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May 18

How to Plant Sticks: a Guide to Livestaking

Posted to Conservation Corner by Camila Matamala-Ost

By Sage Friedman

Washington Conservation Corps members crossing South Prairie Creek Preserve. One of them is carrying a bundle of livestakes tied with twine.
Washington Conservation Corps members crossing South Prairie Creek Preserve with a bundle of livestakes to plant.

When I first came across the phrase livestake, it sounded more like the name of a health insurance agency than a restoration tool. It wasn’t something I’d used, or even heard of. I never would have expected them to be one of the quickest, cheapest, and most effective riparian restoration methods in the toolbox.

Livestaking, or live pole planting, is a method to efficiently plant trees in riparian buffers and wetlands. To make a livestake, a tree branch is cut into a straight pole, approximately 3 feet in length. The pole is then pounded into the soil so that at least half of it is underground. These poles will push out a root system, new leaves, and given time, an entire new tree will grow from that original branch.

This process doesn’t work with every tree or shrub. The most effective species to use for livestakes are those that grow next to bodies of water. These plants have adapted to sprout from branches that break off, letting them establish elsewhere in the waterbody. In the environment, this can be caused by wind and water erosion, as well as sediment deposition. Beavers can also help.When a beaver creates a dam, sticks will inevitably come loose and wash downstream. Some of these will establish and grow new trees. This lessens the impact that beavers have on these species.

Most commonly, livestakes are cut from willow (Salix sp.), cottonwood (Populus balsamifera), and dogwood (Cornus sericea). All three of these will readily sprout when planted as a livestake—often, even more robustly than when planted as a traditional sapling in a pot. Livestakes have considerably more caloric energy stored than a sapling does. Coupled with thicker bark, a livestake is more tolerant of poor conditions and drying out than a sapling is. There is a caveat to that, however. Because they have no roots when first planted, livestakes must be planted in wetlands or riparian areas where they can absorb enough water in their first year.

Livestakes provide a variety of ecological functions. They can serve as a line of defense against bank erosion. Because they develop a root system quickly, livestakes can hold soil together in places that lack large trees. Livestakes also provide shade, which is vital for keeping water temperaturescool in salmon-bearing streams. Livestakes also have many wildlife benefits. They are a great fast-growing food source, and we often struggle to stop elk from eating them.

These benefits make livestakes a great option for riparian plantings, both in restoration and home gardening. And the best part: they’re free! That is, if you have willows or cottonwoods on your property and want to thin them by cutting and planting some livestakes. If not, we always have pacific willow livestakes available for purchase at our native plant sale.

A livestake with small buds recently planted in a grassy area next to South Prairie Creek
A livestake soon after being planted
The same livestake, but time has passed and it has grown twigs with leaves.
The same livestake showing signs of growth.
May 01

It’s a Wrap for Envirothon Regionals!

Posted to Environmental Education by Camila Matamala-Ost

CASEE High School takes home 1st place at the 2023 South Puget Sound Regional Envirothon
CASEE High School takes home 1st place at the 2023 South Puget Sound Regional Envirothon

The regional Envirothon competitions in Washington State ended last week, and now it is time for our winning teams to gear up for the state competition. Congratulations to all our South Sound Regional competitors for a job well done!


What’s Next?

The state event will be held at Soundview Camp on the Key Peninsula on May 24th and 25th. This year we are excited to bring back the traditional 2-day event. Students will show up the day before the competition to take part in team building activities, study sessions, campfire hangouts, and of course, S’MORES! On the day two, ten teams from across Washington State will face off to determine who will take home 1st place. Let’s once again wish them the best of luck as they continue their journey as environmental stewards in this awesome natural resource competition!

Students tackle the wildlife test at the 2023 South Puget Sound Regional Envirothon.
Students tackle the wildlife test at the 2023 South Puget Sound Regional Envirothon.
Apr 04

South Prairie Creek Preserve Restoration Project Interactive Storymap

Posted to Habitat Improvement by Camila Matamala-Ost

Arial drone footage of South Prairie Creek Preserve  on a sunny day in May last year.  Drone footage of South Prairie Creek Preserve on a sunny day in May.

South Prairie Creek Preserve (SPCP) in its current state is a culmination of almost 20 years of restoration efforts by Pierce Conservation District using a wide range of conservation and preservation methods --- because no single restoration method can completely rehabilitate a site this large.

These restoration strategies are outlined in this informative and beautiful Storymap created by PCD’s Habitat Team. The interactive document summarizes the history of SPCP, including the land stewardship history by the Puyallup and Muckleshoot tribes, restoration outcomes of project, and includes images of the spawning salmon that proliferate in the fall.