Tag Archives: climate change

Action 156. Tell the administration to stop doing stupid math and start doing good science.

Executive Order 13771 (82 FR 9339, February 3, 2017) on Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs directs all agencies to repeal two existing regulations for each new regulation issued in FY 2017 and thereafter. It further directs agencies that the “total incremental costs of all regulations should be no greater than zero” in FY 2017.

You guys. Did you read that? Seriously, did you read that bad math? Based on WTF law of bad math is the administration devising this Executive Order (EO) to take two steps back for every one step forward? .

This piece of wisdom is part of a trifecta of EOs steeped in bad math and science dubbed “Regulatory Reform” on which the EPA is asking for public comment through May 15.  In addition to random reductions in regulatory ‘rithmetic, the relevant EOs also set up a “Task Force… to evaluate existing regulations and make recommendations to the agency head regarding their repeal, replacement, or modification” and “directs the EPA to review the Clean Power Plan, related rules and the NSPS for Oil and Gas, and all agencies to review existing regulations, orders, guidance documents and policies that potentially burden the development or use of domestically produced energy resources.” It doesn’t take much reading between the lines to see that the point of these orders is to push the EPA backwards on any kinds of regulations that might stand in the way of the dinosaur fossil fuel industry.

The EPA is asking for your feedback, dear reader, and I ask you, please take a few moments to do this; because besides you, me and the folks who are actually protected by the EPA’s regulation to protect our common resources and care to comment, you can guess who else is going to be providing comment: the industries that would love to be regulated a whole lot less.

Here are the comments I submitted to EPA this week:

Dear EPA:

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the regulatory reforms that are proposed as part of Executive Orders 13771, 13777, and 13783.

As a Ph.D. environmental scientist who has worked for local, state, and federal regulatory agencies as well as in private industry sitting both on the same side of the table with and across the table from EPA and other federal regulatory agencies, I am well informed about the role of the EPA in safeguarding our nation’s air, water and natural resources. In addition, as a parent and an educator, I recognize the importance of these regulations for safeguarding my children and our future generations.

In light of my experience and priorities, I speak to the executive orders and to Director Pruitt’s evaluation of existing regulations with extraordinary concern for the integrity of the mission of this agency, and I have the following comments regarding these proposals:

Executive Order 13771 “directs all agencies to repeal two existing regulations for each new regulation issued in FY 2017 and thereafter. It further directs agencies that the “total incremental costs of all regulations should be no greater than zero” in FY 2017.” I find it fascinating and obscure why the EPA should be directed to play a zero-sum math game with its regulations. Is the administration interested in basic arithmetic, or should they perhaps be more interested in how the agency fulfills its mission? Is there any shred of scientific basis for assigning such arbitrary conditions? I also believe that we the public deserve to understand what is meant by “total incremental costs no greater than zero”. It would seem to me that the total incremental costs of thousands of additional deaths caused by plans to roll back the Clean Power Plan might be greater than zero. Or the loss of natural resources and access rights to public lands caused by re-opening our public holdings to drilling and mining, that might possibly cost We the People a bit more than zero. I do so hope that the administration is intending to consider that these are more-than-incremental costs that most certainly will need zeroing out for consistency with such a policy.

Executive Order 13778 seeks public input on existing regulations. Here is my input on existing regulations: the EPA should be encouraged and supported to continue to regulate the discharge of pollutants into our air, water, and environment to safeguard the health and well-being of the American public. This includes regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, as such emissions are known to contribute to climate change and contributes directly to increased risk to our health, safety and national security through multiple mechanisms including global destabilization, drought, wildfire, hurricanes, sea level rise, oceanic food chain collapse, and multiple other mechanisms which threaten the lives and livelihood of the American people. Attempts by Director Pruitt or this administration to undermine regulation of greenhouse gases and other discharges of pollutants that are done with the sole purpose of short-term economic benefit to specific corporate stakeholders and without regard to the enormous costs to broad segments of the American public and multiple other economic stakeholders including fisheries, tourism, coastal real estate, agriculture and others, is a dereliction of duties with which the EPA is charged.

Executive Order 13783 directs a review of “regulations, orders, guidance documents and policies that potentially burden the development or use of domestically produced energy resources.” This review must consider that the proposed attempt to roll back the Clean Power Plan and associated regulations has significant potential to unduly burden the clean energy industry of the United States, an industry which is promises entirely domestically produced power that is quickly approaching grid parity if not lower costs than fossil fuel sources of energy, and does so with many fewer negative economic and environmental impacts on the American people than does fossil fuel-based energy. In addition, the review should evaluate how fossil fuel industry subsidies lead to an absolutely unfair and inherently anti-capitalist, non-free-market advantage to these dinosaur industries and create a burden on clean energy technologies which have every right to compete on a level playing field with traditional energy sources.

In conclusion, I would like to thank the scientists and staff of the EPA for their incredibly hard work that they do every day to protect our air, land, water and health. I hope and expect our agencies will continue to be able to fulfill their mission in an environment that is fair, open, and supportive of objective, science-based decision making.

Sincerely,

Deborah Rudnick, Ph.D.

Action 137. 2014 Was the Hottest Year on Record. What are you going to do about it?

Ah, the morning routine: get up, make coffee, fix my daughter’s lunch, feed the dog, check the headlines which say 2014 Was The Hottest Year on Record. Wait, what? Yes, 2014 surpassed our last warmest year in 2010, and all recorded years of global temperatures heading back to 1880 when we first began such record-keeping. And the ten hottest years on record have occurred since 1997.

its getting hot in here

What are you going to do about it?

OK, besides disrobing. But seriously. All of us. What is in our power to do something about this? A lot, actually. You can start with what the effect might be if all of us actually spent 5 minutes to contact our representatives and told them we were worried and we wanted leadership on climate change. Even in today’s world where much of our democratic process goes on behind closed doors and is lubricated by deep-pocketed lobbyists and there is so much cynicism and apathy that less than half of us typically vote in any given election (which saddens me to no end but that’s a topic for a different post), our congressional leadership really does want to hear from us, and it really does matter to them and their priorities whether people are bringing an issue to their attention.

And what else? There’s about 136 odd ideas in this blog and all the references contained therein. There are all these amazing Partners in Proactivity and more. There’s a zillion other blogs and articles and sites that address. What else? There’s lobbying for public infrastructure. Installing solar. Contributing to an alternative energy kickstarter campaign. Biking to work or school. Eating with a smaller footprint.  Holding the Wall against expanding oil exports. Riding the bus. Turning the lights off when you leave a room. Switching to CFLs. Talking to your kids about climate change and what we all can and should do about it.

Is your head swimming yet? Mine does that a lot. But don’t be overwhelmed, because that can lead you to do none of these things, which is the last thing I want this post to inspire. We don’t have to do all of these things. But it won’t work if only some of us do some of these things, or even some of us do all of these things. ALL of us need to do some of these things. Collectively. And I believe passionately that as critically important as changing individual behaviors is to our climate future, we cannot stop there. We also have to step beyond the boundaries of ourselves and our households, and ask others to join us in solidarity and leadership. Which is why my first action on reading the New York Times headline this morning was to write my representatives and ask them What Are They Going To Do About It?

Dear Representative Kilmer:

This morning, my phone shared the following New York Times update: 2014 Was The Hottest Year On Record (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/17/science/earth/2014-was-hottest-year-on-record-surpassing-2010.html?_r=0). Our 1998 record that coincided with an El Nino has been left in the dust- and this is a year with no El Nino. As the article quoted a NASA scientist, ” the next time a strong El Niño occurs, it is likely to blow away all temperature records.”

What are you going to do about it?

I don’t ask this question lightly. We ALL have to do something about this. What am I doing about climate change? I blog about climate change (www.350climatechangeactions.wordpress.com). I attend rallies, like the one on the Canadian border this summer, or in Seattle this fall, protesting oil export expansions that fuel climate change. I am working on CarbonWA’s initiative to pass a carbon tax. This year we installed an 8 kW solar system on our home that gives us about half our household energy needs. And of course, I write my representatives, asking them to show leadership on this profoundly critical issue.

So what are you doing about it? I realize that as a Democrat in a Republican-controlled congress, you have one heck of an uphill battle. When we now have proudly self-proclaiming climate deniers like Inhofe and Coburn in positions of environmental leadership, the future of this issue looks incredibly grim. But I also am very pleased about the steps the White House has been taking on their own, to promote renewables and regulate major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.

I recognize that you are surrounded by an culture dominated by deep-pocketed fossil fuel companies and their congressional allies, and it is a terrible place for progress on climate change. As your constituent, I ask that you not allow this culture of corruption and anti-science to control our national congressional conversation on climate change. Please keep speaking truth to power, please keep the overwhelming, wide-reaching, encompassing impacts of climate change on our environment, our quality of life, and on our economy- a fact that seems to escape the likes of Inhofe and company- and make sure that we continue to press forward with pragmatic solutions including strict emission regulations in the power and natural gas industries, disincentives for coal and tar sands export, carbon pricing, and investments in renewables. We have so much to gain for the future of our country’s energy independence and quality of life, and so very little to lose besides oil and gas stock prices, by acting immediately and substantively on climate change.

What will you do about it? I hope you will show leadership and strength in creating a future for our country and planet that is built on reducing greenhouse gases and transitioning our economy to an energy infrastructure that is compatible with the livable future of our planet.

Sincerely,

Deb Rudnick, PhD
Certified Senior Ecologist, ESA
and, very importantly, a mom to a member of the next generation who has to live on this planet

Action 136. Start a church or synagogue supper sustainability revolution.

A revolution is not a dinner party. – Mao Tse-Tung

Perhaps not, but I do think we need a dinner party revolution– particularly when it comes to dining at social events. I’m betting that most everyone who belongs to a church or synagogue- or, for that matter, a sports team, or has hosted a birthday party in their lifetime- is familiar with the principle of picnic lunches and dinners. Whether held at a park or at a local hall or church, the picnic dinner is as American as apple pie in a disposable pie pan: the plastic cutlery, the plastic-backed, disposable tablecloths, the unrecyclable red solo cups, the tons of leftover macaroni salad that goes into the trash– yes, you see exactly where Im going with this.

We throw away a lot of stuff at events like this. Even though most of us may not eat with disposable cutlery every day or even every week, our disposable footprint adds up. According to earth911, “Americans toss out enough paper and plastic cups, forks and spoons every year to circle the equator 300 times”. That, my friends, is a whole lot of petroleum product created for a 20 minute stop at your dinner plate before moving on to the landfill to generate methane. And even if we wanted to at least recycle single-use picnic ware, most of the disposable cups and cutlery we use is not recyclable. Even “paper” cups are usually coated with a wax or plastic film that means most communities cannot recycle them. Plastic cutlery is most often made from polystyrene, identified by the #6, which at least in my area is not a recyclable plastic. It is not biodegradable, and will last for hundreds of years in the landfill once thrown away. But its also generally not made to be reused, either- it doesnt fare well in the dishwasher, and is truly created for single use, as it’s prone to degradation and breaking.

But do we have to generate a huge carbon footprint with every picnic meal? Most definitely not. By making some simple changes, there are huge gains to be made in reducing the waste created at events like this. My synagogue has made enormous strides in just the past year or so in terms of reducing waste at the dozens of events we host each year, and most of these are not particularly difficult or expensive – in fact, its often arguably a significant cost savings over time to invest a little up front in some durables so that over time, you’re not shelling out each and every time for consumables (for example, here’s a report on a couple school districts that invested in durables and realized substantial cost and carbon savings in investing in durable utensils).

Here’s some things I and several other members of my congregation have been implementing along these lines:

  • Washable tablecloths for our buffet and dining tables; someone volunteers to take what is used home and wash and return them after an event
  • We have amassed hundreds of
    IMG_6323

    Here’s the silverware I took home from last week’s party, ran through my dishwasher, and returned. Easy peasy!

    metal utensils from various friends, neighbors and thrift stores that can be washed in the synagogue’s dishwasher (which we just got this year, hooray!), or they are easy to take home after an event and throw in our own dishwashers

  • We added a yard waste service from our local disposal company so that we can now compost our leftover food and compostable plateware
  • We have a large collection of plate ware and we purchase simple, unlined paper plates that can be composted
  • We have borrowed, used, washed and returned linen napkins from our local Buy Nothing Project for some events; otherwise we compost napkins

Is going greener at dinner a little more cumbersome? Yes, it is. You have to be prepared to find folks willing to wash the durables; and there is a slow but steady education process, and some ongoing oversight, involved in getting our congregants to put their compostables, recyclables and trash in the right places. Just last week I was discussing the composting issue with someone in our congregation questioning whether it is worth the trouble because people keep throwing their food in the trash and can’t seem to get it right. And its true there will probably always be a few mistakes. But Ive been incredibly pleased to see with a little oversight and preparation, our group has made huge steps forward in reducing the carbon footprint of our events. With the millions of picnic suppers America hosts every year, think what a difference some of these relatively simple changes could make to our collective footprint!

Action 134. Carbon is not priceless- let’s talk, and support, taxation.

Handing money to a cause is not something I like to focus on in too many of my climate change actions, because to me that’s not an action, other than the activity of picking up my check book. However, there are times when giving even the small amounts of money that the 99% of us can really can make a difference. When it comes to growing popular support behind new and important climate policies, grassroots donations really can be important. This week I gave to a new effort to introduce carbon pricing strategies as a public initiative – one I feel has real potential to make a difference in our state’s carbon emissions and continue to show how Washington can lead on effective emissions reductions strategies.

Carbon Washington is a new initiative spearheaded by economic whiz and really funny guy Yoraum Bauman. The goal of Carbon Washington is to get the state to take up a carbon tax that is revenue neutral and internalizes what are currently the very real but external costs of carbon. What I mean by this is that all of us pay for the energy we use, such as gas at the pump; however, that price we pay does not account for a lot of the actual environmental cost of that gas: the damage to natural resources and our climate that we do by extracting, transporting, and burning that gas. Its part of the reason that gas is as cheap as it is, because we aren’t paying for all that other stuff – yes, there are other parts, like OPEC and international speculation I won’t even attempt to delve into here, but the externalities of environmental impacts are a real issue that we don’t currently pay for at the pump. Except we are paying for it- with our and our planet’s health . Carbon pricing is an attempt to say, Hey, look, we need somebody (gas companies, and of course the consumers to whom many costs are passed forward) to pay for the actual costs of this gas that nobody is accounting for, so we can start to address some of these real impacts that fossil fuels are having. And with that price, just like we learned in Econ 101, comes an incentive to reduce demand and make supply more expensive- and thus the direct savings in emissions.

So how do you price carbon? Well, there are multiple ways to go about it, but two of the biggest are the Cap and Trade system, and a carbon tax. In cap and trade you set a ceiling for the amount of carbon that is permitted to be emitted, and then you allow for varying degrees of trading the allowed credits to pollute among businesses. In carbon taxation, the government sets a price per ton of carbon, and then translates that into a tax on gas, electricity, and/or oil depending on what’s covered under the tax. As I have written about before (Action 123) both of these approaches have their pros and cons, but I am tending these days to lean towards carbon taxation over cap and trade, because as most economists seem to agree, a carbon tax is simpler, more transparent, and less subject to the whims and internal politics of the cumbersome organization and political mechanisms that go with creating a cap and trade system.

However, one of the downsides carbon pricing is that as a tax, its cost tends to get passed on to consumers (which of course is what drives the decline in demand, which is part of the point of the tax, and hence unavoidable). Like many non-graduated taxes, this hits low-income people hardest, because the tax is a greater component of their income. Carbon Washington’s proposal helps to address this inequality in a couple of ways: it proposes that the revenues gained should be used to offset a couple of things, including taking a full percentage point off our sales tax (good for all Washingtonians, particularly, again, low-income folks hit harder by this regressive tax) and fund a working families rebate, which kicks some refunds back to low-income families. Also rolled into the mix is elimination of the business & occupation tax for manufacturers, which is likely to appeal to sectors of the business community.

Washington is certainly not alone in its efforts to price carbon. We are part of a regional partnership for climate action by the West Coast states and BC that have agreed to coordinate carbon reduction goals, including pricing. To our north, British Columbia has implemented a carbon tax and has seen emissions subsequently drop by 14% over pre-tax levels; while California has implemented a Cap and Trade system more similar to what the EU has now been doing for nearly 10 years (to varying degrees of success or failure depending on who you listen to, but that’s a whole ‘nother can of carbon). At a broader scale, the World Bank believes pricing carbon is likely to be the most economically efficient way of curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

Still, the climb is uphill, in fighting both politicians that do not see its urgency nor economic validity, as well as, of course, the fossil fuel manufacturers that do not like this idea one bit. Our governor, and indeed many politicians, seem to lean more at this point towards cap and trade (it is a more traditionally political solution, and it avoids the dreaded “tax” word). Carbon Washington recognizes the difficult political battle they have with the legislature, and so they are proposing to make carbon pricing a public initiative for the ballot in 2016. To do this, they will need to gather 300,000 signatures in the coming year (I see another Action opportunity in my future), and they are in the midst of grassroots fundraising to support this upcoming effort. So when they held a money bomb this past week to raise $10K to support their efforts- a modest goal achieved through many small donations- I jumped right in. And you can too, right here!

So keep your eyes peeled, Washingtonians, for an ask to put this public initiative on the ballot. And in the meantime, let’s start talking to our elected leaders about internalizing and accurately capturing the real costs of carbon through pricing.

Action 132. Hope and Acceptance: getting to the 7th stage of grief following mid-term elections.

I’m trying to move swiftly through the 7 stages of grief following these midterm elections, so I can get out of paralysis and into something that looks more like action and positivity. But indulge me, if you will, in a few moments of unabashed wallowing in grief over what are some truly grave midterm election results, as exemplified by many of the recent headlines rolling into my inbox…

GOP Election Rout Delivers Blow to U.S. Leadership Role on Climate Change

Climate action got left as collateral damage on the electoral battlefield last week, as voters delivered a drubbing to Democrats in the midterm elections.

With a major boost from oil and gas money, politicians who will make it their mission to stall progress on global warming will control both houses of Congress.

I pretty much wanted to hibernate for the rest of winter after watching the midterm election results (Stage 1: Shock and Denial), lamenting the rollback of what has to date already been lackluster and uneven progress towards climate change action in this country, now descending into what could more fairly be characterized as nonexistent leadership for action on this issue.

If you thought the pressure was on to pass Keystone, well, one day after the mid-term elections, we got newly appointed lead turtle– I mean Senate Majority leader- Mitch McConnell grandstanding about how he now has enough votes in the Senate to approve the pipeline and will make it a top priority. Meanwhile, Senator James Climate-Change-Is-A-Hoax Inhofe is expected to become chairman of- what else?- the Environment and Public Works committee. With a turtle for majority leader, and electing Senators with a penchant for pig squeals into the halls of congress, this is all starting to feel a bit too Orwellian for comfort (in case you haven’t noticed, I have moved swiftly through 2. Pain and Guilt, into 3. Anger).

So, on to 4. Depression, reflection and loneliness. This is not a helpful place to be, but I do think its fair and right to be a little depressed, but more importantly to reflect on what the bejeezus happened here. We do know that midterm elections do have a history of bringing out older, whiter, more conservative voters. So, that makes a lot of sense given where these elections took us, particularly on energy and climate issues. But still. What are we doing? Where are we missing the mark with connecting with voters over the importance of taking our own energy decisions into our hands??? Why are we constantly electing folks that legislate directly against public interest, and make no attempt at hiding their warm friendships with the Koch brothers, the fossil fuel industry, the dinosaurs of energy that stand in the way of energy independence and hasten us towards climate changed which, as a UN report released just 2 days before the election articulated, “if left unchecked… will increase the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems” ????? I wish I had an answer that moved us past the deep pockets and corrupting influence of money that drives most of our political landscape. I wish I knew.

But. While its appropriate to reflect, and continue to ask ourselves hard questions about how we ended up here, there is SO much to actually do. It’s time to move into 5. The Upward Turn and 6. Reconstruction, whereby I have to remember the strength and caring that so many people are giving towards this fight. NextGen, 350.org, Climate SolutionsSierra Club, CarbonWARainforest Action Network, EcoAdapt, Rising Tide, Clean Tech AllianceHold the Wall – these organizations and many, many more are thousands of people working on hundreds of issues around the world on climate change- stopping oil trains, supporting clean technology development, protecting rain forests, researching ocean acidification, developing equitable carbon pricing policies, the list goes on and on. And where there is intelligence, and passion, and action, there is most definitely hope.

So yes. This week, I am grieving, because climate definitely took a smack down in our country’s midterm election. But I am also moving towards the final stage of 7. Hoping and hopeful, that I can move into a place of looking at this setback with sadness, but while putting much more effort into finding a way forward- which is what this blog is about.

Plus I’m going to be watching a lot of McConnelling videos over the next couple years. Everybody needs a coping mechanism.

Action 130. Read it and refuse to weep.

There are days undercoverswhen I really just want to go back under the covers. This morning in my inbox, an article arrived courtesy of my dad, who teaches environmental science and therefore tends to send along really depressing topics (just kidding dad, love you!): “The Planet Just Had Its Warmest September on Record“, containing further uplifting information, such as the fact that this follows on the hottest May and August on record.

I refuse to weep, although that was my first reaction on reading the article. But no- crying is pointless. Getting mad is pointless. Getting active, however, might just make some small difference. So I took this fact and sent it forward to my representative and senators today in the following letter to ask them how they are going to show us the leadership and strength needed to change these headlines, to move us from breaking temperature records to breaking records on the most alternative energy projects installed, or the most gallons of fuel saved through public transit investment. THOSE are the records we should be breaking in this country.

There’s a lot of really, really crappy news out there with respect to climate change. Burying our head in the sand isn’t the solution. Read it, but do not weep- use it to empower your conversations and demand change. Here’s my letter- will you write one too? Feel free to use any of mine you like.

Dear Representative:

My dad is a professor of environmental science. He’s teaching a course on climate change, and today he sent me the following headline from the news, “The Planet Just Had Its Warmest September on Record,” which follows on the heels of record-breaking May and August.

How do you respond to this?

When I share this news with my friends and family, most of them sigh and say something along the lines of “it’s so depressing”. And it is. But I refuse to allow that to be the end of the conversation, because we are in control, and it is our crisis at which to succeed or fail.

Climate change is the crisis of our time. Just like our world wars, the Cold War, or the nuclear arms race, it is a global crisis of human making that threatens our collective futures. The difference between this crisis and geopolitical warfare is that in this case we know just what we need to do. And what we need to do doesn’t involve sending millions of people to their deaths, or destroying each others’ infrastructures and resources, or sinking under the economic weight of financing wars. Instead, we need collective action to stop treating fossil fuel companies as if they were an economic benefit and face the reality that they are an economic albatross. The future of our country and all countries on this planet depends, critically and immediately, on a concerted and collaborative shift to conservation and green energy. We can do this by taking steps including pricing carbon to internalize costs; by investing in public transit and subsidizing alternative energies and technology to bring them rapidly up to speed; and by a sea change in the way we build and retrofit our homes and businesses. These steps are achievable if we stop continuing to subsidize the status quo and make the changes necessary to create an energy future on which we can all thrive.

But if we DON’T do these things, if we do not act immediately, concertedly, and rapidly in our own interest- we will be heading down the path of war. We will be heading to economic destabilization, resource depletion, disease and famine. We will be heading on a path that leaves no meaningful future for my daughter or your children or grandchildren. We cannot afford not to act. And if our political leaders do not act, if they continue to feed us the pacifying comments of “this is complicated” and “it’s a huge problem” and “China is the problem” while they continue to dole out billions in subsidies to the fossil fuel companies – well then, I don’t know how I can expect my friends and neighbors to act differently.

Please, I am asking you from the bottom of my heart- lead on climate change. Lead us down a path to energy security and diversification that is not based on boosting the bottom line of polluters, but in supporting energy independence and technologies that do not contribute to our worsening climate crisis. Take the momentum generated this fall by the UN climate summit and the People’s Climate March, and act on it. I want to see us break records for the number of solar and wind farms we are creating, or the millions of gallons of fuel we are saving with public transit—not the number of temperature records we are setting.

Sincerely,

Deborah Rudnick

Action 129. Seed a new generation of carbon sequestration and river restoration.

Today I headed out to volunteer at the Matt Albright Native Plant Center as part of the Elwha River Restoration Project which I started volunteering with last Spring (Action 109). This nursery grows the plants that are used to revegetate the newly formed riparian terraces of the Elwha River.

Miles of sediment lining the Elwha River have recently emerged from their century-long submergence in the lakes formed by the recently removed Elwha and Glines Canyon dams. This unprecedented project of dam removal from a major river system in our state is now allowing the Elwha to run free after a century of impoundments in two reservoirs used for hydropower generation. In draining these lakes, the newly uncovered beds present an enormous ecological challenge: how to revegetate and restore miles of riparian terrace that are currently bare, nutrient-poor, unstable sediments? While we know from natural disasters such as riverbed avulsions and volcanic eruptions that riparian terraces can and do revegetate, the Elwha River Restoration program is hoping to support and enhance this process.

This process of revegetation is where the Albright Native Plant Center is playing a critical role. Park Service employees, interns, and volunteers are undertaking a multi-year program to collect, protect, grow and revegetate the native plant community of the Elwha riparian forest. The Park Service program collects seeds of native riparian plants from a variety of sources in and near the Elwha watershed, processes and germinates those seeds at the nursery, cares for the seedlings and houses them until they are ready to be carried up the river past the dams and replanted (Action 109). They have open volunteer drop-in days at the nursery most every Monday and Wednesday, and usually one or more component of the process I just described is part of the day’s tasks. Here’s some of the things I did today:

My friend Laurel who just landed the assistant manager job here (yay Laurel!) and I sorted cedar seeds- the whole greenhouse smelled like Christmas, it was so lovely:

IMG_5574 IMG_5577

Here are the fruits (or rather seeds) of our labor:

IMG_5578

And then I got to spend some time transplanting Grand Fir seedlings: these little dudes will be carried up the Elwha and replanted later this fall and winter along with about 85,000 of their riparian forest friends:

IMG_5582 IMG_5583

These few thousand seeds and few hundred seedlings I helped sort and plant are just a few more tiny drops in the ocean of effort involved in bringing the Elwha River back to life. But collectively, the thousands of hours and hundreds of thousands of plants we are returning to these barren terraces are a hopeful start in sequestering carbon in new riparian forests, and revegetating and restarting an ecosystem that is critical to returning salmon and wildlife.