveys! 


Pika photographed ay McClellan Viewpoint by Steider Studios


There’s still time to get involved! If you want to do a sitting survey, please contact so she can send you all the information you need to get started.


Pika photographed above Miller Creek by Mackenna Milosevich


If you’re ever out on a hike and come across a pika, feel free to share that information with us here.


Instead of lots of statistics and charts, this year’s annual report is a collection of narratives told by our staff about just a few of the advocacy, conservation, and restoration successes of last year. Together, these stories demonstrate how CFC continued to achieve positive impacts for the forests, rivers, wildlife, and communities throughout the southern Washington Cascades in 2021, thanks to the generous support of our donors and the hard work of our volunteers.


Click here to download a PDF or read the report below


It’s been a busy season for the Instream Wood Bank Network. We have a lot of plans in the works and a few big movements of wood now under our belt.




Across the Pacific Northwest, many fish populations are struggling due to compounding challenges, including degraded habitats lacking in complexity. Streamside logging and efforts to straighten channels and clear obstacles resulted in a massive reduction of instream wood—a habitat feature that helps support fish throughout their life cycles by slowing flows, creating shallow gravel beds and deep pools, and cooling water temperatures.

In response, many agencies, Tribes, and restoration professionals are reintroducing woody debris and logjams into aquatic systems. Aquatic ecosystems are healthier—and more resilient to the impacts of climate change—when these habitat features are restored. However, some of our partners often face difficulties sourcing the wood needed for restoration projects due to expense or availability. 

These are the problems the Instream Wood Bank Network was created to address. 



The innovative project is a highly collaborative program that functions as a set of partnerships to supply wood for restoration projects and create a better use for trees that would otherwise become wood chips, cut for firewood, or burned on-site. We work with a wide variety of landowners, local contractors and haulers, and agencies to source and haul materials. Wood is then provided to complement and advance the instream wood placement projects being managed by various restoration partners, including the Cowlitz Indian Tribe, Lower Columbia Fish Enhancement Group, Friends of East Fork Lewis River, the U.S. Forest Service, and others. Having extra or less expensive wood materials for their projects allows these groups to expand their impact. In short, the Wood Bank allows our restoration partners to do more work for less money and represents an encouraging win-win for rural economies and communities, conservationists, and (of course) fish.




The Instream Wood Bank Network is still a relatively new endeavor, but it’s already producing major results. So far this year, we’ve moved approximately 360 trees and delivered them to partner organizations who will be using them to restore habitat for salmon and a variety of other wildlife. We are also using some of these trees for one of our own habitat improvement projects later this year, on a tributary of the South Fork Toutle River where we will be employing low-tech, process based methods to restore aquatic and riparian health along a waterway that flows through degraded timberlands. 


A person is sitting with a notepad beside a river flowing in a forested area
CFC staff and partners on a site visit to the South Fork Toutle River watershed in 2020


Earlier this spring, we facilitated the transfer of 50 Douglas firs that were laying on the ground in the Columbia River Gorge Scenic area that had been pushed over as part of a road realignment project and were slated to become firewood. These trees had root wads attached and would make perfect instream habitat trees for fish. We contacted the Forest Service just in time and instead arranged for the transfer of these trees to support the Cowlitz Indian Tribe’s upcoming instream work on Wildboy Creek. 

The logistics of transferring wood, especially salvaged wood of this sort, are complex and require working through a number of agency steps and with a number of different contractors in the stacking and hauling of logs. The end results will be worth the effort. The Tribe will be removing a dam and installing instream wood. The project will dramatically improve habitat potential and restore fish passage to upstream reaches of this currently fragmented waterway. The addition of instream wood will also benefit the area as it recovers from the ground and waterway disturbance caused by the removal work, helping restore health to the waterway.



Recently, the Wood Bank also successfully sourced 284 logs for our partners at Lower Columbia Fish Enhancement Group. These were sourced from a Department of Natural Resources location where trees are grown for seed production. Due to their growth patterns, these trees are not able to be sold as lumber and were going to be chipped up for pulp. We thought a better use for these trees would be building fish habitat in the Coweeman River and various tributaries of the South Fork Toutle. So we worked with the logger and the landowner and coordinated this movement of wood. Not only are these salvaged logs finding a new home where they are able to serve as habitat, but we were also able to supply them to our partner for around half of what they would have otherwise paid to acquire trees from an intact forest. 

As the impact of the Wood Bank Network grows, we are looking ahead and creating new opportunities to make downed trees available for river restoration projects. In addition to ongoing conversations with timberland owners, such as Port Blakely and Weyerhaeuser, we are looking across the region for trees being cut for urban development. 



As one can imagine, the logistics involved in building new partnerships and coordinating successful wood movements are demanding. This is a complex endeavor that is bringing people together from across a wide range of interests and ideologies. It seems to be that a project designed to restore rivers through cooperation, partnership, and the creation of economic opportunities, is something we can all get behind.


Two weeks ago, I participated in my first project in the field with CFC staff and volunteers in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Beavers were previously introduced to specific sites, and our goal was to revisit these locations to identify any signs of beaver habitation and survival. As a native southside Chicagoan who has never visited the Pacific Northwest, I was thrilled to begin this new experience while exploring and camping in the woods. Day one started with friendly volunteers meeting each other and sorting into four groups. Each group had a designated path to a meadow, described by Amanda (CFC’s Science and Stewardship Manager) as a serene landscape that would be worth our journey. With an iPad to navigate in hand, tools for removing invasive species we happened to come across, oversized boots, and a few squished sandwiches in my backpack, I eagerly followed my group into the woods for a new adventure.



Leading up to this weekend trip, I pictured myself hiking on clear trails. Those expectations were quickly dashed after beginning our trek, for the woods were much denser than our group anticipated. I embraced the challenge of intense bushwacking, though, and powered through a series of branches and shrubs with my group for the sake of beaver evidence. We found a few gnawed sticks with teeth marks and proceeded to photograph them and map our locations. I found a few sticks myself, but they were just beetle larvae patterns carved into the wood. We continued our journey throughout the day, wading through the river and gazing at amazingly tall trees, only to ultimately decide to turn back in fear of not returning in time.



Unfortunately, my group and two others did not reach the beautifully acclaimed meadows, though I may still get a chance to see it if we return to release beaver later in the summer. Although we never reached our destination, I enjoyed the trek very much. My group spent the remaining time identifying and removing invasive species in a nearby parking lot until the other groups returned, ensuring their seeds couldn’t spread to other areas of the forest by attaching to hikers, pets, or vehicles. I didn’t even need to use my handy plant identification app, Seek, because my group members were incredibly skilled in determining all plant species within seconds of looking at one. I aspire to be at their expertise one day.

We visited a secret waterfall before heading to our campsite. It was absolutely magnificent- a rainbow shined at the bottom of the falls over glistening mossy rocks. The cliffside was full of beautiful cascades and Douglas firs at various levels. Since this was my first waterfall, my expectations are now unrealistically high, as I’m sure I will never achieve such a state of awe again. When we arrived at our campsite afterward, we all quickly set up our tents and began cooking elaborate dinners. Well, the volunteers did. I struggled to set up my tent, even with Amanda’s help, then savored a delicious meal of smushed berries and my last sandwich. The entire group continued for a few hours, laughing and talking around the campfire, others visiting a nearby lake. I, however, promptly fell asleep from pure exhaustion. 



Day two of our adventure placed us near a set of frog ponds southwest of Mount St. Helens. Since this area was reasonably open compared to yesterday, all participants ventured together naturally because we could see one another no matter where we roamed. While searching for beaver evidence, volunteers clustered around a fallen tree that looked like a potential living space for beaver. Smaller ponds and channels surrounded the fallen tree, but nothing too deep that my oversized boots could not handle. I noticed a log slightly concealed by grass that offered itself as a shortcut to the rest of the volunteers. With only shallow creeks and channels resting nearby, I assumed there was no risk and began walking across the log. Having traveled across multiple logs the day before, I had practically become an overnight professional in hiking with supreme balance.



I was a fool whose enthusiasm had led me to commit a grave mistake. Within two seconds of stepping of walking, I slipped and fell straight into a hidden pond, submerging my body to my hips. Luckily I had stashed my iPad and phone in my backpack moments before, so all was not lost. The CFC staff said this was a rite of passage; my soaked pants begged to differ. I shuffled around in damp clothes for the rest of the day, but my spirit remained unbroken. We found some older signs of beaver that indicated their presence this past winter, but nothing extremely recent. We dedicated the rest of our day traversing down a creek, a fun excursion that led us down a winding stream with several spots for possible future beaver relocations.



As the trip wrapped up and we returned from the ponds, I said my goodbyes to my new friends and thanked those who let me dry my wet clothes on the hoods of their cars. I felt very happy to have contributed to fieldwork that will inform future beaver reintroduction locations and practices in upcoming years. Overall, I loved spending my weekend in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest with CFC, and I look forward to creating many more memories on future trips throughout the summer.


When the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument was created it was expected to host 1-2 million visitors a year. It currently receives less than 500 thousand.

Our friends and partners at the Mount St. Helens Institute (MSHI), a non-profit that advances understanding and stewardship of the Earth through science, education, and exploration of volcanic landscapes, are looking for new ways to connect people to the volcano. Recently, they brought a proposal forward in response to the USFS’s public “Request for Expressions of Interest”—a major update to the former Coldwater Ridge Visitor Center that includes a small campground, cabins, 3 small lodges, staff housing, and food service to better meet the needs of their Outdoor School programs as well as meet the needs of other visitors to the Monument through overnight accommodations.

Due to a lack of USFS resources and funding to keep up with maintenance, and declining visitation, the former Coldwater Ridge Visitor Center closed in 2007. However, in 2012, MSHI began partnering with USFS on use of the site for education and community engagement programs. The number of people, primarily youth, served at the site nearly doubled every year from 2011-2017, reaching existing capacity in 2018. It became clear that the current facilities don’t have the capacity or scale of operations necessary for MSHI to operate sustainably and fully realize the educational and community-building potential the Coldwater site holds. 


The current Coldwater Ridge Visitor Center
An illustration of the updated exterior

In response, the MSHI developed a vision to transform the current facility into a world-class, environmentally and financially sustainable, nonprofit facility that provides outdoor school and other educational experiences while expanding access to public land. If realized, MSHI’s planned improvements will also enable Coldwater Ridge to welcome more students and outdoor schools while hosting events and retreats, overnight campers and guests, and more day-use visitors. These additional activities will provide self-sustaining funds needed for regular maintenance and educational programming while increasing access for visitors coming to connect with and experience this unique and inspiring landscape.     

MSHI’s proposal calls for the creation of new lodges to house students attending outdoor schools, improvements to the existing visitor center, 10 new cabins, staff housing, the construction of a new campground, outdoor classrooms and amphitheaters, and more, enabling visitors to experience Mount St. Helens over multiple days rather than a short visit.

According to MSHI, the new developments will be built to Living Building Challenge standards, using the most sustainable building materials and practices available. Because of the existing infrastructure (including multiple buildings and large parking area), there will be only limited impacts on the landscape outside of areas that have already experienced extensive disturbances. While increased use and development may sometimes result in negative consequences, this site, which is easily accessible from Interstate 5 and lies along the route to the well-used Johnston Ridge Observatory, already experiences significant visitation. In this instance, the upgraded facilities and environmental education provided there could actually help reduce negative impacts while increasing access.

Mount St. Helens is an incredible place that deserves to be sustainably enjoyed and cherished by all. CFC is supportive of the MSHI’s plan to increase access to and appreciation of the natural world–especially for students and outdoor schools. Once the final design and engineering work are complete, the Forest Service will present the plans and an analysis of their potential impacts to the environment for public review and feedback in compliance with processes required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). CFC will participate in the NEPA process and offer feedback and comment to ensure the project will not impact ecosystems and species within the Monument and surrounding landscape.