Story and photos by Michael Case, Forest Ecologist for The Nature Conservancy’s Washington chapter
It was an amazingly sunny day when I stepped out of the truck to meet our chapter’s Lead Scientist Phil Levin, Director of Land Conservation David Rolph and Forest Manager Kyle Smith at Ellsworth Creek Preserve. It was December 21st – the winter solstice – the shortest and usually one of the wettest days of the year. We had gotten lucky with the weather and were energized to see Ellsworth and brainstorm science ideas.
Ellsworth Creek Preserve protects an entire watershed adjacent to the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge. Photo (c) Chris Crisman with aerial support from LightHawk.
Nearly 8,000 acres in size, the Ellsworth Preserve protects an entire watershed in the southwest corner of Washington above Willapa Bay from habitat fragmentation and industrial logging, two very real threats in the region.
It’s probably no surprise that much of Western Washington has been clear cut multiple times over the last two centuries. This pattern has resulted in vast areas of even-aged trees dominated by a low diversity of tree species. Consequently, many of these forests are less able to cope with disturbances, such as fire, insects, and diseases.