The removal of two dams on the Elwha River in 2011 and 2014 gave unrestricted passage to ESA-listed Chinook salmon, as well as other fish species. The dam removals left roughly 600 acres of former lakebeds to return to native forests. Large-scale plantings were done following the removal of the dams. However, harsh growing conditions — such as no topsoil — made establishing conifer trees, which are vital to providing shade and large woody debris for fish habitat, very difficult.
Over the past two years, Clallam Conservation District and the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe (LEKT) have teamed up to plant conifer trees along the Elwha River, each bringing different resources to the table. Clallam Conservation District has a small staff, but a large volunteer program; LEKT has technicians that can work side-by-side with volunteers in the field. This partnership led to 181 volunteers helping plant over 6,000 trees along the Elwha River during two Orca Recovery Day events, as well as several smaller planting events, to help restore fish habitat in the Elwha Watershed.
Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, Clallam County, Washington State Conservation Commission (SCC)