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Aug. 7, 2022

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New start, energy for Salmon Creek Watershed Council

Planting project near WSUV reflects surge in optimism

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:

Like many Southwest Washington groups, the Salmon Creek Watershed Council has a goal — make its small corner of the world a little greener than it was the day before.

This year, and with the help of volunteers, group members hope to plant 100 trees and plants in Pleasant Valley Community Park, near the Washington State University Vancouver campus. The hope is to connect with new volunteers, meet people who live in the watershed and get about 100 plants in the ground before the day’s over.

“Our goal is five per volunteer,” said Morgan Clay, a watershed board member.

It’s a modest goal, Clay notes, and that’s by design.

About a year ago, the council was itself facing a watershed moment that had its members wondering: Could the organization rebuild its withered board and push through a period of low volunteerism, or did it make more sense to dissolve the group entirely?

Over the previous decade, the group had built a record of successful conservation work in the Salmon Creek Watershed. But it had struggled to bring in new members and the fresh ideas they would bring. Recently, long-serving members began to fade out, the mission lost clarity and ambitions waned.

As kind of a last-ditch effort, some of the members reached out to The Columbian to lay bare their situation in a story. After its publication, the group netted a few ambitious new members and decided to press on. Though they’re still short of a fully staffed board, 13 members, the group feels like they’re off to a new start. Since the first of the year, they’ve been meeting monthly, hosting volunteer events and redefining what the watershed’s future will look like. They’ve also been meeting with other volunteer organizations around the area to learn the secrets of success.

“This group has more optimism, like ‘Yeah, we can do some events, we can get going,’ ” Clay said.

Watersheds are everywhere. Simply put: They’re areas of land where water drains and collects into a central body of water, like a stream or a river. They come in varying sizes from Salmon Creek to the Columbia River Basin. The overall health of a watershed has a cascading effect on the people and wildlife that depend on it. Watershed councils are volunteer groups that restore and protect watershed ecosystems to support viable fisheries.

Jesse Bar is a young, conservation-minded person. He grew up catching salmon and steelhead, so, to him, volunteering with organizations that support their habitat just made sense. He got involved with the Salmon Creek Watershed Council last January. Right now, his job is making sure volunteers have enough doughnuts to keep them working, which doesn’t sound like a big thing, he said, but it’s emblematic of the fact that project responsibilities can be divided among more people and thus build a better experience for volunteers.

The group has goals of doing restoration on a much larger scale, but for right now, they’re starting small and working up.

More information is available at salmoncreekwatershed.org.

Columbian staff writer

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