The US Forest Service recognized Washington Rare Plant Care and Conservation – including hundreds of trained volunteers from all parts of the state who, in the past 14 years, have participated in the rare plant monitoring citizen science project – by awarding Rare Care its Regional Volunteer Award for Citizen Stewardship & Partnerships.
When Lauri Malmquist, district botanist with the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, nominated Rare Care, she wrote, “As staffing and funding to the Botany/Ecology Program on the Okanogan-Wenatchee NF continue to decline, [Rare Care’s] rare plant monitoring program has played a vital role in continuing the monitoring necessary to provide critically needed information on the status of Washington State’s rare plant species. . . . Many rare plant populations have not been visited in a decade or more due to diminishing Federal funding and capacity. The scarcity of updated information on these plants puts them at risk of extirpation as a result of development, invasive species competition and other threats. All USFS Forests in Washington State have benefitted from this volunteer effort. . .”
Toward the end of each year, Rare Care consults with federal, state and other public land managers across the state to develop a list of the most urgent monitoring priorities for the coming year. Then each volunteer chooses an assignment and sets off at the proper season in search of one of Washington’s 3,500 rare plant populations. Finally, Rare Care compiles their data, maps and sketches and distributes them to the appropriate land managers and the Washington Natural Heritage Program (WNHP). Land managers use the data in making land use decisions. The WNHP maintains the state’s rare plant database and determines the status of each species.
This year, Rare Care volunteers are searching in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest for the threatened Thompson’s clover (Trifolium thompsonii) and the sensitive obscure paintbrush (Castilleja cryptantha), longsepal globemallow (Iliamna longisepala) and Seely’s silene (Silene seelyi), among other species. To prepare for their field visits, they pore over previous reports, maps and other documentation. But there’s a catch. The documentation comes in many degrees of specificity! Plus, things change over the years. Roads are decommissioned. Trails are rerouted. Invasive species crowd out native species. Native vegetation grows into tangles of underbrush. Logging operations and fires change the face of the landscape.
Last year in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, with only vague location information to go on and crossing snowfields and camping along the way, three volunteers relocated a two-square-meter population of glaucous gentian (Gentiana glauca) that hadn’t been documented since 1966. Two years ago, two volunteers traipsed through underbrush in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest to find a single Wenatchee larkspur (Delphinium viridescens) remaining at a site that had grown into a young forest since the population was previously observed.
Rare Care is delighted to receive this US Forest Service Award in recognition of these dedicated volunteers and their substantial achievements.