Maple Creek Reach Restoration

 

Maple Creek Reach Scotch Broom Pull and Planting Party

Saturday, April 22 – Earth Day Celebration (9 AM – 1 PM)

Whether you like the challenge of pulling scotch broom or the satisfaction of planting trees, there is something for everyone at Whatcom Land Trust’s Earth Day celebration at Maple Creek Reach!  After getting down and dirty for the work party, relax and celebrate at our Earth Day BBQ!

For more information visit our Stewardship page

 

Maple Creek Reach from Carl Franz on Vimeo.

Twenty-eight miles east of Bellingham on Hwy 542 is the town of Maple Falls. It’s named after the waterfalls found in the nearby Whatcom County park on which Whatcom Land Trust holds a conservation easement. Just south of Maple Falls,  Maple Creek feeds into the North Fork of the Nooksack River. Like most creeks and rivers, Maple Creek’s natural habit is to fan out into several channels as it hits flat land, then meander across the historic floodplain before meeting up with the river. This results in a fan-shaped forested wetland riddled with pools and small channels.  The area along the Nooksack where the creek and its associated wetlands have created a distinctive ecosystem is known as the Maple Creek Reach (a “reach” being a stretch of river).

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Many years ago, this wetland was cleared, ditched and and leveled for raising dairy cows and growing hay and a few stands of Christmas trees. The many meandering channels that used to wind among the trees and ferns and shrubs became a few straight ditches, exposed to the elements. Over the past decade, in three separate transactions, WLT has acquired this former alluvial fan of Maple Creek. Now we’d like to restore the land to it’s natural state. From this:

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To this:

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We have good reason to envision this transformation. On a small portion of the reserve near the mouth of the creek, the ecosystem remains largely intact, demonstrating the potential we aim to for.

Beaver ponds store water and house these trout…

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…and ensure that stream flows remain adequate for the salmon species that spawn in late summer:

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Bear, coyotes, eagles, otters and bobcats have  been observed hunting along the lower creek.  All five Pacific Salmon species use these waters. Staff have observed migratory songbirds, resident raptors, wading birds and waterfowl on the reserve.  WLT plans to expand this functioning ecosystem that currently exists on just a small portion of the reserve to encompass the entire 110-acre reach of the river. The multi-stage restoration plan began in the fall of 2013.  Derelict buildings were removed and the site replanted. Volunteers tore out an old fence and tended to young trees.

Over the next few years, the exposed ditches in the fallow fields will be returned to their natural state as meandering channels. The neglected Christmas trees will be cut and used to provide the large woody debris that fish use for shelter.  Hummocks will be planted with willows to encourage beaver, who will create the ponds and wetlands that act as Coho salmon nurseries and ensure adequate streamflow in late summer when adult fish return to spawn. Thickets of native shrubs will be planted to shade the streams and provide habitat for resident and migratory birds.  A large field will be managed as a meadow that has already hosted the local elk herd, hawks and a cougar.

For 30+ years, WLT has focused on protecting the unique lands of Whatcom County. Over the next 30 years, we hope that our Maple Creek Reach project will exemplify WLT’s desire to bring a three-pronged approach to local conservation: Land Protection, Habitat Restoration and Community Engagement.  We hope that this project will inspire you to join us at an exciting “before” stage of a transformation that will result in an “after” teeming with life.

Please donate through our Network For Good account or send a check to PO Box 6131 Bellingham WA 98227 to support the conservation and restoration of Whatcom County’s natural assets. 

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