Reforesting the Arney Farm in Oso

Guest Feature by Sarah Arney

More than 25 years ago, after deciding to build a house in a pasture on my father’s dairy farm, I started planting trees around the site of my future home. When neighbors saw me planting trees, some commented that those farmers who cleared the land 100 years ago were rolling over in their graves, after all their hard work here. Clearing land for hay and critters was the thing to do in those days, here in the Stillaguamish River Valley.

Things have changed

Now, with changes in agriculture and the dairy industry, the thing to do is to plant trees along streams and the river to enhance fish habitat and water quality. 

It was March 2014 when I first learned about the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (or CREP), a government program coordinated in Snohomish County by Snohomish Conservation District. At a public meeting in Oso, I learned the District was offering assistance for planting Northwest native trees and shrubs along 300 feet of my river frontage and on both sides of a creek that crosses my land.

Soon after that public meeting, my brother Bob and I met with a resource planner from the Conservation District and did a walkabout on the property left from Dad’s original Arney Dairy Farm. She said it was perfect for the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program.

A Blue Tube and Native Plant Forest is Born

In November 2015 we signed a contract and received a map showing the areas to be planted and an extensive list of plants to be planted. The list ranged from classic Douglas fir and Western red cedar to willows, birch, cascara, Pacific crabapple and big leaf maple, to name just a few. Shrubbery to in-fill between the bigger trees included red osier dogwood, snowberry, Nootka rose, beaked filbert and too many more to remember. 

The planting was done in March this year by a contractor, Calypso Restoration, and the field was full of blue protectors. It looked a bit like a war memorial cemetery. Now, thanks to the rapidly growing field grass, there’s no sign of blue — until the hay is cut this summer.

It was a long and complicated process, but it finally came together, and we are excited to watch this new riparian forest outgrow the canary grass and blackberries. I don’t believe my father would begrudge our decision to reforest the farm. I’m quite sure he would honor our contribution to the future of this earth. By the way, those trees I planted in 1990 in preparation for building my home? They are now 30 to 40 feet tall!

The next task for the Arney Farm, also funded through CREP, is maintaining the new plantings for five years to make sure plants have a fair chance to survive. Crews and private contractors generally provide this service by mowing and weeding annually. 

-From 2016 Summer Nexus