Energy Adviser: Volunteers help keep county green

Since it was established in 1992, StreamTeam, an environmental stewardship initiative by Clark Public Utilities, has rooted itself as the premier volunteer-powered environmental restoration organization in Southwest Washington. And after more than two years of putting events on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, StreamTeam is eagerly welcoming volunteers back to its community events.

“Volunteers have always been at the heart of our projects,” said StreamTeam Program Coordinator Maddy Loy. “They are a huge part of why our work keeping Clark County green has been so successful.”

Over the years, the community has rallied to StreamTeam’s events and volunteer projects. In a typical year it’s common for about 1,000 volunteers to contribute well over 5,000 hours of donated time to StreamTeam projects in the Salmon Creek and East Fork Lewis River watersheds.

Loy said offering a diverse and flexible array of volunteer work and educational opportunities is key to recruiting prospective volunteers and retaining existing volunteers over the long term.

For instance, Make a Difference Day (which is going to be held Oct. 22 this year) and Earth Day Fest, StreamTeam’s marquee events, attracting hundreds of volunteers each year. Many of those participants are families who may only have time to volunteer every now and then.

Folks who want to go beyond planting trees have several options. StreamTeam offers programs that are better suited for people who want a deeper knowledge of habitat restoration and a desire to play a greater role in ongoing projects.

StreamTeam typically plants as many as 50,000 young trees per year, and cares for them to ensure nearly all of them thrive.

“Our planting and maintenance techniques have led to a 90 to 92 percent survival rate at our revegetation sites, that’s well above the industry standard,” Loy said. “When we work on a project, we make sure we’re there for all stages of restoration.”

There are opportunities for all sorts of interests. Although StreamTeam is welcoming volunteers back, the pandemic is ongoing. So participants are asked to be mindful of event health protocols.

The team always welcomes volunteers who regularly pot saplings and small shrubs at the Clark Public Utilities native plant nursery — one of the largest of its kind in the county.

It’s also helpful to have analytically minded folks who can assist in tree survival monitoring at recently planted sites, or join the utility’s StreamTeam group in monitoring water quality.

The people who help plant, tend and monitor vegetation in Salmon Creek and East Fork watersheds are major players in those successes.

StreamTeam’s most involved volunteers, the Stream Stewards, are the only volunteers in the program that monitor and survey where salmon are laying eggs. Over seven weeks, prospective stewards attend 12 courses that increase their awareness of local geology, hydrology, riparian and wetland habitat, wildlife, water quality, stream restoration and leadership. In exchange they’re asked to complete 45 hours of volunteer work over the next year.

“We owe a huge debt of gratitude to our volunteers,” Loy said. “They are why our projects and programs are so successful.”

More information about StreamTeam, volunteer opportunities, and the sign-ups for the StreamTeam newsletter can be found at StreamTeam.net. Those who would rather speak with a person can find out about upcoming opportunities or have specific questions answered by contacting Loy at 360-606-6035 or StreamTeam@clarkpud.com.

Upcoming volunteer events are frequently posted on the Clark Public Utilities Facebook page.


Energy Adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to ecod@clarkpud.com or to Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, PO Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98688.

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