2021 September Newsletter

Letter from our president, Jeff Wirtz

Greetings to all our Foundation friends,

We hope that everyone is enjoying the transition into fall. Our team has been busy preparing for our Fall for Fish fundraiser on Oct. 23rd. This year’s event will be a really special and fun way to preview all the preservation and conservation work underway in Hidden Valley. If you didn’t see the invite in your e-mail, registration information is now online. Your support is what allows us to care for the Preserve and support numerous conservation and education efforts. We hope that you can join us!

Ryan Walsh, a local aerial arborist, climbed Big Tree earlier this summer to check on its overall health and keep the tree’s visitors safe by clearing out any large branches at risk of falling into the viewing area. Ryan reported that Big Tree is currently 230 feet tall and about 10 feet in diameter at the base. He estimates Big Tree is more than 800 years old! If you want to see what the Preserve looks like from the top of Big Tree, you can check out his photos and video footage on our Facebook page!

Speaking of Big Tree, many thanks to everyone who joined us for the Old-Growth Forest Network dedication event on Sept. 25th. We’re very excited to be part of this national effort to protect old-growth forests! You can see photos from the event on our Facebook page and in the article below.

Finally, I want to express thanks and appreciation to our interns. They have spent the summer working on updates to our Preserve management plan and producing new data layers for our Preserve maps. They also produced a new field survey manual to help guide the work of future interns who will help us collect data about the health of the Preserve. Their work will significantly improve our ability to analyze the health of the Preserve and manage it for future generations to enjoy. We are so grateful they have been putting their skills and knowledge to work for the Foundation.

Stay healthy and well,

— Jeff Wirtz
President, Keta Legacy Foundation,
also known as Mountaineers Foundation


Checking on our planted seedlings

In January 2021, the Foundation planted 360 seedling trees on the Rhododendron Preserve. These were planted in three different parts of the Preserve:

  • Along a section of Big Tree trail where root rot is beginning to damage the Douglas Fir trees, we planted a lot of Western Red Cedar trees as well as some White Pine trees. Both these trees are resistant to root rot.
  • On the Wymer Parcel, a buffer parcel that is slowly being restored to forest land, we planted mainly White Pine with some Western Red Cedar.
  • In Hidden Valley, where trees to shade the creeks is limited, we planted a mix of Cedar and Pine.

As I hike out to Big Tree and back, I look at the seedlings and most of them have been doing well. These seedlings have the benefit of mature trees that maintain conditions favorable to the survival of infant trees. In some cases, the mature trees even adopt the seedlings and nurture them by sharing nutrients and water.

Unfortunately, the seedlings planted in Hidden Valley don’t have the same favorable conditions or the support of the mature trees. These seedlings are exposed to the full force of the sun, and most of the ones planted in Hidden Valley have not survived the extreme temperatures and drought conditions of the past summer. There are only a few that are thriving.

The seedlings planted on the Wymer Parcel are the ones that I find most interesting. These three Cedar seedlings are planted within 20 yards of each other, but each has slightly different growing conditions.

dry, brown cedar seedling

healthy, vibrant green cedar seedling

unhealthy cedar seedling with brown patches

  • The seedling that didn’t survive was planted in a clearing with no other trees nearby.
  • The healthy, thriving seedling was planted in an opening among mature trees.
  • The brown patches on the third seedling, which was planted on the edge of a stand of young trees, show signs of damage, but the seedling may yet survive.

The best predictor of seedling survival appears to be the presence of mature trees. Since we know that trees care for their young, this isn’t a big surprise. Like the young of many animals, tree babies need adult trees to take care of them. When there are no adult trees present, seedlings need care from people. We’ll be exploring ways to irrigate seedlings planted in Hidden Valley and on the Wymer Parcel when we plant there in the future.

— Katha Miller-Winder
Education Committee Chair


Rhododendron Preserve is honored to join national forest network

A group of about 20 adults and children are standing in the forest under the shade of tall fir trees smiling at the camera. Two of the adults are holding plaques with the logo of the Old-Growth Forest Network.In case you missed it, the Foundation was honored to participate in a dedication event last month to induct the Preserve into the national Old-Growth Forest Network. The network’s mission is to create a national network of protected old-growth forests where people of all generations can experience biodiversity and the beauty of nature. There are currently 143 forests in the network, now including ours! The Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park is also part of the network.

Dr. Sarah Horsley presents the dedication plaque to Foundation president Jeff Wirtz“The Rhododendron Preserve is the heart of the best habitat left for Keta and coho salmon in the Chico Creek system,” said Foundation secretary Mindy Roberts during the ceremony. “This forest has come dangerously close to being lost multiple times – from the threat of fires, logging, and economic instability. The Foundation, inspired by this unique forest, takes our commitment to stewardship and reciprocity seriously. We are thrilled to expand our human network to include the Old-Growth Forest Network, and in doing so, provide mutual benefit for years to come.”

Dr. Sarah Horsley, the Network’s Manager, presented a plaque to Foundation president Jeff Wirtz. Participants, which included members of the local Girl Scout troop, were then invited for a hike along Big Tree Trail.


What salmon need

There’s an easy mnemonic about what salmon need in creeks in order to survive and thrive. Hold up four fingers and remember the 4 Cs: cool, clear, clean, and consistent water.
When water is too warm, salmon suffer. A lack of trees shading stream banks, large amounts of pavement around a creek, or low water levels can increase water temperatures and endanger salmon.
Clear water improves salmon’s ability to navigate and maintains their health since they don’t have to filter out mud and muck as they breathe and eat. A healthy salmon stream has a nicely cobbled bed of rocks, which minimizes mud and muck rising from the bottom. Trees along the banks anchor the soil, so that it does not erode into the stream muddying the water.
Salmon need clean water that isn’t polluted with chemicals, garbage, and trash. Protecting creeks from run-off from lawns, agriculture, and roadways helps keep water clean.

A healthy salmon stream is a consistent year-round stream. Importantly, consistent water isn’t just sitting there. The water flows at a steady rate to keep the water oxygenated and fresh. Still water that isn’t moving stagnates and becomes a breeding ground for algae and plant growth that will further impede and choke the flow of water.

In a typical year, the three salmon streams on our Rhododendron Preserve exemplify all four Cs. The water in our well-shaded creeks is cool. It stays clear thanks to the trees and other plants that securely hold the banks in place, minimize erosion of soil into the creeks, and filter run-off. The healthy and protected forest surrounding the creeks keeps the water clean. And regular rains maintain a healthy flow of consistent water.

stagnant water in wildcat creekSadly, this year’s heat dome events resulted in water temperatures that were higher than normal. The extremely dry conditions mean more dust has been blowing into the creeks, making the water slightly murky. The water is still fairly clean, but drought conditions have lowered the water level and some stagnant areas are present where you can see a faint scum of algae and plant growth.

We can each take several steps to do our part to protect salmon streams. Practice conservation and use water wisely. Plant trees and native drought-tolerant plants. Practice sustainable gardening and agriculture that doesn’t rely on regular infusions of chemicals to maintain growth. It’s in our power to make choices that make a difference.

— Katha Miller-Winder
Education Committee Chair


Upcoming events and reminders

  • October 23rd – Fall For Fish. We’re back in person this year! Instead of our regular gala, we will offer donors a boxed lunch at the Preserve and small group tours into Hidden Valley to see the return of the salmon, catch a preview of the restoration work underway, and learn about the new bridge and pavilion being built. Purchase your tickets online!
  • They’re coming… and this time in person! We’re excited to announce the return of in-person Kitsap Salmon Tours this year. The kickoff date will be November 6th, so keep your calendar clear. These tours are possible thanks to a partnership with local governments, the Suquamish Tribe, WSU Extension, Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, and several other conservation nonprofits.
  • Coming soon – Preserve work party! We’ve spotted non-native, invasive spotted jewelweed in a few locations throughout the Preserve. We’ll announce a work party soon – keep an eye on our Facebook page and website for information.
  • Scavenger hunts, forest bingo, video adventures and more! If you haven’t had a chance to peruse our new Education Resources page, now is a great time to find a fun indoor or outdoor learning adventure for the young and young at heart.