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Bringing Biochar to Turtleback
 An exciting restoration project is in progress on Turtleback Mountain Preserve


November 16th, 2022 - The San Juan Islands Conservation District would like to extend a warm thank you to the WA Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for collaborating with the Island Conservation Corps and the San Juan County Land Bank on conducting conservation burns in the Garry Oak preserve on Turtleback Mountain. Conservation burns are a developing best practice in restoration forestry that helps process excess wildfire fuels to maximize charcoal and return carbon and nutrients back to the forest floor. The WA DNR is partnering with Conservation District staff on developing a standard for best practice for conservation burns, including a specialized permitting process. The Conservation District also appreciates the support and coordination with the Orcas Fire District, who has provided oversight for the burning activities. 


Due in part to the lack of fire in the landscape over the past 100 years, only an estimated 5% of Garry Oak trees remain in the San Juan islands from pre-European contact. Restoration based thinning of the smaller and sickly trees and the subsequent safe and systematic use of fire in the landscape controls Douglas Fir encroachment on Garry Oak stands, allowing these climax species to access the necessary light, water, and nutrients necessary to thrive. The Islands Conservation Corps is honored to work in these historic ecosystems and be a part of returning fire to the landscape.  


The Islands Conservation Corps is a workforce education program in restoration ecology, conducting conservation activities on public lands throughout the islands. The program also includes a certificate in Restoration Ecology from Huxley College of the Environment at Western Washington University, which integrates both remote and field-base coursework in GIS, biostats, field data collection, monitoring, research design, and contemporary methodologies for landscape restoration. The Islands Conservation Corps is collaborating with the DNR and a series of other local agencies to conduct Garry Oak restoration over the next three years on Orcas, San Juan, and Jones Island. We are grateful for the continued support of both the Orcas Island Community Foundation, the San Juan Islands Community Foundation, Career Connect Washington, and the Washington Department of Commerce who have all supported the development of this program.  

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