The BLA’s December 11th “Walk in the Woods” provided a test of many things. Would the coastal Coho repeat the feat they have pulled off for at least the past 10,000 years of climbing 100 miles and 1,000 vertical feet to the forested headwaters of the Nehalem River? With a forecast of 34°, 1 to 2 inches of rain and strong winds what hearty (crazy?) members of the Build Local Alliance would crawl out of warm beds and show up? All involved – fish and two-leggeds – passed the test. In spite of tough weather and flooding creeks, a game group enjoyed a four hour ramble through the full range of habitats in the 100 year old, Coast Range forest.
As always with BLA events, the experience was enriched by the diverse and fascinating mix of participants, including forest owners, foresters, naturalists, a mathematician, Intel employees, the Director of Forest Programs for a conservation non-profit and one cold, wet, shivering – but happy – dog. The group spotted and analyzed clues on the land, to pull us into the multiple, interwoven stories of the place – spanning from 50 million years to recent annual cycles of hot and dry leading to cold and wet.
While exploring the forest, creek and the salmon that link them together, participants engaged with a sequence of questions – “How did the forest-salmon mutual interdependence function prior to European contact? How does it function today? In what ways do current forest practices both help and hurt the health of salmon and forests? And What are your personal connections and commitments to these systems?”. While so much has been learned about these questions in the past decade, we’re reminded of how much mystery remains and how much more could and should be learned.
Before pulling off soggy rain gear and rubber boots and bidding farewell to the forest and creek, participants enthusiastically shared their thoughts on “what’s next? What will you do to continue and use what you learned? And How can the Build Local Alliance support your ongoing interests, goals and learning?” We look forward to reconnecting on the next walk – and having clearer views of the hard working salmon when the muddy floodwaters drop.