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Leap of faith.

The race to save the environment is lined with big hurdles, including working with unlikely partners. These tree planters have good track records.

CROSSING THE LINE: THE SAMMAMISH WATERSHED FORUM

For thousands of years the crystal clear waters of the Sammamish River were a cultural, economic, and social focus for western Washington state. A dense riparian forest sheltered the river's 54 meandering miles, cooling waters and protecting spawning salmon from lethally high temperatures. Along the river precious wetland supported a peaty, swamp-like soil, ideal for agriculture.

But all that changed in the 1960s when an Army Corps of Engineers flood-control project virtually eliminated the river's natural habitat. The dredging, straightening, and narrowing that ensued - and the accompanying land changes - lessened springtime flooding but reduced the Sammamish River to a mere 14 miles, leading to major declines in its fish populations and degrading its water quality.

The riverbanks, no longer populated with trees, became overrun with nonnatives such as Himalayan blackberry and reed canart grass. The growth of several large towns - Redmond, Woodinville, and Bothell - during the 1980s and 1990s further taxed the river's resources.

As the Sammamish grew stressed, the question arose: How best to protect both the river's needs and those of the surrounding municipalities?

A group of concerned officials in King County answered that question with one word: cooperation. That potent ingredient led the area's major cities to look beyond their differences and focus on a common goal: the health of the watershed.

This new attitude was spurred by a 1994 regional needs assessment (RNA) that confirmed their fears about the river's health. And as the only annual migration route for up to 70,000 salmon, the Sammamish's health is of concern at the federal level as well. The National Marine Fisheries Service is considering chinook for an endangered species listing in 1999.

Enter the Sammamish Watershed Forum, funded by the county and localities and comprised of elected officials from cities in the watershed and King and Snohomish counties. The Forum was given a mandate to create a 20-year plan for the watershed, locate funding, and recommend policies, projects, and programs.

The down-and-dirty work was done at the community level, supported by staff from the natural resource-related branches of government. Staff members quickly discovered they had more similarities than differences.

"We found out that everybody had the same interests, although people came at them in different ways," says coordinator Doug Osterman.

Most important, he says, was the realization that cities needed to pool their fundraising resources to implement programs such as tree planting. "This process has allowed us to focus on the priorities so we aren't competing against each other for the same funding sources. The Forum's broadened people's perspective."

Still, the early days were not easy ones. "The county was seen as this 800-pound gorilla" overseeing what municipalities were doing, says Osterman. Battling that stereotype was difficult, but a leap of faith and constant communication helped bring people together. The bottom line, says Osterman, was the realization that "everybody was doing good work at the local level, but the environment doesn't follow jurisdictional boundaries. We needed to work on a regional level, too."

This year AMERICAN FORESTS' urban Global ReLeaf Fund and corporate partner Eddie Bauer supported the Sammamish Watershed Forum's planting of 13,000 native trees and shrubs at four sites along the Sammamish River. The planting on October 24 drew about 1,000 volunteers.

The combination of community, business, and nonprofit expertise is part of what makes the Sammamish's future so bright. "The AMERICAN FORESTS and Eddie Bauer partnership allowed us to expand the scope of our project and restore much more than we would have," says Sammamish ReLeaf coordinator Jennifer Rice. "But it also helps to get the word out that these are important projects and that local communities can do something to improve the environment in their region by partnering with organizations with different resources and expertise."

RIVERS TO FORD: THE LOWER RIO GRANDE VALLEY NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE

Once jaguars sharpened their claws on a multitude of shoreline trees at this Global ReLeaf Forest site along the Rio Grande at the far southern tip of Texas.

Today jaguars have gone the way of an estimated 95 percent of that region's subtropical habitat, lost in settlers efforts to clear land for cotton, citrus, and other crops. As the trees and other plants that supported the diverse wildlife disappeared, the remaining forests became fragmented, creating a patchwork of trees incapable of supporting indigenous animals, plants, and birds.

For those reasons Congress in 1979 established the Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge near Alamo, Texas. More than halfway to acquiring its congressionally mandated goal of 132,500 acres, the refuge is intended as the core of a wildlife corridor that will support some of the rarest species in the world, including the endangered ocelot and jaguarundi, red-crowned parrot and chachalaca, Texas ebony trees, and Indigo snakes.

Purchasing that land, however, requires delicacy and flexibility on the government's part. Partnerships are especially important here - between old farm owners and their new federal neighbors, between nonprofit organizations and federal agencies, and between American officials on one side of the Rio Grande and their Mexican counterparts on the other.

Fortunately, public support for reforestation and land purchase is high. The reason, according to Chris Best, the refuge's plant ecologist, is a combination of residents' appreciation for environmental resources and government consideration for the particular problems and challenges facing the region.

"Texas has a lower percentage of publicly owned land than any other state," says Best. And the need for recreational areas is especially great in south Texas, where outdoor recreationists began noticing a sharp drop in the population of doves and fish during the 1970s.

Equally important was the government's willingness to work with local farmers. After purchasing cropland from willing sellers, the refuge enters into a Cooperative Farming Agreement (CFA) with the local farmerowner. In traditional CFAs, the farmer would then cultivate a standing grain crop, which would benefit migratory birds such as geese.

Because reforestation is a high priority here, farmers instead provide in-kind tree-planting services equal to the land's pre-determined rental value. Each year, with assistance from the refuge, the farmer reforests approximately 10 percent of the land while continuing to cultivate agricultural products on the rest. After five to 10 years the cropland will be entirely reforested, giving the farmer ample time to adjust his operations or rent more land.

Growing trees in this region, though, is no easy task. With unpredictable tropical weather and frequent droughts, the Lower Rio Grande Valley requires hearty, strong seedlings with solid root systems. Once in the ground, those seedlings wage a constant battle with exotic grasses, many of which are extremely difficult to kill.

Searching for ways to meet those challenges is what first led Best to apply for a Global ReLeaf grant in 1997. This year AMERICAN FORESTS and corporate partner Mobil Corporation will support the planting of 86,000 trees. Since the partnership began, they've planted more than 124,000 trees.

"Without the grant we would have to cut back on the number of acres we revegetate," Best says. "And if I don't have the trees for the cooperative farmers to plant, it's hard to get the government to match the grant."

Last year's Global ReLeaf grant helped reforest 63 acres at the Palo Alto Battlefield National Historic Site, near Brownsville, Texas, where the MexicanAmerican War began in 1846. Valley Proud Environmental Council, a local nonprofit, scheduled the planting during its annual "Rio Reforestation" effort, attracting 700 school-age and university students, Americorps volunteers, Scouts, and city and municipal employees. Best says the importance of such events is immeasurable.

"It's one thing to talk about [planting] in a classroom, but doing it with your hands is another. People who attended the event said they'd come back and check on their trees," Best says. "It's a way of linking people with conservation and the refuge."

And the more people they can educate, the better. One goal of the refuge's is to stimulate similar reforestation efforts on the other side of the Rio Grande in Mexico.

"The ducks that fly over the river don't know where the border is," says Best. "It's pointless to protect habitat on only one side."

HEALING DAMAGED LANDS: THE PENNSYLVANIA FORESTRY ASSOCIATION

When a devastating 1990 forest fire left nearly 10,000 acres of Sproul State Forest in Clinton County, Pennsylvania, bare of trees, officials faced two unlikely challenges.

Hardwood species, once the bulk of the forest, needed to be replaced but because of their extensive root system would have to be replanted by hand. The area's burgeoning deer population presented the second challenge: How to keep Bambi and friends from nibbling on newly planted trees. Electric fences or individual tree shelters, the best solutions, were expensive orals.

With such costs beyond the resources of the Pennnsylvania Forestry Association, then-president Norm Lacasse called on friends and neighbors for help. The result? A long-term relationship with AMERICAN FORESTS' Global ReLeaf, corporations, other forest-related organizations, and citizens.

In five years, the partnership has planted more than 14,000 red oak, black cherry, white ash, and other varieties. Grant money goes toward the purchase of tree shelters, and the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry donates seedlings. The muscle comes from Penn State and Lock Haven State University students, local high schools, scout groups, and members of Penn ReLeaf and district forestry staff.

The widespread support for this project is heartening, says Lacasse. He credits part of the enthusiasm to AMERICAN FORESTS' involvement. "AMERICAN FORESTS has an excellent reputation as a leader in conservation and reforestation. When our other partners . . . know that this [project] has the backing of AMERICAN FORESTS, they are much more inclined to donate some money."

Although the work is far from complete, the wealth of volunteer and corporate commitment means that Sproul State Forest may soon return to forest, providing recreational opportunities, wildlife habitat, and timber products.

MOUNTAINS TO CLIMB: THE ECOLOGICAL YOUTH OF ROMANIA

Massive rains hit the green hillsides of Romania's Bucegi Mountains in July 1997, snuffing out trees, destroying homes, damaging the water supply, and increasing stream erosion.

For residents of the Jepi Valley, located at the base of the mountains, this disaster was merely one more chapter in decades of ecological decline.

The Bucegis (and the accompanying Bucegi National Park), part of the Carpathian Mountains, attract an estimated 500,000 tourists every year, many of whom, ironically, neglect the very resource that attracted them. High unemployment, some say, encourages less-than-sustainable tree-harvesting practices by the Valley's major employer, a paper factory in the town of Busteni. That results in deforestation, landslides, and soil erosion.

Despite all this, the Bucegi Mountains are widely acknowledged as an ecological gem. Containing 70 percent of all species indigenous to the Carpathians, the Bucegis feature alpine meadows and a wide variety of animals and plants. Birch, elm, sycamore, maple, pine, and spruce are only some of the trees found in the region. Still, the pressure of economics and the reality of disaster recovery often cripple efforts to protect the valley's environment.

Those challenges haven't stopped Global ReLeaf partner The Ecological Youth of Romania (TER) from planting trees. Founded in 1991, TER coordinates government, nonprofit, corporation, and citizen efforts to encourage sustainability. One of their major projects: tree planting for environmental and educational benefits.

Funding front AMERICAN FORESTS helps indirectly with outreach, an important aspect of the tree-planting campaign, says TER president Bogdan Paranici. The campaign last year planted 1,800 sycamore maple, pine, and birch. Carried out over several weekends last fall, those plantings drew approximately 100 volunteers. And while that number may seem small, Paranici sees it as a good start in a region where people are struggling to put food on the table.

"The number of volunteers was pretty big, taking into account [the] general low level of public involvement and community participation in Romania," said Paranici in a recent report. "People [have] begun to understand how valuable trees are for the environment they live in."

He attributes the community's enthusiasm to TER's publicity campaign and a photo exhibit of the region's oldest trees, which TER displayed at the Romanian Environmental Centre, its Busteni office. Seeing the pictures helped "make people aware [off the values they have near them," said Paranici.

A second Global ReLeaf planting this past April attracted 150 volunteers, including children, tourists, and students home for the Easter holiday. Paranci says such interest is "a result of the slow process of behavior changing" that he hopes will ultimately lead to more tree plantings. Those trees will stop erosion, improve aesthetics, and possibly provide employment opportunities for area residents.

AMERICAN FORESTS' corporate partner Briggs and Stratton Corporation supported both Global ReLeaf efforts, paying for planting-related expenses. Another nonprofit organization, the Forestry Research Institute, provided assistance with site preparation and will monitor the trees' health for two years.

These partnerships are important for many reasons, says Paranici, not the least of which is the "empowerment" that support from organizations like AMERICAN FORESTS gives to Romanians.

"Transferring the . . . ownership of ideas from FORESTS to TER [is seen by decisionmakers] as crucial to a clear articulation of new concepts associated [with] improving [the] global environment," says Paranici. Public support has led to more TER initiatives, including projects promoting climate change mitigation and reforestation in other countries.

Finally, Paranici says, AMERICAN FORESTS helps "open windows of opportunities . . . and helps us think about the future and sustainability of our actions."

A QUICK LOOK: FOUR GLOBAL RELEAF SITES

SAMMAMISH RIVER

Where: Western Washington state, near Redmond

Size: 14 miles

Global ReLeaf Fund site: 1/2 mile of riverbank

Trees Planted: More than 13,000 native trees and shrubs: Douglas-fir, sitka spruce, various willow, bigleaf maple, Oregon ash, salmonberry shrub, nootka rose, twinberry

Animals that Benefit: Chinook, coho, and sockeye salmon (wild and hatchery), river otter, great blue heron, various small mammals and birds, hawks

Sponsors: AMERICAN FORESTS, Sammamish Watershed Forum, King County, cities of Bothell, Redmond, and Woodinville, Washington State Jobs for the Environment Program, World Conservation Corps, ARCO

Corporate Sponsor: Eddie Bauer

LOWER RIO GRANDE VALLEY NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE

Where: Southern Texas, on the border with Mexico

Size: 1,500+ miles (entire Rio Grande)

Global ReLeaf Forest site: 570 acres

Trees Planted: 124,854 huisache, tepeguaje, Texas ebony, retama, Wright's acacia, honey mesquite, anacua, granjeno, brasil, more than 60 others

Animals that Benefit: Green jay, chachalaca, ocelot, jaguarundi, red-crowned parrot, indigo snake, buff-bellied hummingbird

Sponsors: AMERICAN FORESTS, farmers in Cooperative Farming Program, Valley Proud Environmental Council, Audubon Sabal Palm Sanctuary, National Park Service, Mexican agencies and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)

Corporate Sponsor: Mobil Corporation

TWO ROCKS RUN FIRE AREA (SPROUL STATE FOREST)

Where: Near State College, Pennsylvania

Size: 9,656-acre burn area (280,000 acres, entire forest)

Global ReLeaf Forest site: Entire burn area

Trees Planted: 14,430 red oak, black cherry, white ash, white pine, pitch pine, apple

Animals that Benefit: Black bear, wild turkey, ruffed grouse, gray and red squirrels, white-tailed deer, blue jay, scarlet tanager, many songbirds, small rodents

Sponsors: AMERICAN FORESTS, Hardwood Plywood and Veneer Association, Walnut Acres Organic Farm, Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry, Penn ReLeaf

Corporate Sponsor: Triangle Pacific Flooring Group

BUCEGI MOUNTAINS

Where: Jepi Valley, Romania, 63 miles northwest of Bucharest

Global ReLeaf Forest site: 62 acres

Trees Planted: 1,800 sycamore maple, birch, pine, elm, beech, older, spruce fir

Animals that Benefit: Brown bear, peregrine falcon, chamois, red fox, long-eared owl, grey wolf, great spotted woodpecker

Sponsors: AMERICAN FORESTS, Forestry Research Institute, NGOs

Corporate Sponsor: Briggs and Stratton Corporation

WANTED: A FEW GOOD PLANTERS

URBAN SITES

Do you know of a good Global ReLeaf Fund site? For information, contact AMERICAN FORESTS' Karen Fedor at 202/955-4500, ext. 224 or kfedor@amfor.org.

RURAL SITES

Is there a damaged land near you that could use a Global ReLeaf Forest grant? Contact AMERICAN FORESTS' Bill Tikkala at 202/955-4500, ext. 204 or biltik@amfor.org.

INTERNATIONAL GRANTS

Would a Global ReLeaf grunt help your organization achieve its goals? Contact AMERICAN FORESTS' Chrystia Sonevytsky at 202/955-4500, ext. 231, or chrystia@amfor.org.

1999 GLOBAL RELEAF SITES

What do bald eagles, canebrake rattlesnakes, grizzly bears, Chinook salmon, and purple bladderworts (tiny carnivorous plants that float on water) have in common? They're all rare, threatened, or endangered species that live in the sites targeted as 1999 Global ReLeaf Forests.

Another 2.5 million Global ReLeaf trees will be put to work in protecting wildlife habitat, cleaning the air, filtering water, and enhancing recreational opportunities. The trees will help restore damaged forest ecosystems in 64 sites across the country and in Canada.

ARKANSAS

Pointe Remove Wildlife Management Area

ALASKA

Homer Demonstratian Forest

CALIFORNIA

California Oak Foundation projects Klamath National Forest Kings Range Conservation Area Mt. Baldy District Demonstration Forest San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Tahoe National Forest Three Sisters Bald Eagle Winter Roost

COLORADO

Buffalo Creek Reforestation

DELAWARE

Milford Neck Preserve

FLORIDA

Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve Econfina Creek Water Management Area Lake George Reforestation Lake Monroe Conservation Area Loxahatchee Slough Restoration St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge

GEORGIA

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge

IDAHO

Targhee National Forest

ILLINOIS

Moraine Hills State Park

KANSAS

Marais des Cygnes National Wildlife Refuge

LOUISIANA

Bayou Cocodrie National Wildlife Refuge

MARYLAND

Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge Gunpowder Falls State Park I Gunpowder Falls State Park II Hart-Miller Island Long Green Valley Conservancy Project Patapsco River Valley State Park Seneca Creek State Park Town of Union Bridge Restoration

MICHIGAN

NW Lower Michigan Riparian Corridors

MISSISSIPPI

St. Catherine Creek National Wildlife Refuge

MISSOURI

Arkansas-Missouri Sand Ponds Natural Area

NEBRASKA

Ft. Robinson State Park

NEW JERSEY

Greenwood Wildlife Management Area

NEW YORK

Beaverkill Watershed I Beaverkill Watershed II Otsego Creek Sunrise Fire Restoration

NORTH CAROLINA

North End Elementary School

OREGON

Applegate Watershed Restoration Illinois River Watershed

PENNSYLVANIA

Two Rocks Run Fire (Sproul State Forest)

PUERTO RICO

Carite State Forest Reforestation

SOUTH CAROLINA

Francis Marion National Forest

TENNESSEE

African-American Reforestation Program

TEXAS

Alazan Bayou Wildlife Refuge Lower Rio Grande National Wildlife Refuge Red River County Roy E. Larsen Sandyland Sanctuary

UTAH

Fishlake National Forest

VIRGINIA

West Ox Road Landfill Restoration

WASHINGTON

Sammamish Watershed Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest Re-Green Logging Roads (5 sites) South Puget Sound Enhancement Group

WISCONSIN

Barron County Forest Bayfield County Forest Black River State Forest

MULTI-STATE

National Wild Turkey Foundation projects

CANADA

British Columbia - Operation Creekshade Alberta-Calgary area Quebec - La Baie
COPYRIGHT 1999 American Forests
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:protecting the Sammamish River
Author:Guglielmino, Janine E.
Publication:American Forests
Date:Jan 1, 1999
Words:3071
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