Wildlife Conservation & Education | Gifford Pinchot National Forest

Wildlife

The southern Washington Cascades are home to spectacular and diverse populations of wildlife. The presence of mountain lions, elk, martens, mardon skippers, and spotted frogs are all signs of a healthy landscape. We work to protect wildlife through advocacy for habitat protections and federal listings; we monitor wildlife populations, such as martens and fishers, and help reintroduce keystone species like beavers to help improve habitats and species recovery.

 


Fishers and Martens

Through our wildlife camera surveys, we are working to monitor habitat use and species assemblages in the GPNF. Our data is used to promote conservation of critical forest areas and to enhance our wildlife conservation initiatives. Understanding how carnivores and ungulates are distributed on the landscape and what areas are used by certain species informs how we develop conservation strategies and respond to management policies. With the

help of dedicated volunteers, we survey a number of sites across the forest. This year, we are concentrating on surveying management areas east of Mount St. Helens for the presence of marten and fisher as well as wildlife corridors near the crest of the Cascades where we are monitoring for the potential movement of wolves into the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

 


Beavers

Before the arrival of European traders and trappers, beavers occupied nearly every stream, creek, valley, gully and river across North America. Back then, the landscape looked very different—waterways moved slowly and meandered more. There were more ponds, swamps and bogs. Beavers are habitat creators, but their incredible fur, evolved over millennia to keep them warm and dry during long cold winters, became such a valuable commodity that the trapping and trading of this animal fueled (and financed) westward European exploration and colonization. The near complete removal of beaver from North America is a social and environmental disaster on par with the destruction of the buffalo herds that once roamed the Great Plains. We are actively working to improve habitat within the southern Washington Cascades and introducing families of beavers transplanted from farmland and suburban areas. Protecting and reintroducing this species helps restore the forest to balance–while also building climate resilience across ecosystems for the future. 

Beaver Reintroduction Project Video

 


Northern Spotted Owls

The northern spotted owl is a threatened keystone species that has been at the center of conservation and conversation in the Pacific Northwest for decades. Through our collaborative efforts and our work helping to shape timber harvest projects, we are working to ensure protection for habitat areas important for northern spotted owls (as well as a variety of species that also need healthy old-growth to thrive.)

 


Salmon, steelhead, and bull trout

It’s impossible to overstate the importance of salmon to the forest of the Pacific Northwest. In fact, in a sense, salmon are the forest. To the communities who have existed on this land the longest, salmon are sacred. Their migration from rivers and streams out to the Pacific and back links the sea and the land together in a cycle that was unbroken for millennia until the rivers of Washington and Oregon were traversed by dams. The trees foresting the Cascades are full of nitrogen provided by the bounty of the sea, and deposited by the bodies of migrating breeding salmon. Today salmonids–the family including salmon, trout, steelhead, chars, whitefish and graylings–remain an important (yet diminished) resource for the human and nonhuman residents of southwest Washington, supporting fisheries, tourism and recreation, and other species. Salmonids need cold water and gravel beds free of sediment to breed. Degradation of riparian habitats (the areas bordering rivers and streams) combined with changes to stream temperatures due to climate change may push some species to the brink. 

We are working to make sure important salmon and trout streams are protected and restored. Read more about our work to protect these areas here

 


Wolves

Are they here or are they not? Everyone has an opinion on this! But, as of yet, there is no conclusive evidence that wolves have made their way back to the southern Washington Cascades. For now, we work with our conservation partners to support wolf recovery efforts through better outreach concerning co-existence and oversight on state and federal listings. Our wildlife cameras have been out all winter so we may have surprises in store this year!

Resources:

Washington Gray Wolf Conservation and Management 2016 Annual Report

Wolf Packs in Washington