But every acre of wilderness safeguards much, much more than stands of ancient Western red cedars and free flowing waterways. Each acre also ensures protection for every living thing that calls the forest or stream its home. Washington’s native species would be nothing without the expansive natural forest ecosystems we work so hard to protect, nor would the forests be as healthy and vibrant as they are without the wildlife inhabiting them. That’s why Washington Wild’s wild lands and waters campaigns are wildlife campaigns, too.
Cascades Wild Campaign—A Puget Sound Headwaters Initiative
The Cascades Wild Campaign is a long-term Puget Sound Headwaters Initiative advocating for new Wilderness additions to the Mt. Baker, Noisy Diobsud, Glacier Peak, Boulder River, Henry M Jackson and Alpine Lakes Wilderness Areas and new Wild and Scenic River designations for important rivers, streams and their tributaries. This effort is a crucial push to protect vital wild lands and waters on the west slope of the North Cascades from the I-90 corridor to the Canadian border.
Wildlife Profile #1: Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos horribilis)
|Image from Public Domain Images website (source)|
Although grizzly bears are solitary for the most part, habitat connectivity and interaction between individuals is essential for their success. Fragmentation of forests makes male-female encounters very rare. Recent research shows that human settlement in mountain valleys and major highways have broken up bear populations and caused a significant decrease in female migration. With only male bears migrating to find mates, the likelihood of successful mating and population growth decreases. Grizzly bear numbers in the North Cascades are already very low (fewer than 20 individuals), so it’s imperative that the bulk of the North Cascades Ecosystem remains wild and roadless to facilitate the recovery of this iconic Western species. A Wilderness area like Cascades Wild would give grizzly bears the protection they need.
Wildlife Profile #2: Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
|Photo Credit: Skagit River Bald Eagle Interpretive Center|
These raptors are one of the biggest success stories of the Endangered Species Act. Due to hunting and trapping, and reproductive failures caused by the pesticide DDT, bald eagle numbers dropped drastically throughout the first half of the 20th century. By the 1950’s, there were a little more than 400 breeding pairs in the lower 48. In 1967 the bald eagle was listed as federally endangered and a few years later in 1972 the use of DDT was banned. Over the next few decades, bald eagle populations rebounded dramatically and in 2007 they were delisted. The future looks bright for these birds, but protecting their habitat and the rivers where they get their food is still extremely important. Bald eagles are thought to be very ecologically important—the decaying salmon carcasses they leave on the forest floor provide massive nutrient flows to plants, fungi and bacteria. The Cascades Wild proposal will protect important wintering grounds for bald eagles, as well as year-round habitat. The Sauk and Suiattle Rivers provide excellent eagle habitat, and nearby Illabot Creek hosts one of the largest wintering populations in the lower 48. Rivers like the Sauk and Suiattle and the wildlands around them would be permanently protected with the passage of the Cascades Wild proposal, likewise ensuring the permanent protection of bald eagles in the area.
Wildlife Profile #3: Killer Whale (Orcinus orca)
|Photo Credit: NOAA|
While apex predators have a large impact on populations of their prey, changes in abundance of their prey can in turn greatly influence predator populations. Such is the case with Washington’s orcas and Chinook salmon. Due to the decline in Chinook salmon populations in Puget Sound over the last several decades, the opportunity for orca population growth in Washington and British Columbia is limited. Maintaining healthy salmon populations is extremely important to protecting Washington’s southern resident orcas, which were added to the US Endangered Species List in 2006. The Cascades Wild proposal will protect important salmon spawning grounds in the North Cascades, and this will in turn greatly benefit Washington’s vulnerable orca populations.
By supporting Washington Wild you will not only be helping to protect our wild lands and waters but also the wildlife that depend on them. To learn more about our campaigns visit our website.
Read parts 1-3 of the Wilderness Campaigns are Wildlife Campaigns blog series:
Part 1: Wild Sky Wilderness
Part 2: Alpine Lakes Wilderness Expansion
Part 3: Wild Olympics Campaign