North Cascades Puget Sound Headwaters Initiative
Washington Wild is exploring a long-term Puget Sound Headwaters Initiative focused on protecting upper watersheds, providing clean and cool water for fish, wildlife, local farms and families, wild forests and ultimately, the ailing Puget Sound. For more than 30 years we have worked to complete the work to protect the ancient forests that were left out of the 1984 Washington State Wilderness Act and we are continuing to identify opportunities to move this work forward.
The wild forests and rivers of the North Cascades represent the source of Puget Sound. These rivers provide most of the freshwater input into the Puget Sound estuaries, which serve as critical habitat for a wide range of species, especially all five species of Western Pacific salmon. The low-elevation forest and riparian areas also provide the high-quality habitat needed for a range of species to survive, recover, and combat changing climates- species including: cougar, lynx, black-tailed deer, elk, eagles, river otter black bears, and endangered grizzly bears, only 20 of which currently exist in the North Cascades. In addition, these ecosystems hold a high cultural value to over 10 local tribes.
The low-elevation watersheds contained on the west slope of the North Cascades provide drinking water to over 900,000 people in Snohomish and Whatcom Counties. Whatcom County has some of Washington’s most valuable agricultural lands and brings in over $260 million of revenue a year. These watersheds support Whatcom County’s berry industry, which supplies over 75% of the raspberries and nearly 17 million pounds of blueberries each year in the US. The loss of these watersheds would be a significant economic burden on Washington’s economy.
By permanently protecting these areas, we can ensure the preservation of fish and wildlife species, tribal culture and economy, and the availability of wild places for millions of residents who use these lands for year round recreation and clean water. These efforts could benefit nearly one million residents in King, Snohomish, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties with world-class recreation, ecotourism opportunities, clean drinking water, and sustainable fishing and farming business.
Washington State welcomed its newest Wilderness addition to the Stephen M. Mather Wilderness this month – 3,559 acres within the Ross Lake National Recreation Area known as Thunder Creek. Thunder Creek was originally identified for designation as “Potential Wilderness” in the Washington Parks Wilderness Act of 1988 because of its wilderness character, but with an […]