Mending the Mudflow
By Brian Calkins, Mount St. Helens Wildlife Area Manager
Budgets are often tight for state wildlife management areas and managers must at times rely heavily on outside support from volunteers and organizations like the Elk Foundation to get projects done. The situation is no different on the Mount St. Helens Wildlife Area in southwest Washington. Over the past 15 years, RMEF members and others have volunteered thousands of hours of down-in-the-dirt labor here to improve habitat for elk, and make up the backbone of almost every type of project we do here.
One volunteer from RMEF’s Longview Chapter, Mike Braaten, started joining these work parties about 10 years ago and hasn’t let up since. In 2008 alone he put in close to 200 hours of work on the wildlife area. That equates to about five weeks at a normal 9 to 5 job.
Most of Braaten’s time was spent enhancing elk forage and riparian habitat on the Mount St. Helens mudflow. No walk in the park, as this job entails bouncing over rocks on ATV’s dragging a harrow and spreading seed, fertilizer or lime, as well as planting trees on rocky ground. By the time the initial planting is completed, Braaten covers every acre at least four times—enough to wear anybody out.
Braaten has received two grants for this work through the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Volunteer Cooperative Grants Program. Together we coordinated to use these grants to match RMEF funds for projects now finished or underway.
When all the projects are completed later this year, over 100 acres of crucial winter range will be enhanced for elk and other wildlife. Every single improved acre can be attributed back to Braaten’s initiative and desire to make a difference for Washington’s elk country. Thanks, Mike, for a job well done!