StreamTeam Update

Last month, we had a ton of volunteers join us to plant trees. Even though the weather toward the end started to get a little rough, we had a great turn out. We even had a group of American Heritage Girls make the trek out to our site; it’s always inspiring to see young people helping better their community. There were plenty of donuts. Everyone’s spirits were high, and we all got very muddy. In total, our volunteers planted 349 trees. We also enjoyed awesome opportunities to see some wildlife. When driving to the planting site, some folks saw elk just past the gated entrance. During the event, we took groups to look at some cougar claw markings left on a tree. It was a nice reminder of how many creatures will benefit and use this land. Hopefully, the trees we planted will not only help bring back salmon, but also provide habitat for many other animals as well. Overall, it was a fun Saturday, and we hope to see some familiar faces at our upcoming potting events.

Upcoming StreamTeam Events

Potting Event
March is jam-packed with opportunities to volunteer with us in Clark Public Utilities’ native plant nursery. We have potting events on three different Saturdays this month—March 11, March 18 and March 25! These events are super fun for all ages and provide excellent opportunities for youth service hours. They are a great way to socialize while contributing to a healthier environment. All potting events start at 9 a.m. and run until 1 p.m., with snacks and beverages provided.

For more information or to sign up check the link below.

Other Opportunities

Bring Back the Pollinators
Since it’s finally March, flowers are starting to bloom and that means it’s a great time to start thinking about pollinators. On Tuesday March 7, join the Xerces Society as they discuss the importance of pollinators. This will be an online meeting from 7 – 8:30 p.m. For more information click the link below.

Volunteer Planting and Mulching at the Downs
The NatureSpaces program will be hosting some planting events this month. They will take place every Sunday in March from 1 – 4 p.m. They will be planting at The Downs Neighborhood Park. The goal is to plant understory plants to improve the health of the park and to bring more greenery to the area. To sign up or more information check out the link below.

Hoyt Arboretum Saturday Crew
With twelve miles of trails, the Hoyt Arboretum could use some help maintaining them all. If you are interested, they will have the season’s first Saturday crew out doing trail and tree maintenance. This is a really cool opportunity to work around and learn more about some beautiful and unusual trees. The event takes place on March 4 from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. for more information use the link below.

Save the Date!

We have some awesome events in the works! Save the date for these two big events coming up.

Earth Day Tree Planting
April 22 | 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
All ages invited to celebrate an exciting milestone—1 million trees planted!—with StreamTeam. This family-friendly event takes place in the Salmon Creek Watershed. We’ll be celebrating this monumental moment and our favorite holiday by planting even more trees. Youth can also join us to fulfill service hours. Spend Earth Day outside with Clark Public Utilities for a great day of habitat restoration. Snacks and lunch will be served. Sign ups available soon on Event Brite (search StreamTeam).

Pollinator Festival
June 24 | 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Visit Clark Public Utilities’ inaugural Pollinator Festival for a lively community celebration of these beautiful and hard-working creatures. Take away tips to easily enhance pollinator habitat where you live. Enjoy local food, music and artisans. Learn about the Clark Public Utilities Pollinator Project and tour our garden. Get inspired to re-wild your yard with Doug Tallamy author of Bringing Nature Home.

Photo by Jason Hollinger

Native Plant Spotlight: Kinnikinnik (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)

This month’s native plant spotlight is the beautiful evergreen shrub kinnikinnick, also known as red bearberry. Whatever you call this plant, it’ll be a mouth full every time—ironic because the plant is edible. This shrub likes to be close to the ground, growing only about 15 centimeters high, but spreads extremely well—capable of taking root anywhere the stem touches ground. This plant’s edible leaves and berries have made it an important food source for several Northwest native tribes. The berries, while lacking much taste and texture when eaten raw, enliven other ingredients when cooked alongside meats or in stews and preserves well in jams. The leaves are edible as well and can be used to make tea. This plant stays green throughout the winter and its small red berries remain on the plant during the cold months. The berries are commonly eaten by bears, hence the common name bearberry and the species name uva-ursi, which in Latin means ‘grape of the bear.’ The shrub grows in well-draining environments from sandy and rocky soils to the understory of pine forests. It is a great ground cover plant due to its deep roots and spreading ability.

Some more interesting facts about this plant:

  • The new stems growth can be red when in the sun, but will grow green if in shadier areas.
  • Kinnikinnick can live for up to 50 years in nature.
  • This plant is salt tolerant, so it’s commonly found along the coast.
  • Kinnikinnick begins blooming in March and has small light pink, urn-shaped flowers, so keep an eye out for it when you’re hiking!

Photo by John P. Clare , Gilled adult salamander

Creature Feature: Pacific Giant Salamander (Dicamptodon tenebrosus)

The creature for March is the Pacific giant salamander and this amphibian doesn’t get its name for nothing. The Pacific giant salamander is the largest salamander in North America, growing as large as 13.5 inches long and weighing up to 114 grams (about as heavy as a banana!). These salamanders live near smaller forested mountain streams. The Pacific Giant Salamanders start off as an egg in a nest with 85 – 200 siblings and a protective mother. After hatching, they stay around their nest and feed on the yolk of their egg as larvae for another three months. After this time, they begin forming legs and fully forming their gills. The final larval stage occurs when they develop their second set of legs, but sometimes the metamorphic cycle will stop there because the adults can take one of two different forms. The first form is the fully metamorphosed salamander with four legs that lives terrestrially and breathes with lungs (no gills anymore). The other form stops developing physically, instead it continues to reach sexual maturity with gills and lives aquatically. The gilled adults are an example of a process called neoteny or juvenilization. In the photo, you can see the external gills on the side of the salamander’s neck looking like fringe.

These Salamanders are predators and will eat pretty much anything they can find, including but not limited to snails, slugs, beetles, mice and even other salamanders. Other creatures will prey on them. They’re particularly weary of weasels and river otters for this reason. When feeling threatened, the Pacific giant salamander has a few defense actions, they will let out a ‘bark’ and arch their back while thrashing their tail. They can secrete an unpleasant substance from their tail; they will even head butt or bite the predator. For only being a foot long they’re pretty brave.

Conservation Tips

Did you know that March 22 is World Water Day? This year the theme is accelerating change. The big picture goal this year is to push for improving water, sanitation and hygiene for the entire world. This is aligns with Sustainable Development goal number 6 that the United Nations created in 2015. Water is something we can take for granted, but it’s important to acknowledge the scarcity of it. If things stay as they are, 1.6 billion people will lack drinking water by 2030. This March 22, be inspired to think a little harder about the water we use. There are some simple things we can all do to use water more efficiently. You could look into putting in a rain garden to utilize the water coming off of your roof. You could install a rain barrel to water your vegetable garden with. You could write a letter to someone in congress encouraging better management of aquifers and rivers. You could even just watch a documentary and learn from the inspiring stories they tell. Whatever you choose, this is a day to value and appreciate water because needing water is something we all have in common.