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Conservation Stories: Salix Cooperative

Three young people pose in front of a field with blue seedling protection tubes. In the background are hills and the Twin Sisters mountain peaks.
Three of the five members of the Salix Cooperative, Tuck Yates Tyrrell (L), Olivia Ferguson (C), & Fanter Lane (R), posing in front of one of their riparian restoration projects in the South Fork Valley
"Every creek counts, no matter how small, no matter if there is fish in it or not. Every tiny little bend of every creek counts. So, the more places where we can do restoration, [and] create habitat... the better the whole place is. The more alive and more vibrant and more resilient.” – Tuck Yates Tyrrell, one of 5 members of the Salix Cooperative, that spent the last 3 months planting 69 acres of riparian habitat in the south fork valley.

Three people stand facing rows of planted trees. The twin sisters mountains appear in the background.
Salix Cooperative members take in one of their plantings in the South Fork Valley.

Place is a simple word and a simple concept, but place can have profound meaning and attachments. It is natural to feel connections to places that have significant memories or feelings attached to them. For the five members of Salix Cooperative, the South Fork Watershed of the Nooksack river is a special place that has inspired them on a new and exciting path in habitat restoration.

“There’s definitely a very home connection to this place. Salish Cooperative is a new cooperative that’s just hitting the ground running, this year. We want to continue to do restoration in this area into the future, because we're very passionate about it and find a lot of meaning in it.” – Fanter Lane, Salix Cooperative

The South Fork of the Nooksack river begins on the eastern slopes of the Twin Sisters peaks and flows south through Skagit County before flowing north through the South Fork Valley in Whatcom County. It is a gorgeous place with views of the Twin Sisters, emerald hillsides, and green farmland.

“The first time I drove up through this valley, I couldn't believe the beauty. I was totally struck and that was six or seven years ago. Now to be able to add to that beauty, that feels really good, feels really good.” – Tuck Yates Tyrrell

Three people are almost touching heads peering at a seedling in a blue protection tube. In the background are hills and the Twin Sisters mountains.
Salix Cooperative members check seedlings at restoration site with Whatcom CD staff.

However, this idyllic landscape hides a struggling ecosystem. Development, logging and agriculture in the late 1800s through the 1970s degraded streamside habitat in the region. This has led to rising temperatures, exacerbated by climate change, affecting the species that call it home. The South Fork watershed is critical habitat for spring Chinook salmon. Several of its tributaries are also critical habitat for other threatened species, such as the Oregon spotted frog. Seeing this decline, the five members of Salix Cooperative, three of whom were born and raised in Whatcom County, decided to create the Cooperative as a means of restoring this special place.

I've been inspired to do restoration work from a lifelong passion for being out in nature and growing up out in this ecosystem, [the South Fork Valley].” – Fanter Lane

Man holds cedar sapling in front of blue tubes and forest.
Salix Cooperative checks seedlings in protection tubes at new restoration site.

Since creating the Salix Cooperative, this year, they have hit the ground running with three major restoration projects in the South Fork Valley, funded through the Salmon Riparian Restoration Program (SRRP). The SRRP is a voluntary program, administered by Whatcom Conservation District, that is designed for landowners that are interested in receiving support for planting riparian buffers. It is very flexible and keeps the landowner’s needs in mind while providing funding for the plants and contractors, like Salix Cooperative.

“From a very practical standpoint, it's an amazing way for landowners to get a bunch of native trees planted on their property. So, if anybody is interested in that kind of element on their property, around any bodies of water or wetland riparian stream river, we can come in and plant a lot of trees and it's a great resource to have and be aware of. The native plants that live here and along the rivers are so beautiful and so strong and they attract birds. We wouldn't have running water if there weren't plants here. What's particular about this kind of project is that there's an agro ecology element into it. There's potential non timber forest product harvest in the future.” - Tuck Yates Tyrrell

If you have a place that is important to you, that you want to protect, request a site visit from Whatcom Conservation District. We can link you with programs that will help achieve your goals, and teams like Salix Cooperative that can make those goals a reality.

“What surprised me the most about this project was how well we can work together and how much can happen when we work well together. Landscapes respond to restoration. It could be as simple as, all of a sudden seeing bumblebees, or hearing the birds call, or the way the grass moves in the wind. How happy the plants are. When you put the right plant in the right place, they really do sing.” –Tuck Yates Tyrrell

Four people are chatting and smiling. In the background is a river and forest.
Four members of the Salix Cooperative talk in front of the South Fork of the Nooksack River, which they are working to restore.

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