Society of American Foresters

Northwest Regions

Tour of Seattle's Cedar River Watershed

Tour of Seattle's Cedar River Watershed

JUNE 13, 2016

Over 20 members of the South Puget Sound Chapter had the unique opportunity on June 4th to tour Seattle Public Utilities' Cedar River Watershed. The watershed was established in 1901 and now encompasses over 91,000 acres of forest in eastern King County near North Bend. It is closed to public access and provides the primary source of clean, safe drinking water for over 1.3 million people each day in the greater Seattle area. 

Society of American Foresters members Amy LeBarge, Forest Ecologist and John McMahon, retired Weyerhaeuser Forest Engineer, led the tour. Participants learned about the long history of the watershed, including its creation and forest management challenges. After a past history of active forest management, the City Council of Seattle voted in the early 1990s to give watershed lands a reserve status. This reserve status creates habitat opportunities for a limited list of endangered species, such as the spotted owl and marbled murrelet. The lack of active forest management, however, minimizes habitat for early successional wildlife species such as black-tailed deer and elk. The tour examined forest restoration efforts, including gap openings, that encourage natural regeneration in the second growth timber-dominated forest. Recent wind storms have created areas of blowdown and insect outbreaks that are concerning the staff. Limited salvage work is planned, but many question why more active sustainable forest management could not be supported by the citizens and leaders of Seattle. 

The tour group was treated to a barbecue dinner and great networking at the Cedar River Education Center. If you get the chance, the Cedar River Watershed is an outstanding property and the staff is experienced and knowledgeable. Check out www.seattle.gov/util/crwec.