Habitat Improvement

Read about our ongoing habitat improvement work.

Jan 29

Rappelling for Restoration: Crews Share Steep Slope Safety Skills

Posted on January 29, 2024 at 1:35 PM by Gracie DeMeo

Crew supervisor Dan Nakamura demonstrating knots for the team assembled.

Tacoma crew supervisor Dan Nakamura demonstrates safety knots.

Earlier this winter, restoration crews from Pierce and Thurston Conservation Districts spent the day with the City of Tacoma’s Washington Conservation Corps crews at the McKinley Slope Restoration area overlooking the Tacoma Dome and the Thea Foss Waterway. Through a dense fog, crew members watched demonstrations of knot tying, rope work, and safety instructions for accessing steep slopes for restoration planting. The City of Tacoma’s crew supervisors Kevin Sandin and Dan Nakamura bring over ten years of experience to steep slope restoration and generously shared their best techniques and lessons learned. 

TCD crew members try their hand at erosion control fabric installation after a demonstration from th

Tacoma crew supervisor Kevin Sandin teaches the crew members techniques for installing and planting into erosion control fabric.

By mid-morning it was time to hit the slopes. With continued instruction, the crews planted, mulched, and installed erosion control fabric on the McKinley Slope to supplement previous planting efforts.

PCD’s WCC crew finishes their installation of erosion control fabric to support a restoration planti

 Crew members try their hand at erosion control fabric installation after a demonstration from the City of Tacoma.

Conservation Districts and municipalities partner with a number of restoration crews from organizations like AmeriCorps’ Washington Conservation Corps program, to accomplish on-the-ground conservation. These are the folks who get things done! 

Pierce Conservation District and City of Tacoma’s WCC crews at the steep slope training.

Pierce Conservation District’s Washington Conservation Corps crew finishes their installation of erosion control fabric to support a restoration planting.

Starting this year, the Pierce crew is gearing up to support our Shore Friendly Pierce program, which sponsored this training opportunity. Restoration crews take on all kinds of projects, gaining new skills and experience along the way. Cross-trainings like this one expand the work our crew is able to do for conservation in Pierce County. 

Pierce Conservation District and City of Tacoma’s WCC crews at the steep slope training.

Pierce Conservation District and City of Tacoma’s WCC crews at the steep slope training. 

Nov 27

King Tides Wash In With Winter Holidays

Posted on November 27, 2023 at 1:40 PM by Gracie DeMeo

by Mary Krauszer

‘Tis the season for high waters on the Puget Sound shoreline, which bring with them the opportunity for action to prevent marine pollution and build resilience on our shores.

King tides - the highest astronomical tides of the year – can exceed 15 feet in elevation on our South Sound shorelines. You may recall the king tide of Dec. 27, 2022, during which a high tide cooccurred with a low-pressure weather system, causing record-breaking water levels at tide stations throughout the South Sound. This winter, you can expect king tides Nov. 28-30, Dec. 15-17, and Jan. 14-16.

Tide washed in to the edge of a sand spit.

High water at the Tacoma DeMoly Sandspit Nature Preserve, Fox Island, during a 2022 king tide.

During king tide events, water can reach high onto our shoreline properties, increasing marine pollution and causing episodic erosion. We can prepare for king tides by making sure all floatable materials - like kayaks, lawn chairs, and landscaping equipment - are moved far enough away from the shoreline so they won't be washed away and become marine trash. We can also protect our properties from exacerbated erosion through conservation management practices. Proper management of upland drainage, paired with enhancement of protective native vegetation, can help mitigate risk from high water events on shorelines.

If you are interested in learning how you can take a proactive approach to protecting your property during king tides and all year round, get in touch with our Shore Friendly program, which assists marine waterfront landowners in stewarding shorelines to help protect their property and the health of Puget Sound. 

You can plan ahead for high waters by tracking predicted king tides on the WA Sea Grant King Tides Calendar.

Tide coming in at the edge of Owen Beach

Tide washing in at Owen Beach, Point Defiance Park

Oct 27

South Prairie Creek Preserve's Orca Recovery Day Story

Posted on October 27, 2023 at 12:49 PM by Gracie DeMeo

Orca Recovery Day Impacts at South Prairie Creek Preserve

The Pierce Conservation District’s Habitat Program participated in the Puget Sound’s annual Orca Recovery Day. 25 amazing volunteers joined us in our efforts to bring awareness and aid to the resident orca population at South Prairie Creek Preserve. Staff and community members came together, boots on the ground, and planted a total of 283 trees. We extend our deepest gratitude to all that joined us at South Prairie Creek Preserve. We could not do it without your help and support! For more information about our efforts: South Prairie Creek Preserve.

Seven children holding trees posing with Executive Director Dana Coggon in an Orca costume.

South Prairie Creek Preserve volunteers posing with Dana Coggon (PCD executive director) and some precious trees!

The Interconnected Cycle

Planting trees provides several benefits to salmon and the surrounding environment. Tree planting not only offers shelter for the several bird species found on site, but also benefits salmon habitat, prevents erosion, adds complexity to the river, and acts as a natural carbon sink. When Chinook fry emerges from their redds, they often find refuge in cold water pools to hide while developing. The overhanging vegetation, such as trees, provides shade and contributes to water cooling. Additionally, macroinvertebrates fall into the water from overhanging vegetation and offer food to both birds and fry. Juvenile Chinook salmon will spend approximately one year in freshwater, then venture off into the ocean for their adult lives. When adult Chinook salmon return to their natal spawning grounds and die, their carcasses give rich nutrients to the soil and aid in tree growth. 

Restoring critical salmon bearing habitat mutually benefits several salmon species as well as our Puget Sound resident orcas. Orcas primarily feed on Chinook salmon, so their continued presence is crucial for the orca population. Both Chinook salmon and orcas are considered endangered and depend on one another for survival. We were all able to make a great contribution at Orca Recovery Day and hope to see you all again next year!