How are forest-covered mountains, rivers, and salmon intertwined? Salmon need cold, clean water to thrive in rivers like the Nooksack. Streams that drain from healthy forests into salmon-bearing rivers are cooler and cleaner thanks to the shade and rainwater filtration mature trees offer.
Because of that connection – and evidence that improvements are needed in forestlands feeding the South Fork Nooksack River – the Tribe is working with various partners to better manage forests on Stewart Mountain. The partners are working to establish a public community forest on the mountain and to care for the land in ways that will bolster water quantity and quality in the South Fork during the critical summer months when streamflows are lowest and temperatures highest – a deadly combination for fish.
“The more we can create these opportunities of preservation and conservation along the South Fork is good for everyone,” Jeremiah Johnny of the Tribe’s Culture Department said in the following video about the project, called the Stewart Mountain Community Forest Initiative.
The goal is to acquire 5,500 acres of Stewart Mountain, about 30 miles east of Bellingham, to protect and improve the South Fork Nooksack River. In June, the Whatcom County Council allocated funding for the purchase of the first 550 acres of Stewart Mountain.
Johnny said Nooksack ancestors have used the forest and streams adorning Stewart Mountain to gather resources for hundreds of generations. Not least among them is king, or chinook, salmon native to the Nooksack River watershed.
“Like the pumping heartbeat, the blood that flows through the body, that’s how we see the Nooksack River in relationship to the Nooksack identity,” he said in the video.
For more information: https://www.nwcommunityforests.org/stewart-mountain-community-forest-video