A field trip on the Olympic Peninsula this week gave people a chance to see first-hand how much work needs to be done to improve the Dungeness River Watershed.
The watershed is a major source of drinking water for the town of Sequim and irrigation water for local agriculture, but it is also prime cold-water habitat for trout and salmon, and a popular recreation area for cyclists, horsemen and all-terrain vehicle users. The competing priorities mean it's a big job to keep the fish habitat healthy.
Susan Piper, a U.S. Forest Service team leader, says giving people a closer look at what's working and what isn't gets them talking about solutions.
"We've had several people come on this trip who haven't seen some of these issues, or have thought it could be an easy solution to repair - and have recognized that it's very complex. It takes a lot longer than I think most people had anticipated."
The multiple uses make life more challenging for fish and wildlife which depend on the Dungeness. Scott Chitwood, natural resources director for the Jamestown S'Klallam tribe, says some species already are in trouble.
"There are four populations of fish in the Dungeness that are now protected on the Endangered Species list. The tribe has a treaty right to harvest fish and to manage these fish populations - but the treaty right is meaningless if there aren't any fish around."
The tight federal budget means the Forest Service depends on collaboration, not only for ideas to improve the watershed, but for funding and, sometimes, volunteer manpower. Chitwood says the groups have realized that forging partnerships is the only way to ensure that the restoration work will be done.
"We try really hard to develop those relationships, whether it's a private landowner or a government entity, or somebody who just wants to find out more information about the watershed. All of that's important, to make what we know available to the public."
So far, the groups have worked with the Forest Service to clean up an old gravel pit, decommission or stabilize roads and battle invasive weeds. By the end of September, there will be an action plan for public comment for future priorities.