Fishtrap Creek comes to us from our northern neighbors in Canada, crossing the border to wind through both farm fields and the city of Lynden. The stream eventually feeds into the Nooksack River, providing habitat to Chinook, coho, and chum salmon, as well as many other species.
For decades farmers have worked with conservation groups, government agencies, volunteers and students to rebuild healthy fish habitat in Fishtrap Creek. They’ve cleaned up invasive plants and planted native trees to provide stable stream banks that filter water coming to the creek, and even more importantly, provided shade to help cool the water to protect the juvenile salmon growing there.
This past year that work continued on a section of the creek that runs through farmland just north of the Lynden city limits. Rader Farms, which grows red raspberries in the field along that section of stream, stepped up to allow conservation workers and volunteers to access the area and contributed the additional land needed to expand the riparian area. The farm also did the hard work of cleaning up the non-native plants that had been choking the stream banks.
The team from NSEA guided the project and provided native trees in pots, bark mulch and workers to lead the student volunteers planting trees. Armed with gloves and rubber boots, students from Lynden Christian High School science classes planted hundreds of the new trees. They used bark mulch and plastic tubes to protect the seedlings as they grow up to shade and protect the creek.
After watching agriculture fail in previous places they had lived, the Belisles were drawn to Whatcom County for its vibrant farming community. Along with their family, they planted their first orchard over 20 years ago. The Belisle’s now grow over 25,000 fruit trees and have opened a cafe and distillery! Bellewood Acres is a haven for locals as well as providing a taste of country life to those looking to escape from town for the afternoon. However, it’s the environmental example they set behind the scenes which makes the biggest impact.
When the drainage district came to Dorie for help concerning the grass filled, mud clogged Four Mile creek, she set to work enlisting her fellow farmers to solve the drainage problem. She soon learned just how much her community valued creating sustainable practices to protect their natural resources. Dorie was joined by a team of farmers who were committed to conserving water quality, for the sake of both fish and farming. Not only were the stagnant streams causing flooding of the nearby fields making it difficult to farm safely, but the natural fish habitats were slowly being choked out. The goal of these farmers was to restore Four Mile Creek to a full flowing stream–a place fish could thrive without taking additional land from nearby agriculture.
This team set about clearing out the stream and drainage areas. This process allowed new plant growth along the banks which supported the water achieving all required parameters for oxygen, fecal coliform, and temperature. Only two fish from the salmon family were counted in the initial 2003 dredge of the creek. Since then in recent upkeep cleanings, that number has risen to 250. The increased flow of Four Mile also reduced flooding in area, in turn allowing crops to be grown and harvested properly.
With the support of government grants, these REAL farmer-environmentalists continue to keep the stream clear and healthy. Farmers are continually learning and changing to be better stewards of the land, passing those lessons down to the next generations. Challenges like the Four Mile creek are being met with passion, and results are beginning to show. Restoring thriving streams is as vital for the farmers as it is for the fish, and projects like this are a prime example of how farming is leading the charge for environmental change.