Monday, February 23, 2015

What Cascadia Does, Part II

Two weeks ago we took a look at how Cascadia Conservation District is an asset to the community through its Landowner Owner Assistance Program. Continuing with that theme, we’re going to take a quick look at the Family Forest Fish Passage Program, which is run by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources- one of Cascadia’s partnering organizations. Cascadia’s roll in this program is to help Chelan County landowners determine eligibility, file the application and finally oversee implementation once funding is made available by the DNR.
Culverts like these block fish passage,
especially for juvenile fish.

A good portion of Washington’s forested land, 3.2 million acres (, is privately owned by small forest landowners. These 3.2 million acres are an important habitat component in a state with federally protected anadromous fish populations. This is where the Family Forest Fish Passage Program comes in.

Working with qualified landowners, the purpose of the Family Forest Fish Passage Program is to replace culverts and other barriers with new structures that allow fish easy passage and reduce habitat degradation while improving access for land owners. Common culprits, culverts can degrade and dissect fish habitat in several ways. A culvert can deter fish passage if there is a drop, similar to a water fall, from the output of the culvert. Similarly, a culvert can become a barrier if it is undersized, creating high water velocity and pressure so great it prevents fish, especially juveniles, from advancing upstream.

Unlike our Landowner Assistance Program, there are several conditions for eligibility. You must be a private small forest landowner and harvest less than 2 million board feet of timber annually from your property. The barrier must be associated with a road and on forested land capable of supporting a merchantable stand of timber. Finally, the barrier must be in a fish-bearing stream, typically wider than 2 feet with a gradient less than 20%.

If you’d like to learn more about this program, visit the Washington State Department of Natural Resources website, call our office at (509) 436-1601 or come to our office at 15 N Mission St. Wenatchee, WA.

Today’s snowpack in North Central Washington is down to 55% of the 34 year average (

Thursday, February 12, 2015

What Cascadia Does

“Oh yeah, the conservation district… That must be, uh, some interesting work?” Verbatim, my loquacious uncle’s reply when I told him what I’ve been up to and where I’m working. Like most, my uncle had no idea what a conservation district is. Surprisingly, I’ve had a hard time getting people to understand just what a conservation district does. There is no easy elevator speech for conservation districts. So I’d like to use the next few blog posts to highlight some of our programs.

 Officially, from the National Association of Conservation Districts’ website,"Conservation districts are local units of government established under state law to carry out natural resource management programs at the local level. Districts work with millions of cooperating landowners and operators to help them manage and protect land and water resources on all private lands and many public lands in the United States" ( In short, it is an organization that seeks to help people take care of the land and environment around us. Cascadia’s landowner assistance program is one of several ways we do this.

A hedgerow, planted to attract pollinators and other beneficial insects.
 The landowner assistance program is for landowners in Chelan County, excluding those within Wenatchee and Chelan city limits, who are looking for technical and/or financial assistance in installing best management practices (land use practices which mitigate environmental degradation). This could mean replacing outdated irrigation, restoring buffers or riparian zones or even soil testing. Because of this area’s predominant agriculture industry, its proximity to anadromous fish habitat and its proclivity for wildfires, much of our landowner assistance is for landowners with streamside, farmland, orchard or forested property. That said, if your land does not fall in one of these categories, it does not disqualify you for such assistance.

An excellent example of landowners who not only took advantage of our landowner assistance program, but also became role models for environmental stewardship, was highlighted in a blogpost of ours from November 21, 2011.

If you’d like more information on landowner assistance you can call us at (509) 436-1601, email us at or just come by our office at 14 N Mission St. Landowner assistance is only a fraction of what we do here at Cascadia, so please come back next week for a look at the Family Forest Fish Passage Program.

With all of the warm weather and rain we’ve had in the last week, today’s snow pack in our area is a measly 63% of the 34 year average.  

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Wild and Scrumptious

Continuing with our native plant theme, and considering several of our native plants for sale are edible, it seems appropriate to devote a blog to edible native plants. Before delving into this topic, I’d like to be clear that eating plants found in the wild holds some risk and should not be done in a casual manner. If you’re a novice identifying plants or are unsure, it’s best to get a second or third opinion from someone in the know before munching down.

There are many benefits to eating wild plants. First of all it’s free, and as someone on a tight AmeriCorps budget, I’m all for free. Also, generally speaking, plants lose nutritional value the longer they sit after being harvested. So you get more bang for your buck when you eat freshly harvested plants. Depending on values and disposition, it’s also common that people gain a deeper appreciation for the things they eat when they’re able to see their food in its natural environment and gather it themselves.

Being a novice in the subject myself, it seems the best place to start is with plants that are relatively easy to identify and have no poisonous lookalikes. It’s also recommended that one learn the few poisonous plants around in order to better avoid them. The following are just a few examples of the many tasty edible plants you can find in our area:

-Evergreen Huckleberry produces edible berries, which are commonly used to make delicious jelly and jam.
Evergreen Huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum)
-Hooker’s, or tapertip onion has edible flowers and bulbs and can be consumed raw or cooked. While raw this onion is said to be overpowering, it’s purportedly sweet and delectable when cooked.

Hooker's Onion (Allium acuminatum)
-Camas also has edible bulbs which can be eaten raw or cooked. When cooked, they’re known to be sweeter than a sweet potato. The bulbs can also be ground into flour. It should be noted that Camas has a deadly lookalike aptly named "death camas". To avoid any fatal mix-ups, double, triple or even quadruple check to be sure you've got the right camas. It's easiest to distinguish one from the other while they're flowering.

Camas (Camassia)
-Wild licorice was commonly used by Native Americans. They have sweet, fleshy roots which get sweeter when cooked.
Wild Locrice (Glycyrrhiza lepidota)
If you’re like me, your mouth is watering just thinking about those scrumptious local flora and you can’t wait to get out and try your hand at finding, preparing and devouring such delicacies. And, if you’re a novice like me, you probably need to pump your breaks, hard. Not only is it the wrong time of year to be gathering many of these edible plants, but there are also some guidelines everyone should abide by when harvesting wild plants. This list of dos and don’ts is from the Washington State University Snohomish County Extension website (

  • Know what you are picking
  • Collect only what you can positively identify as edible
  • Harvest only plants that look healthy in uncontaminated areas
  • Clean and prepare wild foods like you do cultivated crops
  • Eat only small quantities when first trying an edible plant
  • Get property owners' permission before gathering wild foods
  • Never over-harvest. Take only what you can use and use what you take.

If this blog has convinced you to take up gathering wild edible plants, there are plenty of resources online to help you get started. There are also some great field guides worth their weight in edible flora such as A Field Guide to Edible Fruits and Berries of the Pacific Northwest by Richard J. Hebda and Edible and Medicinal Plants of the West by Gregory L. Tilford.

While it’s been raining down here in Wenatchee, the higher elevations have been getting snow which has increased our snowpack in this area to 64% of the 34 year average (