Conservation Corner

Welcome to our online newsletter where we will keep you updated on everything the Pierce Conservation District is working on, from our work On the Farm to Water Quality Improvement. The Conservation Corner highlights our most interesting stories, but does not include everything. Find our other stories linked in the sidebar and below. 

The latest from...

Jun 05

PCD Celebrates Orca Month with Orca Recovery Day Banner Installation

Posted on June 5, 2023 at 1:13 PM by Marlie Sloan

The colorful Orca Recovery Day banner is now displayed in our office in honor of Orca Month in June!
The colorful Orca Recovery Day banner is now displayed in our office in honor of Orca Month in June!

Did you know that June is Orca Month? For more than 15 years, people around the Pacific Northwest have celebrated, taken action, and raised awareness around orcas in our region during the month of June.

This Orca Month, we are celebrating the on-going work to recover our endangered Southern Resident Orcas by displaying the banner created at our Orca Recovery Day event last October. The banner will be on display at our offices in Puyallup from May 22-July 1, 2023.

This banner was painted by over 50 participants at an event at the Tacoma DeMolay Sandspit Nature Preserve on Fox Island, WA in October 2022. Participants included several families from the Curious by Nature outdoor preschool in Gig Harbor, WA, members of the Puyallup Tribe of Indians, staff and volunteers from Pierce Conservation District, and Fox Island community members. Participants at this event also worked on maintenance on a riparian planting project installed to improve forage fish habitat on the beach at the preserve. Forage fish are an important food source for salmon, including Chinook salmon, the preferred prey of the endangered Southern Resident Orcas who are the subject of Orca Recovery Day. 

History of Orca Recovery Day 

In 2018, the world watched as Tahlequah, a Southern Resident Killer Whale, carried her dead calf for 17 days, traveling almost 1,000 miles off the Pacific Northwest coast before letting go. Tahlequah isn’t the first grieving orca mother- unfortunately, hers was one of many calf deaths across the past two decades. According to the Center for Whale Research, approximately 75 percent of newborns in the Southern Resident killer whale population have not survived.

In response to Tahlequah’s image of grief and the increasing need to help our orcas, Orca Recovery Day was created Washington conservation districts, an intentional day of action to restore habitat, reduce stormwater pollution, and educate the public about things they can do every day to help one of the most iconic species of the Pacific Northwest.

Because when it comes to the fight for our orcas, just like this collaborative banner, we all have something to bring to the table. 

There is still so much work to do, but we want to take a moment to celebrate the people who work day after day and year after year on recovering these iconic orcas and the ecosystems they depend on. Recovered salmon runs and a healthy Puget Sound not only supports orcas but creates a better ecosystem for us all.    

Painting the entire 6x10 foot banner took teamwork, with some kids climbing up on the table to paint
Painting the entire 6x10 foot banner took teamwork, with some kids climbing up on the table to paint.

Volunteers, including children and adults, painted the Orca Recovery Day banner at PCD’s 2022 event.
Volunteers, including children and adults, painted the Orca Recovery Day banner at PCD’s 2022 event.

Staff standing next to the banner, right at Orca eye level.
Staff standing next to the banner, right at Orca eye level.
May 18

How to Plant Sticks: a Guide to Livestaking

Posted on May 18, 2023 at 2:57 PM by Camila Matamala-Ost

By Sage Friedman

Washington Conservation Corps members crossing South Prairie Creek Preserve. One of them is carrying a bundle of livestakes tied with twine.
Washington Conservation Corps members crossing South Prairie Creek Preserve with a bundle of livestakes to plant.

When I first came across the phrase livestake, it sounded more like the name of a health insurance agency than a restoration tool. It wasn’t something I’d used, or even heard of. I never would have expected them to be one of the quickest, cheapest, and most effective riparian restoration methods in the toolbox.

Livestaking, or live pole planting, is a method to efficiently plant trees in riparian buffers and wetlands. To make a livestake, a tree branch is cut into a straight pole, approximately 3 feet in length. The pole is then pounded into the soil so that at least half of it is underground. These poles will push out a root system, new leaves, and given time, an entire new tree will grow from that original branch.

This process doesn’t work with every tree or shrub. The most effective species to use for livestakes are those that grow next to bodies of water. These plants have adapted to sprout from branches that break off, letting them establish elsewhere in the waterbody. In the environment, this can be caused by wind and water erosion, as well as sediment deposition. Beavers can also help.When a beaver creates a dam, sticks will inevitably come loose and wash downstream. Some of these will establish and grow new trees. This lessens the impact that beavers have on these species.

Most commonly, livestakes are cut from willow (Salix sp.), cottonwood (Populus balsamifera), and dogwood (Cornus sericea). All three of these will readily sprout when planted as a livestake—often, even more robustly than when planted as a traditional sapling in a pot. Livestakes have considerably more caloric energy stored than a sapling does. Coupled with thicker bark, a livestake is more tolerant of poor conditions and drying out than a sapling is. There is a caveat to that, however. Because they have no roots when first planted, livestakes must be planted in wetlands or riparian areas where they can absorb enough water in their first year.

Livestakes provide a variety of ecological functions. They can serve as a line of defense against bank erosion. Because they develop a root system quickly, livestakes can hold soil together in places that lack large trees. Livestakes also provide shade, which is vital for keeping water temperaturescool in salmon-bearing streams. Livestakes also have many wildlife benefits. They are a great fast-growing food source, and we often struggle to stop elk from eating them.

These benefits make livestakes a great option for riparian plantings, both in restoration and home gardening. And the best part: they’re free! That is, if you have willows or cottonwoods on your property and want to thin them by cutting and planting some livestakes. If not, we always have pacific willow livestakes available for purchase at our native plant sale.

A livestake with small buds recently planted in a grassy area next to South Prairie Creek
A livestake soon after being planted
The same livestake, but time has passed and it has grown twigs with leaves.
The same livestake showing signs of growth.
May 08

County Council proclaims May “Wildfire Awareness Month”

Posted on May 8, 2023 at 5:15 PM by Camila Matamala-Ost

County Council and PCD staff holding the Wildfire Month proclamation.

The Pierce County Council this week proclaimed May as Wildfire Awareness Month due to the increasing wildfire risk and severity in Western Washington. The proclamation urges residents to be prepared to survive wildfire by working together to prepare their homes and communities. If you want to start preparing for wildfire season and don’t know where to start, you can sign up now for a free home wildfire risk assessment by one of the experts from our Wildfire Ready Neighbors team. Visit to learn more.