Teen crew leaders, from left, David Smith, Wyatt Steffans, Anika Avelino and Jasmine Heuberger-Yearian, lead a tree-planting event near Tarboo Creek, sponsored by Northwest Watershed Institute and the Unkitawa Foundation.

Teen crew leaders, from left, David Smith, Wyatt Steffans, Anika Avelino and Jasmine Heuberger-Yearian, lead a tree-planting event near Tarboo Creek, sponsored by Northwest Watershed Institute and the Unkitawa Foundation.

Teens lead Tarboo Valley tree-planting

QUILCENE — On a rare break from the rain, students from Port Townsend High School led a tree-planting event in Tarboo Valley.

The Feb. 8 planting was organized by senior Wyatt Steffens, and was co-sponsored by Northwest Watershed Institute (NWI) and the Unkitawa Foundation of Seattle, said Judith Rubin, director of stewardship and public involvement for the Northwest Watershed Institute (NWI) of Port Townsend.

Steffens recruited and coordinated a team of 15 volunteers as his senior project.

“I recently moved to Port Townsend and I have been enjoying the wildlife here, so I wanted to use my senior project as a way to restore natural land,” he said.

Together the volunteers planted 100 large, potted trees — including Western red cedar, Pacific crabapple and grand fir — at a site in the 400-acre Tarboo Wildlife Preserve.

The NWI owns the preserve and its goal is to restore the watershed for healthy salmon and wildlife and compatible uses.

After moving from Florida last year, Steffans joined a new environmental expedition club led by Jasmine Heuberger-Yearian at Port Townsend High School (PTHS) and NWI. The group meets monthly to remove invasive plants, clean beaches, and care for the Tarboo Wildlife Preserve, Rubin said.

Steffens proposed a tree planting project to NWI last the fall, and the club helped promote it. Other PTHS students who helped as crew leaders were Heuberger-Yearian, Anika Avelino and David Smith.

Families from PTHS and Swan School volunteered to plant trees, continuing the tradition they started in 2005 at the first Plant-A-Thon.

At the turn of the 20th century, the forest in the Tarboo lowlands was land was cleared and used for cattle-grazing. The land was fallow since the 1970s. In 2004, the nonprofit NWI began the Tarboo Watershed Project, a partnership with dozens of willing landowners, and organizations to restore the natural habitat.

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