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Volunteers Steward Through All Seasons

Volunteers Steward Through All Seasons
Stewardship volunteers work to remove fencing from Friends of the Columbia Gorge's Cape Horn preserve. (photographer: Sarah Skelly)
By Sarah Skelly
Volunteer Coordinator
December 8, 2021

In the midst of staff transitions at Friends of the Columbia Gorge and waves of shifting COVID-19 safety protocols, small groups of experienced Friends volunteers have been out in the Gorge keeping pace with the invasive weeds that never seem to take pause. Through spring and summer and during rain or heat, these volunteers—equipped with gloves, tools, sanitizer, and masks—have sustained stewardship progress through a year of limited engagement. (Learn more about our Volunteer Stewardship program.)

Our volunteer crews have been pulling and planting at a dozen sites—from Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge to the Lyle Cherry Orchard—in continued partnership with Oregon Parks and Recreation, Washington State Parks, and the U.S. Forest Service in the Columbia Gorge. Their dedication has been pivotal in keeping up with the tenacity of invasive weeds like herb Robert, teasel, yellow star thistle, and Himalayan blackberry on Land Trust preserves and public lands.

A few 2021 highlights

At Friends’ Turtle Haven preserve this summer, an especially hardy crop of tansy ragwort emerged in western pond turtle nesting habitat, and our crew of equally hardy volunteers filled nearly a dozen huge garbage bags of tansy flowers.

On the Oregon side, a hiker climbing up this spring to take photos of Upper McCord Creek Falls, above the Historic Columbia River Highway, may have rounded the towering basalt corner to encounter Friends volunteers scouring the thick understory, headfirst in thimbleberry and ferns in search of those familiar pink herb Robert flowers to remove.

And this fall, in partnership with the Forest Service and the Center for Ecodynamic Restoration, volunteers continue to play a key role in supporting lupine meadow and forest restoration along Sams Walker Nature Trail, in Skamania County. Autumn stewardship kicked off here with the planting of 75 native snowberry bushes in understory previously dominated by Himalayan blackberry. Other teams removed approximately 300 feet of wire fencing from our new Cape Horn preserve, where winter visitors include local deer and elk herds.

So much of the success in preserving Gorge ecosystems and biodiversity depends on returning season after season to monitor, remove, and revegetate. Friends’ volunteers truly fill that niche and the work they accomplish is an invaluable contribution to Gorge conservation. With updated COVID-19 safety protocols in place, Friends expanded volunteer stewardship this fall to include both new and experienced volunteers.