Puget Soundkeeper is kicking off eight months of celebration, reflection, and action in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act. The Act pushes us to consider how far we’ve come, and how much further we must go to protect clean water. In that spirit, we’re amplifying the work of Rose Foundation grantees, whose passionate and dedicated work exemplifies the future of clean water.

What Is the Rose Foundation?

Soundkeeper’s legal settlement payments help fund the Rose Foundation, a granting organization that supports environmental projects. The Puget Sound Stewardship and Mitigation Fund has provided funding for dozens of restoration, education, and monitoring efforts around the Puget Sound. These projects bring us from rural to urban communities, from farms to sidwalks, to kelp forests. They highlight the interconnectedness of clean water protection and remind us that our efforts to protect Puget Sound extend across the entire watershed in all its complexity.

What is Great Peninsula Conservancy?

The Great Peninsula Conservancy [GPC] was formed in 2000 to take responsibility for regional stewardship on the Kitsap Peninsula. With a mission to conserve and protect vibrant outdoor spaces for people and wildlife, GPC offers the Kitsap community a chance to connect to their forests, streams, shorelines, and greenspaces. The organization has preserved over 10,000 acres of evergreen forests, salmon streams, marine shorelines, and community parks, to date.  

GPC collaborates with community groups, local governments, tribes, and landowners, providing tools and expertise to protect land. They accomplish this by creating nature preserves that the organization owns, partnering with public agencies to create local parks, and by placing permanent restrictions on private land to help sustain family farms and forests.  

A sunset on Kitsap Peninsula

Innovative Restoration and Community Connections

Puget Soundkeeper caught up with GPC in late January, after the organization wrapped a series of community tree-planting events at Klingel-Bryan-Beard Wildlife Refuge. Two hundred and fifty volunteers planted 5,000 trees and upland vegetation(!) to complete restoration for salmon habitat. Soundkeeper Communications Manager Nicole Loeffler-Gladstone spoke with Stewardship Manager Adrian Wolf about the project. Soundkeeper edited this interview for length and clarity.  

Nicole Loeffler-Gladstone: Can you tell Soundkeeper supporters a little more about GPC, the Klingel-Bryan-Beard Wildlife Refuge [KBB], and how the Rose Foundation helped fund this project?  

Adrian Wolf: GPC is a nonprofit land trust. We protect natural lands, and rural landscapes, including Kitsap, West Peirce, and Northern Mason County. We manage or own over 100 preserves or conservation easements. Many are located to protect critical species like salmon, and other threatened and endangered species.  

Rose Foundation funded raising ecological integrity for the KBB preserve. GPC used the funding to purchase plants and revegetate the upland plant community. It has been very exciting!  

NLG: Why is KBB special?  

AW: The wildlife refuge is nearly 95 acres. We collaborated with partners to complete this massive project, including restoring tidal channels, and planting native plants. The estuary restored itself quite well with the tidal influx. The uplands, however, were more challenging.

Exotic grasses and shrubs dominated the compact, nutrient-poor soil. There was no adjacent intact forest to shade out the weeds and provide a source of tree and shrub propagules/seeds. Therefore, passive, natural regeneration was unlikely, and intervention was necessary through weed control and planting. For this phase of the project, we purchased 5,000 plants, including Douglass fir, shore pine, and big leaf maple.

When I was handed this project, I thought there was such a great opportunity to use it as a laboratory. I wanted to collect information to guide future restoration projects, so I attended seminars on assisted migration and selecting plant propagules better suited to hot, dry summers. GPC collaborated with a Western Washington University professor and graduate student. We set up a study at the KBB wildlife refuge to incorporate plant genotypes from Oregon, California, and Washington.  

A person kneels in the dirt behind a freshly planted tree.

NLG: What is your study hoping to find?  

AW: We’re comparing growth and plant mortality of the Oregon, California, and Washington genotypes of Garry oak, shore pine, and Douglas fir in four study plots. We are not introducing new species into the region, only southern genotypes. The Washington Department of Natural Resources is studying assisted migration, and so are other groups around the state. In terms of GPC land, this is the first study of its kind.  

The pace of climate change is moving faster than plants and animals can adapt. The ethics of assisted migration consider how plants and animals move in response to environmental constraints. The purpose of this study is to learn more about how science can drive future restoration projects and augment the propagules we use before they die out.  

The WWU collaboration is such an exciting opportunity to direct what we can accomplish in some of our other preserves. If these southern genotypes afford better survival and productivity, we can share our findings with other land trusts and organizations. Eventually we could expand our study to other habitat types, like riparian woodlands.   

NLG: What are some of your considerations when choosing a restoration site? How does terrestrial restoration contribute to clean water?  

AW: Salmon are the driving force of our restoration and conservation efforts. Vegetation on the margins of the estuary reduces erosion, slows runoff, and shades the water. Leaf litter is an important nutrient input.

We don’t study surface water directly, but we know that putting plants in the ground can help pull pollutants out of runoff. Vegetation on land can help stabilize eelgrass beds and kelp grass forests, partly through feeder bluff features that contribute sediment to the estuarine system. Trees and vegetation supporting Hood Canal uplands benefits salmon in the long-term.  

NLG: Was there a moment when the scale of this project really sank in?  

AW: Our AmeriCorps serviceperson Hannah McDonough, and my colleague Michaela Petrini, wrangled volunteers. They helped organize the sheer number of people necessary for this kind of project. We had people of all ages, including babies. One of my most precious moments was handing a shore pine to a young girl, and I could just see her connection with the ground and the earth. It gives me faith, to build these connections. It gives me hope.  

  • Great Peninsula Conservancy KBB 2022

All photos courtesy Hannah McDonough, Land Labs Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator VISTA