Conservation

Reconciling human needs with ecosystem health

The Oxbow Lake.

Today, human activities directly impact 83% of the earth’s surface and 98% of farmable lands1. Our cities and farms have disrupted the habitats of many of the planet’s animals and plants and changed the way our ecosystems function2. If we want to pass on to our grandchildren a world full of the natural wonders we knew as kids — a world with salmon and salamanders, clean waters and sweet air—we need to figure out how to protect that world, or sometimes bring it back, right in the farms, suburbs, and cities where we live.

At the center of Oxbow is the idea that we can produce healthy food from the land and still have rivers and streams full of fish, ponds raucous with the calls of birds and frogs, and clean water and air to drink and breathe. We believe we can reconcile our human needs and the health of our ecosystems through practicing sustainable agriculture, thoughtful management of our forests, and ecological restoration. What’s more, we’re doing it.

Restoring our native streamside forests

When European-American settlers began farming along the Snoqualmie River at the end of the 19th century, farmers cleared vast forests of alder, maple, and massive cedar from the Valley3. Nature seemed infinite, and over time farmers cleared the trees and shrubs right up to the riverbanks, not realizing that those riparian forests were central strands in the Valley’s web of life. Riparian forests filtered silt and nutrients from runoff headed to the river, produced woody debris to shelter maturing salmon, and provided homes for birds, coyotes, frogs, beaver, and myriad other wildlife. Furthermore, without streamside vegetation, precious farmland soil is lost to the river, fewer birds visit to regulate crop pests, and there are fewer homes for the native pollinators that ensure abundant crops.

Restoration area at Oxbow.

For the last 15 years, Oxbow has been working with organizations like Stewardship Partners, King Conservation District, and the Snoqualmie Watershed Forum to clear invasive species from our lands and re-plant native streamside forests. Oxbow was one of the first farms to be designated certified Salmon-Safe in the Puget Sound Region. Today, guided by a comprehensive Ecological Management Plan for the property, we continue the work of restoration with more energy and hope than ever.

A living laboratory

Bringing back complex forest ecosystems through restoration is an art and a science, and every place is a little different. At Oxbow we seek not only to grow back our riparian forests and enhance our wetland habitats, but also to contribute to the regional body of knowledge about the best ways to do that work.

We are carefully and quantitatively monitoring the progress of our restoration plantings and beginning to compare the outcomes and costs of different restoration practices. With technical assistance from researchers at the University of Washington, Puget Sound Bird Observatory, Woodland Park Zoo, and Washington State University, we are also monitoring the responses of birds, bees, and amphibians to our land management practices.

There’s a lot to learn about how food systems and ecosystems are interwoven, but if we want to pass on a wondrous natural world to our grandchildren, then we need to figure out how to farm and live in the natural world without destroying it.

Be the change you want to see

A victorious volunteer removes blackberry roots from a restoration area.

We need to work together to restore and conserve our shared natural heritage! Here are some ways you can join us in making our world better:

Volunteer with us!

Several weekends a year we invite people in our community (you!) to come and join us in the joyful work of restoring our land. Check our volunteer events page to see when the next restoration event is being held. If you don’t see an event that works for you on our website, check for restoration events held by Stewardship Partners, EarthCorps, Mountains to Sound Greenway or the Nature Consortium.

Join our citizen science community!

We are growing our citizen science community. This year we have several dedicated birders helping us to continue our bird monitoring. If you are interested in joining this effort next year, contact Matt Distler, Staff Ecologist (matt@oxbow.org).

We are part of an exciting amphibian monitoring program through Woodland Park Zoo. If you want a chance to contribute to science by wading in ponds and learning the secrets of frogs and salamanders, check out the program at: http://www.zoo.org/citizenscience

We are working with the Snoqualmie Valley Preservation Alliance (SVPA) to develop a Citizen Hydrologist program to better understand flooding in the valley. Contact SVPA if you live in the Snoqualmie Valley and would be interested in hosting a water level sensor on your property!

Donate to Oxbow and help us carry out our mission!

Oxbow is a 501c(3) nonprofit organization, and we can’t do this work without your help! Please visit our donations page to make a contribution.


1Sanderson, E W, Jaiteh, M, Levy, M A, Redford, K H, Wannebo, A V, and Woolmer, G, 2002. The human footprint and the last of the wild: BioScience, v. 52, iss. 10, 891–904 %U http://www.bioone.org/doi/abs/10.1641/0.

2 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005. Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Biodiversity Synthesis. World Resources Institute, Washington, DC.

3Collins, B.D. and Sheikh, A.J. 2002. Mapping historical conditions in the Snoqualmie River Valley (RM0-RM40). Report to King County Department of Natural Resources.