By Erin Hawkins
Olympic Peninsula News Group
SEQUIM — Landowners living along the Dungeness River are working with restoration crews to improve the health of the river and its inhabiting species.
Jack Janis is one of 60 residents with property on the river who have allowed a team involved in a Dungeness Repair and Recovery Project to take out invasive species of shrubs or trees and replace them with native plants.
“It’s beautiful. This is what Sequim was 150 years ago,” Janis said of the restoration work the crew did on his property.
“I could not believe the effort that went into this thing.”
The project started in 2013 with funding from the Salmon Recovery Funding Board and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to work with property owners along the Dungeness River to help restore the floodplain by creating a diverse forest.
Sara Doyle, stewardship coordinator for the North Olympic Salmon Coalition and District 1 representative on the Jefferson County Noxious Weed Control board, said the river has changed a lot throughout the years.
The salmon coalition is working with the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe and the Clallam County Noxious Weed Control Board to remove invasive plants such as butterfly bush from the river’s floodplain and restore it with native plants such as western red cedar and western hemlock.
These native plants help restore salmon habitat and create pollinator areas for birds, bees and butterflies, Doyle said.
“Overall, our goal is to have a diverse forest — any planting we do has shrubs and trees,” Doyle explained.
So far, the team has removed an estimated 70 acres of butterfly bush and completed 70 acres of planting and seeding.
Doyle said butterfly bush is becoming a species of concern and the Dungeness has one of the worst infestations in Washington state.
The salmon coalition contracts a Washington Conservation Corps crew of six people to take out invasive plants, and to seed and plant new native plants on residential or public property.
“They do everything,” Janis said. “They came out and wrapped all these trees and shrubs,” he added, explaining the wrapping acts as a small greenhouse to help the plants grow and protects the plants as the crew works.
The crew planted an estimated 400 trees and shrubs on Janis’ property. The service was provided free of charge.
The crew took out Janis’ blackberry bushes and English ivy plants and replaced them with paper birch trees, mock orange, western hemlock, vine maple, Indian plum, ninebark, red osier dogwood, red alder and red western cedar.
“It’s really been wonderful engaging landowners in the river,” Doyle said.
“It’s been wonderful to hear their stories and connect them with the restoration work, helping them feel like they can make a difference.”
The crew will continuously work with the landowners over time to help them maintain their property. It will continue to visit the site to check on the plants and replace any dead ones with new ones and help with site maintenance.
“The attitude of these people, they want to do well,” Janis said of the crew’s efforts.
“There’s a future for America when I see jobs like this.”
Erin Hawkins is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.