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'Day of Caring' plants trees, removes blackberry Sept. 18

ARLINGTON — The Stilly-Snohomish Fisheries Enhancement Task Force hopes to recruit volunteers to save salmon and enhance wildlife habitat Sept. 18, by removing invasive Himalayan blackberry and planting native trees along Whitehorse Creek, near Arlington, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Whitehorse Creek is a tributary to the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River, which is an important spawning and rearing habitat for threatened Chinook and other salmonid species.

This event is part of United Way's "Day of Caring," which was established in 1992 to promote the spirit and value of volunteerism, increase awareness of local human service agencies and schools, and demonstrate what people working together for the community's good can accomplish. It targets businesses by offering employees in a workplace an opportunity to come together, develop team-building skills and make a difference in their community by taking part in one-day work projects. For this Day of Caring project, volunteers will help support the Stilly-Snohomish Fisheries Enhancement Task Force's ongoing efforts to make the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River better for salmon, wildlife and people.

"If left unchecked, invasive weeds can spread into natural ecosystems and jeopardize salmon and other wildlife that live in these habitats," said Claire Atkins-Davis of the Stilly-Snohomish Fisheries Enhancement Task Force. "Invasive weeds, like Himalayan blackberry, are plants from a foreign place that have escaped from human control and are spreading. They rapidly multiply and overwhelm native plants, and can harm animals and other organisms by disrupting food chains. Invasive species are a leading cause of why native species are listed under the Endangered Species Act."

Atkins-Davis explained that, in order to maintain the structure and function of a healthy ecosystem, native species and their habitat must be protected by removing invasive weeds. Himalayan blackberry produces up to 13,000 seeds per square yard, and creates dense thickets that can impede the natural propagation of native trees and shrubs.

"The problem with these dense blackberry thickets is they provide little to no shade or erosion control," Atkins-Davis said.

Atkins-Davis noted that a lack of adequate native riparian vegetation to provide shade can cause the water temperatures to become too warm for salmon to survive. Salmon need cold water because it holds more dissolved oxygen, which is necessary for fish to breathe and survive. She added that native trees also provide erosion control, and without them, large sediment deposits can harm salmon by getting into their gills, covering up stream bugs that salmon eat and smothering salmon nests, depriving them of oxygen.

"With your help, we can remove Himalayan blackberry and plant native trees that serve as critical habitat for salmon," Atkins-Davis said.

This event is associated with "Puget Sound Starts Here," a region-wide campaign to help restore Puget Sound.

"Our actions pollute local waterways with yard chemicals, oil, grease, soap, and bacteria from pet waste and septic systems," Atkins-Davis said. "When rainfall not absorbed by the ground flows over roads, sidewalks, driveways and yards, it picks up these pollutants. This contaminated storm water goes down storm drains and into ditches, emptying directly into streams, rivers and lakes and ending up in Puget Sound, where it stays."

Atkins-Davis estimated that approximately 75 percent of all pollution in Puget Sound comes from storm water runoff that starts in neighborhoods, and pointed out that planting trees helps to filter out some of these pollutants before they can enter the stream.

"By planting trees and keeping pollutants out of storm drains, together we can fix Puget Sound," Atkins-Davis said.

For more information, you can contact Atkins-Davis by phone at 425-252-6686, or via e-mail at claire@stillysnofish.org.

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