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THE NISQUALLY WATERSHED SALMON RECOVERY NEWSLETTER | WHAT’S INSIDE:
W I N T E R 2 0 1 8 / 2 0 1 9
Tablets Make Steelhead Spawning Surveys More Powerful
Land Use and Habitat Change in the Lower Nisqually River Valley
Native Plant Crew Grows New Skills
Y I L - M E - H U n
W I N T E R 2 0 1 8 / 2 0 1 9
Yil-me-hu, Nisqually word that means
“the salmon dance, on its first arrival.”
The first fish ceremony — The first fish caught in the
spring was prepared in an earth pit stove, shared and eaten by
members of the village. The bones, left intact, were returned to the
river, pointing upstream. This display was symbolic. It meant that the
villagers were respectful to the fish spirits and wished that, because
the ceremony had been done correctly, many more fish would come
up the stream during that year. A dance followed the ceremony
called the “yil-me-hu,” a Nisqually word that means “the salmon
dance, on its first arrival.”*
* Carpenter, Cecilia Svinth, Fort Nisqually: A Documented History of Indian
and British Interaction. A Tahoma Research Publication. 1986. p13.
Yil-me-hu is published by the Nisqually Indian Tribe Natural Resources
Department and the Nisqually River Council to provide information
about activities associated with the protection and restoration of
salmon and their habitat in the Nisqually watershed.
4820 She Nah Num Drive
Olympia, WA 98513
Phone: 360-438-8687
Fax: 360-438-8742
Email: vonessen.ashley@nisqually-nsn.gov
Websites: nisquallyriver.org, www.nisqually-nsn.gov
Managing Editor: Ashley Von Essen
Writers/Editors: Roger Andrascik, Rene Bracero, Brandon Bywater,
Walker Duval, Christopher Ellings, Justin Hall, Emily McCartan,
Jed Moore, Emmett O’Connell, David Troutt, Sheila Wilson
Design: Nine Design
Printed with soy-based ink on recycled paper that is
certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.
Artist: Gabe
TABLE OF CONTENTS
3 Director’s Corner
4 Tablets Make Steelhead Spawning
Surveys More Powerful
5 Native Plant Crew Grows New Skills
6 Land Use and Habitat Change in the
Lower Nisqually River Valley
8 Game Cameras Prove Wildlife Prey
on Salmon Carcasses
10 Recovering What Was Lost:
The Nisqually Chinook Population
Experiment
12 Partners Celebrate Completion
of “Mashel River Restoration Design”
13 Honoring Partnerships: Nisqually
River Council and the Nisqually
Indian Tribe
14 Nisqually River Education Project:
By the Numbers in 2017-18
15 New Faces in Nisqually
16 Ask not what the Nisqually can do
for you; ask what you can do for
the Nisqually
2
Cover photo: Biologists observe tagged
salmon while conducting carcass surveys in
the lower section of Yelm Creek.
Photo credit: Jed Moore
If you wish to no longer receive this publication, please contact:
Ashley Von Essen, vonessen.ashley@nisqually-nsn.gov.
Page 2 photo: Beach Seine - Field Crew at
River Mouth Photo credit: Jed Moore
W I N T E R 2 0 1 8 / 2 0 1 9 n
Y I L - M E - H U 3
David Troutt
David is the Natural Resources Director
for the Nisqually Indian Tribe, Chair of the
Salmon Recovery Funding Board, Chair of
Puget Sound Salmon Recovery Council and
Chair of the Nisqually River Council.
When I started at Nisqually as a young, inexperienced,
recent grad from the University of Washington I really had no
idea where this adventure would lead. We had a small, but
dedicated, staff of 10 people organized to fulfill the require-
ments of the U.S. vs Washington decision and to run a small
hatchery to produce Chinook and coho for tribal harvest. We
operated out of the back of the tribal gym in a small office.
From that foundation we have grown to meet new chal-
lenges and respond to the needs of the Nisqually Indian Tribe
and the watershed. We now have over 50 staff spread across
8 different programs providing services that include our
original mandate – orderly, science-based management of
our fisheries, as well as shellfish management, environmental
management, two salmon hatcheries, salmon recovery,
Geographic and Information Services (GIS), and a marine-
based restoration, research, and dive program.
The growth of the program over the years parallels the
growing complexity of managing natural resources in this
ever changing world. Climate change, sea level rise, ocean
acidification, changing rain and snow patterns, all lead to
challenges to our natural world and the ecosystem that we all
live in. Keeping up with these changes, adapting our man-
agement approaches and actions, and assessing the outcomes
of those approaches and actions to then influence the next
round of decision making requires expertise in these areas
and we have some of the best working for us.
When I say working for us, I really do mean us in the greater
sense. The Nisqually Indian Tribe has invested significant
resources to develop the best Natural Resources program in
the State with the idea to be the lead for the critical resource
issues in the watershed, and we gladly and proudly serve that
role for the watershed community.
Where does this program go from here? What are the next
challenges that we will need to address? Certainly gaining a
better understanding of the local impacts of climate change will
affect all of our actions into the future. How we consider restora-
tion projects, where the priorities lie for habitat protection and
management, how we manage our fisheries will all be impacted
by climate change. Continuing and expanding our Salish Sea
research effort might make sense.
What will come out of the Governor’s Orca Task Force that will
have an impact on the Nisqually? It may be necessary to expand
our program to provide expertise around marine mammals to
participate in a Sound-wide effort to reduce the impacts of
growing seal and sea lion populations. Are there upland ter-
restrial issues that we need to consider?
In 1987 it would have been nearly impossible to predict what
this program would look like 31 years later. But, what was and
remains predictable, is the Tribe’s desire to have the best
technical staff to serve its needs and the needs of our watershed.
The past should give you all comfort that you can rest assured
that the Tribe will step and face the challenges of the future.
I was hired in 1987 by Billy Frank Jr. to come to Nisqually and run
his Natural Resources Program. After 31 years in this seat there is a lot
to reflect back upon and look forward to, and I thought I would
share a few thoughts with all of you.
Photocredit:JedMoore
Tabletsmakesteelheadspawningsurveysmorepowerful
PhotoCredit:JedMoore
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Between December and May, wild Nisqually winter steelhead return to the
Nisqually River to spawn. In order to determine the number of steelhead
returning, the Nisqually Indian Tribe’s Harvest and Salmon Recovery Programs
float the river in rafts and count the nests (redds) where steelhead deposit and
fertilize their eggs during spawning. Redd counts are used to estimate steelhead
abundance and their survival during their years in the Pacific Ocean. Thanks to a
field data collection tool developed by Environmental Systems Research Institute
and configured by the Nisqually Indian Tribe’s Geographic Information Systems
(GIS) Program, the surveys have become more informative and efficient.
Waterproof, handheld tablets loaded with the field application allow staff to
collect redd locations and water depths during steelhead redd surveys. The
application works even when not connected to a cellular network and uses
Global Positioning System (GPS) to create a location-based data point.
Attributes about the redds are attached to each point which then get synced to
a central database once the field crew comes back to the office at the end of
the day. The result is secure, near real-time data and an interactive map that is
rich in biological and physical information critical to management. For example,
the record of where, when, and under what conditions steelhead spawn can
help focus the Tribe’s habitat protection and restoration efforts.
The use of tablets for steelhead spawning surveys has been so successful,
other programs are using them for other types of fieldwork. For example, a
separate application is currently in use for tracking Chinook that are collected
at the Tribe’s Clear Creek hatchery and transported upstream to the spawning
grounds. Data collected from Chinook during this truck and haul operation will
be linked with samples collected during related Chinook carcass surveys that
take place each fall. The carcass survey application allows staff to easily manage
the many types of data that are collected from Chinook carcasses recovered
from the spawning grounds. The Tribe’s Native Plant Restoration Crew is also
starting to use tablets to track the progress of habitat restoration projects and
maintenance of those projects.
The map-based field applications being utilized by the GIS Program are revo-
lutionizing how data are collected, stored, referenced, and analyzed. The
number of steps between collecting field data and producing valuable
map-based reports has been drastically reduced, making the Nisqually Indian
Tribe’s Natural Resources Department as a whole more effective.
A screenshot of the data collection application shows the
kind of information being collected for each of the points.
GPS allows the user to collect location-based data which
creates an interactive map rich in biological and physical
information.
This map shows redds counted in just one week between the
Tank Crossing bridge and the 6th
Avenue BNSF train bridge.
MapCredit:CathySampselle,NisquallyGISProgram
A steelhead redd discovered on the Nisqually mainstem is marked with an orange rock.
Photos by Florian Leischner
W I N T E R 2 0 1 8 / 2 0 1 9 n
Y I L - M E - H U 5
Ten years ago, we knew that fully functioning habitat was the greatest limiting factor for recovering ESA-listed Chinook and
steelhead. That has not changed. However, since then the Nisqually Indian Tribe has continued to investigate how each species
of salmon are reacting to changing habitat conditions. As we gain this knowledge, we must adjust our goals and objectives, and
how we go about achieving them. This means we must be ready to adapt, grow, and learn new skills. The Nisqually Indian Tribe’s
Native Plant Restoration Crew (Crew) is an excellent example of this.
In 2008, a crew of five was hired to implement large scale
riparian restorationprojects.Sincethatveryday,theyhaveplanted,
tubed, and staked in the best and worst weather conditions.
They’ve prepped countless sites, put hundreds of thousands of
trees in the ground, and maintained hundreds of acres of land all
in the name of salmon recovery. They’ve nurtured these young
trees and shrubs to guarantee their survival so they can grow big
and tall and create the habitat salmon so badly need.
As we continue to learn more from our research, the Crew
has adapted their skills to make sure the salmon keep coming
home and the Tribe is able to keep fishing and exercising
their treaty right. Since 2008, in addition to planting trees
and combating reed canary grass, the Crew has:
n Assisted the Hatchery Program staff in processing
Chinook and coho as they return to spawn at both the
Kalama and Clear Creek Hatcheries
n Assisted the Harvest Program staff with multi-species
spawning surveys
n Performed nearshore sampling activities in the Nisqually
Estuary and Aquatic Reserve
n Assisted with zooplankton sampling in support of the
Salish Sea Marine Survival Project
n Helped implement the Nisqually Chinook supplementation
effort (see page 8-9 for more details)
n Assisted the Nisqually River Education Project with student
fieldtrips, tossing salmon carcasses and planting trees
n Worked in partnership with WA Department of Fish and
Wildlife to collect seal scat in an effort to learn more
about more about what and where they’re eating
Eddie Villegas and Nano Perez help out at the Clear Creek Hatchery.
Photo Credit: Debbie Preston
Kyle Kautz and Robert McGee assist with the Chinook colonization
experiment.
PhotoCredit:EmmettO’ConnellPhotoCredit:EmmettO’Connell
NATIVE PLANT CREW GROWS NEW SKILLS
Sam Stepetin uses a tablet loaded with a map-based application to
track progress of habitat restoration projects.
Over the years, they have continued to rise to each and every
task put in front of them. Their dedication and passion for what
they do can be seen with each new project they accomplish.
They are incredibly hard workers that have shed blood, sweat,
and tears with each restoration project they’ve helped
implement. Restoration, research, and salmon management in
the Nisqually Watershed would not be possible without them.
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Land Use
& Habitat
Change
in the Lower
Nisqually
River Valley
The U.S. Geological Survey and the Nisqually Indian Tribe GIS and Salmon
Recovery Programs recently published a study that assessed habitat and land
use changes in the lower Nisqually River and Nisqually Delta over the last 60
years. The team used imagery from July 1957, July 1980, and July/August
2015 (Figure 1) to quantify changes to key land cover types and habitats such
as agriculture/grassland, developed land, emergent marsh wetland, forest,
riverbank, mudflat, and open water. This is a brief summary of the findings.
Figure 3. Riparian and upland forest net change
for 1957–1980, 1980–2015, and 1957–2015
A 7.7% net loss (Figure 3) of riparian forest was detected between 1957 and
1980 due to conversion to agriculture in the lowlands between McAllister
Creek and the Nisqually River. From 1980 to 2015, riparian forest increased
2.3% within the Refuge restoration boundary. Upland forest was minimally
impacted between 1957 and 1980 with only a 0.9% loss caused by forest
removal for quarry expansion, yet between 1980 and 2015 a more significant
decline of 8.2% of upland forest occurred due to land development.
For the full publication, see:
Ballanti, L., KB Byrd, I Woo, C Ellings. 2017. Remote
Sensing for Wetland Mapping and Historical Change
Detection at the Nisqually River Delta. Sustainability 9
(11): article 1919, 32pp
Figure 1. Habitat classification at the Nisqually River Delta in 1957, 1980, and 2015.
Tracking large scale changes in
land use and habitat using remote
imagery is an important way
to monitor the impact of human
activities and natural events on the
landscape. It gives managers a
‘big picture’ perspective in order
to identify management targaets
and to predict the impact of things
like development, restoration, and
sea level rise.
W I N T E R 2 0 1 8 / 2 0 1 9 n
Y I L - M E - H U 7
Figure 2. Net forest change between 1957–1980, 1980–2015, and 1957–2015.
The 1957 imagery classification identified 1,430.8 hectares (ha) of forest within the study area. Forest cover within the study area
decreased by 8.6% from 1957 to 1980 and decreased an additional 5.9% from 1980 to 2015 (Figure 2). This change occurred in both
upland and riparian areas, with forest loss most commonly resulting from land development, agriculture, and river channel movement.
Changes in the meandering river channel was distinctly visible in the forest change maps, and although each map shows forest loss
associated with the new river channel, forest regrowth also filled in old channels. Forest increased from 1957 to 1980 in areas along
the Nisqually River and near McAllister Creek near Highway I-5.
Figure 4. Change in wetland area (net gain, loss, and no change) by sites plots for 1957–1980 and 1980–2015, and 1957–2015.
Tidal marsh decreased from 1957 to 1980, followed by 54.2% net increase of wetland from 1980 to 2015, as a result of the multiple
phased estuary restorations that culminated in 2009 (Figure 4). Despite these wetland gains, a total of 83.1 ha (35%) of marsh was lost
between 1957 and 2015, particularly in areas near the Nisqually River mouth due to erosion and shifting river channels.
The ability to track large scale changes in habitat quality and quantity using remote sensing is an invaluable tool for natural
resources managers. The Nisqually Indian Tribe will use analyses like this to evaluate the impact of population growth, sea level rise,
and restoration on critical salmon habitats.
Y I L - M E - H U n
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For almost twenty years, the Nisqually Indian Tribe has worked with
volunteers to toss thousands of pounds of salmon carcasses across
tributaries in the upper Nisqually watershed. Why, you ask? For years
biologists have known that when salmon return home to salmon, they
bring back much needed nutrients that they pick up while feeding
and growing in the marine environment. Rich in nitrogen and other
organic matter, these nutrients have proven to support riparian veg-
etation and aquatic plant life, as well as 137 species of wildlife.
Each year, when salmon return to the hatchery to spawn, staff save the
carcasses in order to take advantage of this valuable resource. Ten sites
are then selected where these nutrients can have the greatest impact.
The Tribe partners with the Nisqually River Education Project (NREP)
to bring students out to help spread the salmon carcass-love, creating
plenty of opportunity for ooey-gooey, teachable moments. Together,
these organizations, along with the help of many volunteers and
students, have distributed nearly 160 tons of dead salmon throughout
the watershed!
We’re now getting a look at what happens when the students and
volunteers go home. For the past two years, the Tribe and NREP have
installed time-lapse cameras at salmon toss sites to see what types of
critters came by in the weeks following the last carcass toss.
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Y I L - M E - H U 9
The most common animals captured on film were bald eagles and
other types of raptors. The presence of so many large birds concen-
trated near the distribution sites indicates that the carcasses are an
important food source in winter. Countless coyotes, deer, and other
animals have also been documented. What is not captured by the
cameras are the millions of insects that feed on the carcasses and
become food for juvenile salmon.
The carcass distribution program also ties into the ongoing salmon
habitat restoration efforts throughout the watershed. In recent years,
the Tribe and its partners have completed several projects that provide
habitat for juvenile fish. By putting carcasses near those restoration
projects, they’re helping ensure the fish rearing in them will have food.
Over the last hundred years, there has been a dramatic decline in
numbers of returning salmon and available carcasses and food in the
system. Even though the carcass tossing program can’t recreate
historic conditions in terms of marine-derived nutrients, it is a step in
the right direction.
The Tribe and NREP host an annual community salmon tossing event
each winter. Be sure to check the Nisqually River Council’s calendar of
events for upcoming opportunities: www.nisquallyriver.org.
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Recovering
What was Lost:
The Nisqually
Chinook
Population
Experiment
Salmon are released from large tanks directly into spawning areas.
Photo Credit: Debbie Preston
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Y I L - M E - H U 11
Native Nisqually River fall and spring
Chinook were lost over half a century ago
due to habitat degradation, hydropower
development, and other anthropogenic
activities. To mitigate for the loss of native
Nisqually Chinook, large numbers of
hatchery fish have been released in order
to provide subsistence, commercial, and
sport fisheries. Most of the Chinook
released into the Nisqually River have
been Green River origin fall Chinook. With
the listing of Puget Sound Chinook as
threatened under the Endangered Species
Act (ESA) in 1999, the goal of once again
having a self-sustaining native run of
Nisqually Chinook has been a driving force
in the Nisqually Chinook recovery effort.
Chinook salmon aren’t the easiest thing to transport. This is what happens when one gets away from you! Photo Credit: Debbie Preston
Since the ESA listing of Puget Sound Chinook, major habitat protection and
restoration actions have been taken in the Nisqually Watershed. Nisqually River
salmon habitat conditions have been improving over the last 20 years, paving the
way to restoring a native Nisqually Chinook population. Currently, much of the
habitat in the Nisqually is underutilized by Chinook which limits the number of
naturally produced Chinook that can return to the river and contribute to recovery.
In order to jump-start the production of river-born Chinook, the Nisqually Indian
Tribe and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (co-managers) have
started an experimental effort to increase the total number of spawning Chinook in
the river. The co-managers are using adult Chinook from the Clear Creek hatchery,
the largest hatchery in the Nisqually Watershed, to saturate the available habitat
and increase the production of Chinook in the river. This is an experimental approach
with no guarantee of success, so the co-managers are tracking the effort closely.
The approach to supplement natural Chinook spawning by moving hatchery
Chinook into the spawning grounds is based on the hypothesis that habitat capacity
in the Nisqually River is under-utilized and thus can support greater abundances of
juvenile and adult Chinook salmon than at recent levels of escapement and
natural production. That is, there is under-utilized capacity to produce more
Nisqually Chinook. Once more Chinook are produced in the river, the ability for the
naturally spawning population to become self-sustaining increases substantially.
The primary objective of the experiment is to increase the total number of spawning
Chinook in the Nisqually River to over 3,500 adults and then monitor the results. This
will be accomplished by moving over 2,000 hatchery Chinook in large tanks on the
back of trucks to spawning areas in the Nisqually River. Additionally, fisheries are
being managed to ensure that enough fish come back to the spawning grounds
naturally in order to make up the difference. All of the fish being trucked to the
spawning grounds are tagged and sampled for age and genetics as part of an
intensive research effort to measure the results of the experiment.
The Nisqually Chinook supplementation effort will be phased out as the natural
population rebuilds. Future actions will be focused on promoting local adaptation
and continuing to improve habitat conditions both within the watershed and
throughout Puget Sound. With the best science available and a little luck, hopefully
future generations will be able to once again have a healthy and productive run of
native Nisqually Chinook.
PhotoCredit:DebbiePreston
Salmon Recovery and Hatchery Program staff working
together to transport Chinook.
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Partners Celebrate Completion of “Mashel
River Restoration Design”
The 2001 Nisqually Chinook Recovery Plan recommended
restoration feasibility analysis for the Mashel River through the
Town of Eatonville in order to develop restoration alternatives
for the impaired reach. As the watershed’s largest tributary, the
Mashel River has been recognized as critical habitat for multiple
life stages of ESA-listed fall Chinook and winter steelhead, as
well as coho salmon.
In 2004, Pierce Conservation District sponsored the publication
of The Mashel River Restoration Design, a technical report
that not only assessed current conditions of the project reach, but
developed specific restoration goals for factors most limiting to
salmon. Limiting factors included: habitat diversity, channel
stability, flow conditions, quantity of habitat, food availability, an
abundance of fine sediment, and water temperatures. All of these
factors can be attributed, at least in part, to the legacy effects of
past logging practices and flood control through the Town.
These activities have led to hardened banks, unstable slopes,
increased erosion, and loss of riparian vegetation and large
woody debris. The resulting stream conditions were rendered
inhospitable to juvenile and adult salmon and steelhead.
The report recommended floodplain reconnection, riparian
restoration, and increased inputs of large woody debris. Due to
the size of the project area and the magnitude of funding
needed to complete the work, the project was split into three
distinct phases, making them more manageable. Each was
given specific targets, treatment opportunities, and recom-
mended actions needed that would lead to restoration.
The South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group
(SPSSEG) began tackling this long list of projects in 2006, in-
stalling 13 engineered log jams (ELJs) in the Mashel River near
Boxcar Canyon (Reaches 1 and 2). In 2012, the Nisqually Indian
Tribe (NIT) completed a project that installed 21 more ELJs near
Smallwood Park, followed by nine additional ELJs constructed
by Washington Department of Transportation (Reaches 4 and
5). This brought the total number of installed jams to 43.
In summer 2017, SPSSEG worked with the NIT, the Nisqually
Land Trust, and the Town of Eatonville to begin the final, most
downstream phase prescribed by the 2004 assessment (Reach
7). As 2018 summer construction season came to a close, nine
more ELJs have been added to the lower Mashel River. In
addition to the introduced jams, the site will undergo a riparian
restoration starting winter 2018-19, planting nearly 5,000 native
trees and shrubs by watershed students organized by the
Nisqually River Education Project and the NIT’s Native Plant
Restoration Crew.
This marks the culmination of millions of dollars of salmon
recovery funding and 14 years of hard work and dedication by the
Nisqually restoration community. This is an incredible accomplish-
ment that should be celebrated throughout the watershed.
Photo credit: Ashley Von Essen
Map Credit: Watershed Professionals Network, LLC
Some highlights of the Nisqually Indian Tribe’s work with the Nisqually River Council include:
n The formation of the Nisqually Land Trust – George Walter, Environmental Program Manager
for the Tribe, founded of the Nisqually Land Trust in 1989. The Nisqually Land Trust has been
instrumental in helping each permanent protection of over 78% of the riparian area of the
mainstem Nisqually.
n The Council asked the Tribe to take the lead in writing the Nisqually Chinook Recovery Plan and to
be the Lead Entity for salmon recovery in the Nisqually watershed. The recovery plan became the
first ever Puget Sound recovery plan completed, which has been used as a template for other
watersheds in the region.
n The Tribe took the lead in the 2514 Water
Quality and Quantity process, a shared
strategy setting instream flows and assessing
human and natural resources water needs.
The Tribe, along with many other organizations, produced the first such
plan to be signed by multiple counties. This planning group has recently
has been tasked with providing an update to the 2514 plan, which will aid
in the outcome of what is known as the “Hirst Decision.”
n The Tribe’s hatcheries provide salmon carcasses for the Nisqually River
Education Project’s student carcass tossing field trips. The NREP is an NRC
program that works with Tribe staff to determine where carcass nutrients
can have the greatest impact.
n The Tribe continues to providing financial support for the Nisqually River Council staffing and its special projects.
n Support and collaboration of the Nisqually Community Forest as it
works to purchase the commercial efforts forests of the watershed.
n Development of the Nisqually Stream Stewards program, a
watershed education program, jointly run by the Tribe and the
Nisqually River Council.
n The Tribe’s Director of Natural Resources has served has the chair
of the Council for the last 14 years.
n In addition to all those endeavors, the Tribe has also provided the
River Council staff with a home for the past ten years.
The Nisqually River Council is honored to have been able to work
with the Tribe for so many years. The NRC membership includes
representatives from 24 federal, state, local, and tribal agencies and
a vibrant citizen’s advisory committee. Each organization brings its
own expertise, knowledge, and skill to the NRC, making them a
critical part of the Council’s success.
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Y I L - M E - H U 13
The Nisqually River Council
(NRC) celebrates its 31-year
partnership with the
Nisqually Indian Tribe, a
founding member of the
NRC. In 1985 the Nisqually
River Task Force was created
by Washington State
Senator Jennifer Belcher
and chaired by Thurston
County Commissioner Karen
Fraser, with Billy Frank Jr.
and George Walter representing the Nisqually Indian Tribe.
Early in the process, Billy made it clear that the recommenda-
tions of the Nisqually River Task Force would be voluntary. The
Tribe wanted their neighbors to be successful and able to thrive
NRC representatives of past and present: Retired
Nisqually Refuge Manager Jean Takawa, past Thurston
County Commissioner Sandra Romero, and Nisqually
Land Trust Executive Director Joe Kane.
Billy Frank Jr. pictured with members of the Wilcox Family,
former U.S. Representative Norm Dicks and past Nisqually
Tribal Chair Cynthia Iyall.
Billy Frank Jr. speaks at a
Nisqually River Council
sponsored event.
in the watershed. They
wanted Wilcox Farms to
continue raising eggs and
meet their goals for the farm.
They wanted Weyerhaeuser
to still be a major landowner,
growing and harvesting
trees. In turn, the Tribe
wanted to have healthy
salmon runs so that they
could continue to fish for
them as they had for time
immemorial. This philosophy of collaborative-based conserva-
tion has held throughout the history of the Nisqually River
Council and the Tribe has continued to practice and promote it
in their work with the Council.
HONORING PARTNERSHIPS:
Nisqually River Council
and the
Nisqually Indian Tribe
Y I L - M E - H U n
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Nisqually River Education Project:
By the Numbers in 2017-18
ACTIVITY
# STUDENTS
# VOLUNTEERS
# HOURS/TRIP (AVG)
TOTAL # STUDENT FIELD
EXPERIENCE HOURS
TOTAL # VOLUNTEER HOURS
OTHER METRICS/
DESCRIPTIONS
Nisqually	 928	 115	 5	 4785	 593	 Students from Cougar
Mountain, Salish, and Nisqually
Middle Schools visited
Nisqually Reach Nature Center
and National Fish and Oyster
Co. to learn about the		
importance of estuaries,
nearshore habitats, the
ecosystem benefits of shellfish
and how they are farmed
Water Quality	 984	 128	 2.5	 2460	 320	 37 sites monitored by 44
teachers and their students	
for 8 different water quality
parameters
Water Quality 	 814	 71	 2.5	 2035	 177.5	 36 sites monitored by 43
teachers and their students	
for 8 different water quality
parameters	
Habitat 	 457	 74	 2	 914	 148	 Approximately 2,500 native
trees and shrubs planted in	
the Ohop Valley
Salmon	 250	 45	 2	 500	 90	 Approximately 20,000 lbs of
Chinook hatchery carcasses 	
full of marine derived 		
nutrients returned to the	
upper watershed
26th
Annual	 500	 159	 4	 2000	 636	 24 State of the Rivers sessions
gave students a forum of their
peers to analyze their water
quality results with and make
recommendations for
improving water quality in
Nisqually and South Sound
watersheds
Eye On	 476	 94	 4	 1904	 376	 At the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually
National Wildlife Refuge,
students learn how to
NatureMap the wildlife they
find and take an ethnobotany
walk to learn the uses and
benefits of common native
plants
Invasive	 156	 28	 2	 312	 56	 Students worked on 3 different
Nisqually Land Trust properties
to remove invasive Himalayan
blackberry, English ivy and
Scott’s broom
GRAND TOTALS				 14909.5	 2396.75
Student
GREEN
Congress
Species
Removal
Photoscredit:SheilaWilson
Restoration	
Carcass
Tossing
Nearshore
Trips
Monitoring
- October
Monitoring
- February
Nature
RENE BRACERO
NISQUALLY INDIAN
TRIBE, HARVEST
TECHNICIAN
Rene has also been a fixture
in the watershed for several
years. In March of 2018, he took
on a new role as biology techni-
cian with the Nisqually Indian
Tribe. Rene began as an intern
with the Tribe’s Nisqually
Environmental Team (NET) in
2016, and has worked with a
wide range of programs in Natural Resources since then. He’s
been part of the Nisqually Field Technician Crew, worked at the
Kalama and Clear Creek Hatcheries and the mainstem weir,
supported the Nisqually Shellfish Program and She-Nah-Num
Seafoods, and assisted with the Tribe’s outreach programs,
includingNisquallySalmonCampforTribalyouthandtheNisqually
Elders program. This year, Rene spoke to over 500 students at the
Student GREEN Congress, presenting the Nisqually Indian Tribe’s
gifts of smoked salmon and Douglas fir seedlings to the student
delegates in recognition of their commitment to sustainability and
stewardship. Rene’s favorite thing about his current position is
floating the river for mainstem and tributary surveys.
EMILY MCCARTAN
NISQUALLY RIVER
FOUNDATION, PROGRAM
COORDINATOR
Emily joined the Nisqually
River Foundation, as the
program coordinator for the
Nisqually River Council in
September 2017. She’s new to
the Nisqually family but grew
up in the South Sound with
deep connections to the
Refuge, Mount Rainier, and
the intersecting human and natural communities of the
watershed. Emily has worked in education outreach and public
policy for ten years, focusing on youth and public engagement
programs ranging from public history, arts and culture to sus-
tainable agriculture and conservation. Before coming to the
River Foundation, she managed statewide civic education and
intern programs at the Washington State Legislature from 2013
to 2017. Emily is enjoying coordinating the Nisqually River
Council, Citizens Advisory Committee, and Nisqually Stream
Stewards programs, as well as getting a crash course in environ-
mental science, habitat restoration, and biology. She’s thrilled
to be able to spend time doing policy research and supporting
the collaborative relationships among watershed stakeholders,
as well as getting out regularly to observe fieldwork and help
engage students in the Nisqually River Education Project.
BRANDON BYWATER
NISQUALLY RIVER
FOUNDATION, WATER
QUALITY PROGRAM
COORDINATOR
AfterservingwithAmeriCorps
at the Nisqually River Education
Project for the 2017-18 school
year, Brandon joins the NREP
full-time as the Water Quality
Program Coordinator. He will
be working with 45+ teachers
throughout the watershed to
promote water quality education and conservation. Brandon
graduated in 2015 with a degree in Environmental Studies from
Northeastern Illinois University and has held positions as an
environmental educator and naturalist. He’s enjoying the transi-
tion of leaving the hectic Chicago environment for the beauty and
diverse topography of the Nisqually watershed as he plants new
roots in the Pacific Northwest. As an environmental educator he
understands that positive experiences in nature at a young devel-
opmental stage can have significant impacts on our love for our
natural resources and our desire to protect them. His goal for
working with the NREP is to become part of something bigger
than himself as he translates his passion into a refined skill for
education while promoting conservation.
W I N T E R 2 0 1 8 / 2 0 1 9 n
Y I L - M E - H U 15
WALKER DUVAL
NISQUALLY INDIAN
TRIBE, HARVEST	
BIOLOGIST
Walker, a familiar face in the
Nisqually, took on a new
position as a Biologist II with
the Nisqually Indian Tribe’s
Natural Resources Harvest
Program last August. Walker
has been working on salmon
recovery as a field biologist at
the Nisqually River Foundation
since 2011, and he’s enjoying the transition from juvenile
research to focusing on adult returns while learning about fore-
casting, sampling, and estimating natural escapements for
Nisqually salmon populations. After graduating from Eastern
Washington University and serving a year with Washington
Conservation Corps, Walker started his career in the Nisqually
watershed in 2010 with a job in visitor services at the Nisqually
National Wildlife Refuge. His history with salmon and the
Nisqually, however, goes back to childhood: he grew up visiting
the Refuge, where his grandmother volunteered, and developed
a passion for salmon and outdoor life at an early age.
S TA F F U P D AT E S
4820 She Nah Num Drive
Olympia, WA 98513
STANDARD
US POSTAGE
PAID
APEX MAILING
SERVICES INC
—Roger Andrascik
A person’s time and what they chose to do with it is one of the
most precious things we possess. People young and old have
been very generous with their time in the Nisqually Watershed.
From 2011 to present, Nisqually Land Trust (NLT) volunteers have
contributed over 21,000 total hours. This is the equivalency of
one staff position for 10 years. Sixty-three Nisqually Stream
Stewards (NSS) graduates between 2015 -2017 have contributed
1496 hours, but this figure is probably under reported. This
school year 2017-18, the Nisqually River Education Project has
had nearly 15,000 student field experience hours along with
2,400 volunteer hours.
I retired from the National Park Service in 2015. Joining the
NSS and the NLT Board of Directors allows me to remain active
in conservation work. My contribution and that of hundreds of
others is part of a larger
effort to bring people to
work together with a shared
vision of salmon recovery
through habitat protection and education. As a NSS you can see
firsthand the results of your efforts and the work of many partners
in the watershed. It has been encouraging to make a dent in
invasive plant species, see new growth in planted trees and
shrubs, and follow trends in monitoring the Ohop Creek restora-
tion groundwater wells. I enjoy serving as a salmon watcher on
the Mashel and Little Mashel rivers. Witnessing a salmon struggle
in low water, sometimes only belly deep has made me want to
monitor their challenging journey even more. It is great to see
the response of the public and youth in particular at the Nisqually
Watershed Festival and Eatonville Salmon Fest. I enjoy assisting
Roger captures a pink salmon in the Mashel River while volunteering as a Salmon Watcher.
Photo Credit: Roger Andrascik
Ask not what the Nisqually can do for you;
ask what you can do for the Nisqually
Eatonville Elementary School students in salmon carcass toss,
water quality monitoring, and the Student Green Congress.
Northwest Trek provided me training for monitoring amphibian
breeding. I attend the Nisqually River Council (NRC) meetings,
which is open to NSS, to keep up with activities and research
findings on all aspects of the watershed and to stay connected
with former colleagues and new friends I have met.
Many of the challenges the salmon now face did not happen
overnight. Efforts to restore salmon populations and their habitat
will take years. There are many great existing partnerships and
opportunities to suit one’s interest in helping out. Besides op-
portunities described above, consider other Nisqually River
Education Project events (Eye on Nature, Nearshore Surveys,
Nature Mapping), serving on the NRC Citizens Advisory
Committee, design your
own projects, working in the
office, being a NLT Site
Steward or Intern. Volunteers
can participate in as many or few things, with as little or as much
time as they want. There is something for everyone regardless of
age. Get outside and get your feet wet and hands dirty. It is fun
and enjoyable. You will likely learn some new things that you can
share with others. You will meet some outstanding people,
working like you in promoting a great conservation effort. There
is a price for sitting idle. As Billy Frank Jr. would ask, “what do we
tell our children when the fish are gone?” Volunteering is a fun
way to see the properties, exercise, and improve wildlife habitat
around the Nisqually River Watershed. Thanks to the sustained
efforts of hundreds of volunteers, we are all making a difference.
There is something for everyone regardless of age.
Get outside and get your feet wet and hands dirty.

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Yil Me Hu Winter 2018-19

  • 1. THE NISQUALLY WATERSHED SALMON RECOVERY NEWSLETTER | WHAT’S INSIDE: W I N T E R 2 0 1 8 / 2 0 1 9 Tablets Make Steelhead Spawning Surveys More Powerful Land Use and Habitat Change in the Lower Nisqually River Valley Native Plant Crew Grows New Skills
  • 2. Y I L - M E - H U n W I N T E R 2 0 1 8 / 2 0 1 9 Yil-me-hu, Nisqually word that means “the salmon dance, on its first arrival.” The first fish ceremony — The first fish caught in the spring was prepared in an earth pit stove, shared and eaten by members of the village. The bones, left intact, were returned to the river, pointing upstream. This display was symbolic. It meant that the villagers were respectful to the fish spirits and wished that, because the ceremony had been done correctly, many more fish would come up the stream during that year. A dance followed the ceremony called the “yil-me-hu,” a Nisqually word that means “the salmon dance, on its first arrival.”* * Carpenter, Cecilia Svinth, Fort Nisqually: A Documented History of Indian and British Interaction. A Tahoma Research Publication. 1986. p13. Yil-me-hu is published by the Nisqually Indian Tribe Natural Resources Department and the Nisqually River Council to provide information about activities associated with the protection and restoration of salmon and their habitat in the Nisqually watershed. 4820 She Nah Num Drive Olympia, WA 98513 Phone: 360-438-8687 Fax: 360-438-8742 Email: vonessen.ashley@nisqually-nsn.gov Websites: nisquallyriver.org, www.nisqually-nsn.gov Managing Editor: Ashley Von Essen Writers/Editors: Roger Andrascik, Rene Bracero, Brandon Bywater, Walker Duval, Christopher Ellings, Justin Hall, Emily McCartan, Jed Moore, Emmett O’Connell, David Troutt, Sheila Wilson Design: Nine Design Printed with soy-based ink on recycled paper that is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. Artist: Gabe TABLE OF CONTENTS 3 Director’s Corner 4 Tablets Make Steelhead Spawning Surveys More Powerful 5 Native Plant Crew Grows New Skills 6 Land Use and Habitat Change in the Lower Nisqually River Valley 8 Game Cameras Prove Wildlife Prey on Salmon Carcasses 10 Recovering What Was Lost: The Nisqually Chinook Population Experiment 12 Partners Celebrate Completion of “Mashel River Restoration Design” 13 Honoring Partnerships: Nisqually River Council and the Nisqually Indian Tribe 14 Nisqually River Education Project: By the Numbers in 2017-18 15 New Faces in Nisqually 16 Ask not what the Nisqually can do for you; ask what you can do for the Nisqually 2 Cover photo: Biologists observe tagged salmon while conducting carcass surveys in the lower section of Yelm Creek. Photo credit: Jed Moore If you wish to no longer receive this publication, please contact: Ashley Von Essen, vonessen.ashley@nisqually-nsn.gov. Page 2 photo: Beach Seine - Field Crew at River Mouth Photo credit: Jed Moore
  • 3. W I N T E R 2 0 1 8 / 2 0 1 9 n Y I L - M E - H U 3 David Troutt David is the Natural Resources Director for the Nisqually Indian Tribe, Chair of the Salmon Recovery Funding Board, Chair of Puget Sound Salmon Recovery Council and Chair of the Nisqually River Council. When I started at Nisqually as a young, inexperienced, recent grad from the University of Washington I really had no idea where this adventure would lead. We had a small, but dedicated, staff of 10 people organized to fulfill the require- ments of the U.S. vs Washington decision and to run a small hatchery to produce Chinook and coho for tribal harvest. We operated out of the back of the tribal gym in a small office. From that foundation we have grown to meet new chal- lenges and respond to the needs of the Nisqually Indian Tribe and the watershed. We now have over 50 staff spread across 8 different programs providing services that include our original mandate – orderly, science-based management of our fisheries, as well as shellfish management, environmental management, two salmon hatcheries, salmon recovery, Geographic and Information Services (GIS), and a marine- based restoration, research, and dive program. The growth of the program over the years parallels the growing complexity of managing natural resources in this ever changing world. Climate change, sea level rise, ocean acidification, changing rain and snow patterns, all lead to challenges to our natural world and the ecosystem that we all live in. Keeping up with these changes, adapting our man- agement approaches and actions, and assessing the outcomes of those approaches and actions to then influence the next round of decision making requires expertise in these areas and we have some of the best working for us. When I say working for us, I really do mean us in the greater sense. The Nisqually Indian Tribe has invested significant resources to develop the best Natural Resources program in the State with the idea to be the lead for the critical resource issues in the watershed, and we gladly and proudly serve that role for the watershed community. Where does this program go from here? What are the next challenges that we will need to address? Certainly gaining a better understanding of the local impacts of climate change will affect all of our actions into the future. How we consider restora- tion projects, where the priorities lie for habitat protection and management, how we manage our fisheries will all be impacted by climate change. Continuing and expanding our Salish Sea research effort might make sense. What will come out of the Governor’s Orca Task Force that will have an impact on the Nisqually? It may be necessary to expand our program to provide expertise around marine mammals to participate in a Sound-wide effort to reduce the impacts of growing seal and sea lion populations. Are there upland ter- restrial issues that we need to consider? In 1987 it would have been nearly impossible to predict what this program would look like 31 years later. But, what was and remains predictable, is the Tribe’s desire to have the best technical staff to serve its needs and the needs of our watershed. The past should give you all comfort that you can rest assured that the Tribe will step and face the challenges of the future. I was hired in 1987 by Billy Frank Jr. to come to Nisqually and run his Natural Resources Program. After 31 years in this seat there is a lot to reflect back upon and look forward to, and I thought I would share a few thoughts with all of you. Photocredit:JedMoore
  • 4. Tabletsmakesteelheadspawningsurveysmorepowerful PhotoCredit:JedMoore Y I L - M E - H U n W I N T E R 2 0 1 8 / 2 0 1 94 Between December and May, wild Nisqually winter steelhead return to the Nisqually River to spawn. In order to determine the number of steelhead returning, the Nisqually Indian Tribe’s Harvest and Salmon Recovery Programs float the river in rafts and count the nests (redds) where steelhead deposit and fertilize their eggs during spawning. Redd counts are used to estimate steelhead abundance and their survival during their years in the Pacific Ocean. Thanks to a field data collection tool developed by Environmental Systems Research Institute and configured by the Nisqually Indian Tribe’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Program, the surveys have become more informative and efficient. Waterproof, handheld tablets loaded with the field application allow staff to collect redd locations and water depths during steelhead redd surveys. The application works even when not connected to a cellular network and uses Global Positioning System (GPS) to create a location-based data point. Attributes about the redds are attached to each point which then get synced to a central database once the field crew comes back to the office at the end of the day. The result is secure, near real-time data and an interactive map that is rich in biological and physical information critical to management. For example, the record of where, when, and under what conditions steelhead spawn can help focus the Tribe’s habitat protection and restoration efforts. The use of tablets for steelhead spawning surveys has been so successful, other programs are using them for other types of fieldwork. For example, a separate application is currently in use for tracking Chinook that are collected at the Tribe’s Clear Creek hatchery and transported upstream to the spawning grounds. Data collected from Chinook during this truck and haul operation will be linked with samples collected during related Chinook carcass surveys that take place each fall. The carcass survey application allows staff to easily manage the many types of data that are collected from Chinook carcasses recovered from the spawning grounds. The Tribe’s Native Plant Restoration Crew is also starting to use tablets to track the progress of habitat restoration projects and maintenance of those projects. The map-based field applications being utilized by the GIS Program are revo- lutionizing how data are collected, stored, referenced, and analyzed. The number of steps between collecting field data and producing valuable map-based reports has been drastically reduced, making the Nisqually Indian Tribe’s Natural Resources Department as a whole more effective. A screenshot of the data collection application shows the kind of information being collected for each of the points. GPS allows the user to collect location-based data which creates an interactive map rich in biological and physical information. This map shows redds counted in just one week between the Tank Crossing bridge and the 6th Avenue BNSF train bridge. MapCredit:CathySampselle,NisquallyGISProgram A steelhead redd discovered on the Nisqually mainstem is marked with an orange rock.
  • 5. Photos by Florian Leischner W I N T E R 2 0 1 8 / 2 0 1 9 n Y I L - M E - H U 5 Ten years ago, we knew that fully functioning habitat was the greatest limiting factor for recovering ESA-listed Chinook and steelhead. That has not changed. However, since then the Nisqually Indian Tribe has continued to investigate how each species of salmon are reacting to changing habitat conditions. As we gain this knowledge, we must adjust our goals and objectives, and how we go about achieving them. This means we must be ready to adapt, grow, and learn new skills. The Nisqually Indian Tribe’s Native Plant Restoration Crew (Crew) is an excellent example of this. In 2008, a crew of five was hired to implement large scale riparian restorationprojects.Sincethatveryday,theyhaveplanted, tubed, and staked in the best and worst weather conditions. They’ve prepped countless sites, put hundreds of thousands of trees in the ground, and maintained hundreds of acres of land all in the name of salmon recovery. They’ve nurtured these young trees and shrubs to guarantee their survival so they can grow big and tall and create the habitat salmon so badly need. As we continue to learn more from our research, the Crew has adapted their skills to make sure the salmon keep coming home and the Tribe is able to keep fishing and exercising their treaty right. Since 2008, in addition to planting trees and combating reed canary grass, the Crew has: n Assisted the Hatchery Program staff in processing Chinook and coho as they return to spawn at both the Kalama and Clear Creek Hatcheries n Assisted the Harvest Program staff with multi-species spawning surveys n Performed nearshore sampling activities in the Nisqually Estuary and Aquatic Reserve n Assisted with zooplankton sampling in support of the Salish Sea Marine Survival Project n Helped implement the Nisqually Chinook supplementation effort (see page 8-9 for more details) n Assisted the Nisqually River Education Project with student fieldtrips, tossing salmon carcasses and planting trees n Worked in partnership with WA Department of Fish and Wildlife to collect seal scat in an effort to learn more about more about what and where they’re eating Eddie Villegas and Nano Perez help out at the Clear Creek Hatchery. Photo Credit: Debbie Preston Kyle Kautz and Robert McGee assist with the Chinook colonization experiment. PhotoCredit:EmmettO’ConnellPhotoCredit:EmmettO’Connell NATIVE PLANT CREW GROWS NEW SKILLS Sam Stepetin uses a tablet loaded with a map-based application to track progress of habitat restoration projects. Over the years, they have continued to rise to each and every task put in front of them. Their dedication and passion for what they do can be seen with each new project they accomplish. They are incredibly hard workers that have shed blood, sweat, and tears with each restoration project they’ve helped implement. Restoration, research, and salmon management in the Nisqually Watershed would not be possible without them.
  • 6. Y I L - M E - H U n W I N T E R 2 0 1 8 / 2 0 1 96 Land Use & Habitat Change in the Lower Nisqually River Valley The U.S. Geological Survey and the Nisqually Indian Tribe GIS and Salmon Recovery Programs recently published a study that assessed habitat and land use changes in the lower Nisqually River and Nisqually Delta over the last 60 years. The team used imagery from July 1957, July 1980, and July/August 2015 (Figure 1) to quantify changes to key land cover types and habitats such as agriculture/grassland, developed land, emergent marsh wetland, forest, riverbank, mudflat, and open water. This is a brief summary of the findings. Figure 3. Riparian and upland forest net change for 1957–1980, 1980–2015, and 1957–2015 A 7.7% net loss (Figure 3) of riparian forest was detected between 1957 and 1980 due to conversion to agriculture in the lowlands between McAllister Creek and the Nisqually River. From 1980 to 2015, riparian forest increased 2.3% within the Refuge restoration boundary. Upland forest was minimally impacted between 1957 and 1980 with only a 0.9% loss caused by forest removal for quarry expansion, yet between 1980 and 2015 a more significant decline of 8.2% of upland forest occurred due to land development. For the full publication, see: Ballanti, L., KB Byrd, I Woo, C Ellings. 2017. Remote Sensing for Wetland Mapping and Historical Change Detection at the Nisqually River Delta. Sustainability 9 (11): article 1919, 32pp Figure 1. Habitat classification at the Nisqually River Delta in 1957, 1980, and 2015. Tracking large scale changes in land use and habitat using remote imagery is an important way to monitor the impact of human activities and natural events on the landscape. It gives managers a ‘big picture’ perspective in order to identify management targaets and to predict the impact of things like development, restoration, and sea level rise.
  • 7. W I N T E R 2 0 1 8 / 2 0 1 9 n Y I L - M E - H U 7 Figure 2. Net forest change between 1957–1980, 1980–2015, and 1957–2015. The 1957 imagery classification identified 1,430.8 hectares (ha) of forest within the study area. Forest cover within the study area decreased by 8.6% from 1957 to 1980 and decreased an additional 5.9% from 1980 to 2015 (Figure 2). This change occurred in both upland and riparian areas, with forest loss most commonly resulting from land development, agriculture, and river channel movement. Changes in the meandering river channel was distinctly visible in the forest change maps, and although each map shows forest loss associated with the new river channel, forest regrowth also filled in old channels. Forest increased from 1957 to 1980 in areas along the Nisqually River and near McAllister Creek near Highway I-5. Figure 4. Change in wetland area (net gain, loss, and no change) by sites plots for 1957–1980 and 1980–2015, and 1957–2015. Tidal marsh decreased from 1957 to 1980, followed by 54.2% net increase of wetland from 1980 to 2015, as a result of the multiple phased estuary restorations that culminated in 2009 (Figure 4). Despite these wetland gains, a total of 83.1 ha (35%) of marsh was lost between 1957 and 2015, particularly in areas near the Nisqually River mouth due to erosion and shifting river channels. The ability to track large scale changes in habitat quality and quantity using remote sensing is an invaluable tool for natural resources managers. The Nisqually Indian Tribe will use analyses like this to evaluate the impact of population growth, sea level rise, and restoration on critical salmon habitats.
  • 8. Y I L - M E - H U n W I N T E R 2 0 1 8 / 2 0 1 98 For almost twenty years, the Nisqually Indian Tribe has worked with volunteers to toss thousands of pounds of salmon carcasses across tributaries in the upper Nisqually watershed. Why, you ask? For years biologists have known that when salmon return home to salmon, they bring back much needed nutrients that they pick up while feeding and growing in the marine environment. Rich in nitrogen and other organic matter, these nutrients have proven to support riparian veg- etation and aquatic plant life, as well as 137 species of wildlife. Each year, when salmon return to the hatchery to spawn, staff save the carcasses in order to take advantage of this valuable resource. Ten sites are then selected where these nutrients can have the greatest impact. The Tribe partners with the Nisqually River Education Project (NREP) to bring students out to help spread the salmon carcass-love, creating plenty of opportunity for ooey-gooey, teachable moments. Together, these organizations, along with the help of many volunteers and students, have distributed nearly 160 tons of dead salmon throughout the watershed! We’re now getting a look at what happens when the students and volunteers go home. For the past two years, the Tribe and NREP have installed time-lapse cameras at salmon toss sites to see what types of critters came by in the weeks following the last carcass toss.
  • 9. W I N T E R 2 0 1 8 / 2 0 1 9 n Y I L - M E - H U 9 The most common animals captured on film were bald eagles and other types of raptors. The presence of so many large birds concen- trated near the distribution sites indicates that the carcasses are an important food source in winter. Countless coyotes, deer, and other animals have also been documented. What is not captured by the cameras are the millions of insects that feed on the carcasses and become food for juvenile salmon. The carcass distribution program also ties into the ongoing salmon habitat restoration efforts throughout the watershed. In recent years, the Tribe and its partners have completed several projects that provide habitat for juvenile fish. By putting carcasses near those restoration projects, they’re helping ensure the fish rearing in them will have food. Over the last hundred years, there has been a dramatic decline in numbers of returning salmon and available carcasses and food in the system. Even though the carcass tossing program can’t recreate historic conditions in terms of marine-derived nutrients, it is a step in the right direction. The Tribe and NREP host an annual community salmon tossing event each winter. Be sure to check the Nisqually River Council’s calendar of events for upcoming opportunities: www.nisquallyriver.org.
  • 10. Y I L - M E - H U n W I N T E R 2 0 1 8 / 2 0 1 910 Recovering What was Lost: The Nisqually Chinook Population Experiment Salmon are released from large tanks directly into spawning areas. Photo Credit: Debbie Preston
  • 11. W I N T E R 2 0 1 8 / 2 0 1 9 n Y I L - M E - H U 11 Native Nisqually River fall and spring Chinook were lost over half a century ago due to habitat degradation, hydropower development, and other anthropogenic activities. To mitigate for the loss of native Nisqually Chinook, large numbers of hatchery fish have been released in order to provide subsistence, commercial, and sport fisheries. Most of the Chinook released into the Nisqually River have been Green River origin fall Chinook. With the listing of Puget Sound Chinook as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1999, the goal of once again having a self-sustaining native run of Nisqually Chinook has been a driving force in the Nisqually Chinook recovery effort. Chinook salmon aren’t the easiest thing to transport. This is what happens when one gets away from you! Photo Credit: Debbie Preston Since the ESA listing of Puget Sound Chinook, major habitat protection and restoration actions have been taken in the Nisqually Watershed. Nisqually River salmon habitat conditions have been improving over the last 20 years, paving the way to restoring a native Nisqually Chinook population. Currently, much of the habitat in the Nisqually is underutilized by Chinook which limits the number of naturally produced Chinook that can return to the river and contribute to recovery. In order to jump-start the production of river-born Chinook, the Nisqually Indian Tribe and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (co-managers) have started an experimental effort to increase the total number of spawning Chinook in the river. The co-managers are using adult Chinook from the Clear Creek hatchery, the largest hatchery in the Nisqually Watershed, to saturate the available habitat and increase the production of Chinook in the river. This is an experimental approach with no guarantee of success, so the co-managers are tracking the effort closely. The approach to supplement natural Chinook spawning by moving hatchery Chinook into the spawning grounds is based on the hypothesis that habitat capacity in the Nisqually River is under-utilized and thus can support greater abundances of juvenile and adult Chinook salmon than at recent levels of escapement and natural production. That is, there is under-utilized capacity to produce more Nisqually Chinook. Once more Chinook are produced in the river, the ability for the naturally spawning population to become self-sustaining increases substantially. The primary objective of the experiment is to increase the total number of spawning Chinook in the Nisqually River to over 3,500 adults and then monitor the results. This will be accomplished by moving over 2,000 hatchery Chinook in large tanks on the back of trucks to spawning areas in the Nisqually River. Additionally, fisheries are being managed to ensure that enough fish come back to the spawning grounds naturally in order to make up the difference. All of the fish being trucked to the spawning grounds are tagged and sampled for age and genetics as part of an intensive research effort to measure the results of the experiment. The Nisqually Chinook supplementation effort will be phased out as the natural population rebuilds. Future actions will be focused on promoting local adaptation and continuing to improve habitat conditions both within the watershed and throughout Puget Sound. With the best science available and a little luck, hopefully future generations will be able to once again have a healthy and productive run of native Nisqually Chinook. PhotoCredit:DebbiePreston Salmon Recovery and Hatchery Program staff working together to transport Chinook.
  • 12. Y I L - M E - H U n W I N T E R 2 0 1 8 / 2 0 1 912 Partners Celebrate Completion of “Mashel River Restoration Design” The 2001 Nisqually Chinook Recovery Plan recommended restoration feasibility analysis for the Mashel River through the Town of Eatonville in order to develop restoration alternatives for the impaired reach. As the watershed’s largest tributary, the Mashel River has been recognized as critical habitat for multiple life stages of ESA-listed fall Chinook and winter steelhead, as well as coho salmon. In 2004, Pierce Conservation District sponsored the publication of The Mashel River Restoration Design, a technical report that not only assessed current conditions of the project reach, but developed specific restoration goals for factors most limiting to salmon. Limiting factors included: habitat diversity, channel stability, flow conditions, quantity of habitat, food availability, an abundance of fine sediment, and water temperatures. All of these factors can be attributed, at least in part, to the legacy effects of past logging practices and flood control through the Town. These activities have led to hardened banks, unstable slopes, increased erosion, and loss of riparian vegetation and large woody debris. The resulting stream conditions were rendered inhospitable to juvenile and adult salmon and steelhead. The report recommended floodplain reconnection, riparian restoration, and increased inputs of large woody debris. Due to the size of the project area and the magnitude of funding needed to complete the work, the project was split into three distinct phases, making them more manageable. Each was given specific targets, treatment opportunities, and recom- mended actions needed that would lead to restoration. The South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group (SPSSEG) began tackling this long list of projects in 2006, in- stalling 13 engineered log jams (ELJs) in the Mashel River near Boxcar Canyon (Reaches 1 and 2). In 2012, the Nisqually Indian Tribe (NIT) completed a project that installed 21 more ELJs near Smallwood Park, followed by nine additional ELJs constructed by Washington Department of Transportation (Reaches 4 and 5). This brought the total number of installed jams to 43. In summer 2017, SPSSEG worked with the NIT, the Nisqually Land Trust, and the Town of Eatonville to begin the final, most downstream phase prescribed by the 2004 assessment (Reach 7). As 2018 summer construction season came to a close, nine more ELJs have been added to the lower Mashel River. In addition to the introduced jams, the site will undergo a riparian restoration starting winter 2018-19, planting nearly 5,000 native trees and shrubs by watershed students organized by the Nisqually River Education Project and the NIT’s Native Plant Restoration Crew. This marks the culmination of millions of dollars of salmon recovery funding and 14 years of hard work and dedication by the Nisqually restoration community. This is an incredible accomplish- ment that should be celebrated throughout the watershed. Photo credit: Ashley Von Essen Map Credit: Watershed Professionals Network, LLC
  • 13. Some highlights of the Nisqually Indian Tribe’s work with the Nisqually River Council include: n The formation of the Nisqually Land Trust – George Walter, Environmental Program Manager for the Tribe, founded of the Nisqually Land Trust in 1989. The Nisqually Land Trust has been instrumental in helping each permanent protection of over 78% of the riparian area of the mainstem Nisqually. n The Council asked the Tribe to take the lead in writing the Nisqually Chinook Recovery Plan and to be the Lead Entity for salmon recovery in the Nisqually watershed. The recovery plan became the first ever Puget Sound recovery plan completed, which has been used as a template for other watersheds in the region. n The Tribe took the lead in the 2514 Water Quality and Quantity process, a shared strategy setting instream flows and assessing human and natural resources water needs. The Tribe, along with many other organizations, produced the first such plan to be signed by multiple counties. This planning group has recently has been tasked with providing an update to the 2514 plan, which will aid in the outcome of what is known as the “Hirst Decision.” n The Tribe’s hatcheries provide salmon carcasses for the Nisqually River Education Project’s student carcass tossing field trips. The NREP is an NRC program that works with Tribe staff to determine where carcass nutrients can have the greatest impact. n The Tribe continues to providing financial support for the Nisqually River Council staffing and its special projects. n Support and collaboration of the Nisqually Community Forest as it works to purchase the commercial efforts forests of the watershed. n Development of the Nisqually Stream Stewards program, a watershed education program, jointly run by the Tribe and the Nisqually River Council. n The Tribe’s Director of Natural Resources has served has the chair of the Council for the last 14 years. n In addition to all those endeavors, the Tribe has also provided the River Council staff with a home for the past ten years. The Nisqually River Council is honored to have been able to work with the Tribe for so many years. The NRC membership includes representatives from 24 federal, state, local, and tribal agencies and a vibrant citizen’s advisory committee. Each organization brings its own expertise, knowledge, and skill to the NRC, making them a critical part of the Council’s success. W I N T E R 2 0 1 8 / 2 0 1 9 n Y I L - M E - H U 13 The Nisqually River Council (NRC) celebrates its 31-year partnership with the Nisqually Indian Tribe, a founding member of the NRC. In 1985 the Nisqually River Task Force was created by Washington State Senator Jennifer Belcher and chaired by Thurston County Commissioner Karen Fraser, with Billy Frank Jr. and George Walter representing the Nisqually Indian Tribe. Early in the process, Billy made it clear that the recommenda- tions of the Nisqually River Task Force would be voluntary. The Tribe wanted their neighbors to be successful and able to thrive NRC representatives of past and present: Retired Nisqually Refuge Manager Jean Takawa, past Thurston County Commissioner Sandra Romero, and Nisqually Land Trust Executive Director Joe Kane. Billy Frank Jr. pictured with members of the Wilcox Family, former U.S. Representative Norm Dicks and past Nisqually Tribal Chair Cynthia Iyall. Billy Frank Jr. speaks at a Nisqually River Council sponsored event. in the watershed. They wanted Wilcox Farms to continue raising eggs and meet their goals for the farm. They wanted Weyerhaeuser to still be a major landowner, growing and harvesting trees. In turn, the Tribe wanted to have healthy salmon runs so that they could continue to fish for them as they had for time immemorial. This philosophy of collaborative-based conserva- tion has held throughout the history of the Nisqually River Council and the Tribe has continued to practice and promote it in their work with the Council. HONORING PARTNERSHIPS: Nisqually River Council and the Nisqually Indian Tribe
  • 14. Y I L - M E - H U n W I N T E R 2 0 1 8 / 2 0 1 914 Nisqually River Education Project: By the Numbers in 2017-18 ACTIVITY # STUDENTS # VOLUNTEERS # HOURS/TRIP (AVG) TOTAL # STUDENT FIELD EXPERIENCE HOURS TOTAL # VOLUNTEER HOURS OTHER METRICS/ DESCRIPTIONS Nisqually 928 115 5 4785 593 Students from Cougar Mountain, Salish, and Nisqually Middle Schools visited Nisqually Reach Nature Center and National Fish and Oyster Co. to learn about the importance of estuaries, nearshore habitats, the ecosystem benefits of shellfish and how they are farmed Water Quality 984 128 2.5 2460 320 37 sites monitored by 44 teachers and their students for 8 different water quality parameters Water Quality 814 71 2.5 2035 177.5 36 sites monitored by 43 teachers and their students for 8 different water quality parameters Habitat 457 74 2 914 148 Approximately 2,500 native trees and shrubs planted in the Ohop Valley Salmon 250 45 2 500 90 Approximately 20,000 lbs of Chinook hatchery carcasses full of marine derived nutrients returned to the upper watershed 26th Annual 500 159 4 2000 636 24 State of the Rivers sessions gave students a forum of their peers to analyze their water quality results with and make recommendations for improving water quality in Nisqually and South Sound watersheds Eye On 476 94 4 1904 376 At the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, students learn how to NatureMap the wildlife they find and take an ethnobotany walk to learn the uses and benefits of common native plants Invasive 156 28 2 312 56 Students worked on 3 different Nisqually Land Trust properties to remove invasive Himalayan blackberry, English ivy and Scott’s broom GRAND TOTALS 14909.5 2396.75 Student GREEN Congress Species Removal Photoscredit:SheilaWilson Restoration Carcass Tossing Nearshore Trips Monitoring - October Monitoring - February Nature
  • 15. RENE BRACERO NISQUALLY INDIAN TRIBE, HARVEST TECHNICIAN Rene has also been a fixture in the watershed for several years. In March of 2018, he took on a new role as biology techni- cian with the Nisqually Indian Tribe. Rene began as an intern with the Tribe’s Nisqually Environmental Team (NET) in 2016, and has worked with a wide range of programs in Natural Resources since then. He’s been part of the Nisqually Field Technician Crew, worked at the Kalama and Clear Creek Hatcheries and the mainstem weir, supported the Nisqually Shellfish Program and She-Nah-Num Seafoods, and assisted with the Tribe’s outreach programs, includingNisquallySalmonCampforTribalyouthandtheNisqually Elders program. This year, Rene spoke to over 500 students at the Student GREEN Congress, presenting the Nisqually Indian Tribe’s gifts of smoked salmon and Douglas fir seedlings to the student delegates in recognition of their commitment to sustainability and stewardship. Rene’s favorite thing about his current position is floating the river for mainstem and tributary surveys. EMILY MCCARTAN NISQUALLY RIVER FOUNDATION, PROGRAM COORDINATOR Emily joined the Nisqually River Foundation, as the program coordinator for the Nisqually River Council in September 2017. She’s new to the Nisqually family but grew up in the South Sound with deep connections to the Refuge, Mount Rainier, and the intersecting human and natural communities of the watershed. Emily has worked in education outreach and public policy for ten years, focusing on youth and public engagement programs ranging from public history, arts and culture to sus- tainable agriculture and conservation. Before coming to the River Foundation, she managed statewide civic education and intern programs at the Washington State Legislature from 2013 to 2017. Emily is enjoying coordinating the Nisqually River Council, Citizens Advisory Committee, and Nisqually Stream Stewards programs, as well as getting a crash course in environ- mental science, habitat restoration, and biology. She’s thrilled to be able to spend time doing policy research and supporting the collaborative relationships among watershed stakeholders, as well as getting out regularly to observe fieldwork and help engage students in the Nisqually River Education Project. BRANDON BYWATER NISQUALLY RIVER FOUNDATION, WATER QUALITY PROGRAM COORDINATOR AfterservingwithAmeriCorps at the Nisqually River Education Project for the 2017-18 school year, Brandon joins the NREP full-time as the Water Quality Program Coordinator. He will be working with 45+ teachers throughout the watershed to promote water quality education and conservation. Brandon graduated in 2015 with a degree in Environmental Studies from Northeastern Illinois University and has held positions as an environmental educator and naturalist. He’s enjoying the transi- tion of leaving the hectic Chicago environment for the beauty and diverse topography of the Nisqually watershed as he plants new roots in the Pacific Northwest. As an environmental educator he understands that positive experiences in nature at a young devel- opmental stage can have significant impacts on our love for our natural resources and our desire to protect them. His goal for working with the NREP is to become part of something bigger than himself as he translates his passion into a refined skill for education while promoting conservation. W I N T E R 2 0 1 8 / 2 0 1 9 n Y I L - M E - H U 15 WALKER DUVAL NISQUALLY INDIAN TRIBE, HARVEST BIOLOGIST Walker, a familiar face in the Nisqually, took on a new position as a Biologist II with the Nisqually Indian Tribe’s Natural Resources Harvest Program last August. Walker has been working on salmon recovery as a field biologist at the Nisqually River Foundation since 2011, and he’s enjoying the transition from juvenile research to focusing on adult returns while learning about fore- casting, sampling, and estimating natural escapements for Nisqually salmon populations. After graduating from Eastern Washington University and serving a year with Washington Conservation Corps, Walker started his career in the Nisqually watershed in 2010 with a job in visitor services at the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. His history with salmon and the Nisqually, however, goes back to childhood: he grew up visiting the Refuge, where his grandmother volunteered, and developed a passion for salmon and outdoor life at an early age. S TA F F U P D AT E S
  • 16. 4820 She Nah Num Drive Olympia, WA 98513 STANDARD US POSTAGE PAID APEX MAILING SERVICES INC —Roger Andrascik A person’s time and what they chose to do with it is one of the most precious things we possess. People young and old have been very generous with their time in the Nisqually Watershed. From 2011 to present, Nisqually Land Trust (NLT) volunteers have contributed over 21,000 total hours. This is the equivalency of one staff position for 10 years. Sixty-three Nisqually Stream Stewards (NSS) graduates between 2015 -2017 have contributed 1496 hours, but this figure is probably under reported. This school year 2017-18, the Nisqually River Education Project has had nearly 15,000 student field experience hours along with 2,400 volunteer hours. I retired from the National Park Service in 2015. Joining the NSS and the NLT Board of Directors allows me to remain active in conservation work. My contribution and that of hundreds of others is part of a larger effort to bring people to work together with a shared vision of salmon recovery through habitat protection and education. As a NSS you can see firsthand the results of your efforts and the work of many partners in the watershed. It has been encouraging to make a dent in invasive plant species, see new growth in planted trees and shrubs, and follow trends in monitoring the Ohop Creek restora- tion groundwater wells. I enjoy serving as a salmon watcher on the Mashel and Little Mashel rivers. Witnessing a salmon struggle in low water, sometimes only belly deep has made me want to monitor their challenging journey even more. It is great to see the response of the public and youth in particular at the Nisqually Watershed Festival and Eatonville Salmon Fest. I enjoy assisting Roger captures a pink salmon in the Mashel River while volunteering as a Salmon Watcher. Photo Credit: Roger Andrascik Ask not what the Nisqually can do for you; ask what you can do for the Nisqually Eatonville Elementary School students in salmon carcass toss, water quality monitoring, and the Student Green Congress. Northwest Trek provided me training for monitoring amphibian breeding. I attend the Nisqually River Council (NRC) meetings, which is open to NSS, to keep up with activities and research findings on all aspects of the watershed and to stay connected with former colleagues and new friends I have met. Many of the challenges the salmon now face did not happen overnight. Efforts to restore salmon populations and their habitat will take years. There are many great existing partnerships and opportunities to suit one’s interest in helping out. Besides op- portunities described above, consider other Nisqually River Education Project events (Eye on Nature, Nearshore Surveys, Nature Mapping), serving on the NRC Citizens Advisory Committee, design your own projects, working in the office, being a NLT Site Steward or Intern. Volunteers can participate in as many or few things, with as little or as much time as they want. There is something for everyone regardless of age. Get outside and get your feet wet and hands dirty. It is fun and enjoyable. You will likely learn some new things that you can share with others. You will meet some outstanding people, working like you in promoting a great conservation effort. There is a price for sitting idle. As Billy Frank Jr. would ask, “what do we tell our children when the fish are gone?” Volunteering is a fun way to see the properties, exercise, and improve wildlife habitat around the Nisqually River Watershed. Thanks to the sustained efforts of hundreds of volunteers, we are all making a difference. There is something for everyone regardless of age. Get outside and get your feet wet and hands dirty.