Cry the Beloved Meadows
by Darryl Lloyd
The Bird Creek Meadows—largely within the Yakama Nation Mount Adams Recreation Area—is one of the most treasured subalpine parklands in the Cascades. Its spectacular wildflower displays are well-known to botanists and nature lovers across the country. The Native Plant Society lists 162 plant species, including 10 conifers. On the mountain’s southern slope, over 100 glades and meadows form a triangular area between 5,700 feet and 7,100 feet. Tumbling down through the beautiful meadows are about a dozen spring-fed streams, most of which flow into Bird Creek.
On Sunday (9/3/17), Darvel and I checked out trails and documented extensive cattle trespass and adverse impacts in the Bird Creek Meadows within the Yakama Reservation boundary. (Note: Friends of Mount Adams are partners in the Washington Trails Association’s trail-maintenance project. Access by road to Bird Lake and the meadows has been closed to the public for the past two years, but we went in as part of the WTA group.)
WTA volunteers did a wonderful job of repairing and improving the Bird Lake Tr., Bluff Lake Tr., Round-the-Mountain Tr. and Trail of the Flowers.
(1) The Bird Creek road (Rd. 285) to Bird Lake is in, by far, the worst condition we’ve ever seen it. The road is very nearly impassable. (2) The Yakama Nation drift fence was in disrepair. Only part of it had been put up as of September 3rd. However, cattle have been passing through it freely all summer—as they did during the 2016 grazing season.
We counted at least 17 trespassing cows, yearling calves and a large bull in two different parts of the meadows. Most of the cattle were seen along Crooked Creek above the falls. Evidence clearly shows that cattle have grazed heavily throughout the Bird Creek Meadows for the past two years. Parts of the meadows look and smell like beaten-down cow pastures. Riparian areas are being trampled and severely impacted in a number of ways. For example, along streams nearly every clump of late-blooming Lewis’ monkeyflower has been eaten. Plant processes important for survival will undoubtedly be affected, because very few blooms or seed pods remained.
We immediately called and reported the trespass to the owner of the cattle, Neil Kayser family of Centerville, Washington. They refuse to chase out their cattle until the Yakama Nation puts up their fence properly. The Bird Creek Meadows parklands are being severely degraded from repeated, illegal grazing. For the last two years the Yakama Nation has failed to keep them cattle-free.
– Darryl Lloyd
Approaching the Yakama Nation Mount Adams Recreation Area by the Bird Creek road (Rd. 285), Sept. 3, 2017
New sign at trailhead near Bird Lake
Washington Trails Association volunteers work on the Bluff Lake Trail
New bridge over Crooked Creek, on the Bird Lake Trail
At least 12 cattle—cows, yearling calves and a bull—near Crooked Creek
Wetland below Round-the-Mountain Trail
Trampled bank of the frog pond, also heavily grazed meadow
Clumps of late-blooming Lewis’ monkeyflower and other plants trampled and eaten by cows
Cows ate monkeyflowers during their blooming stage
Almost no monkeyflower blooms or or seed pods clusters remained along the many streams
Amazing widflowers on August 21, 2013
Cattle impacts & erosion, done during the 2016 season—15 cow pies counted within about a 25-30 ft. radius
Grazing impacts along Round-the-Mountain Trail
Yakama Nation drift fence on 9/3/17
Broken cattle guard on Bird Creek Road, 9/3/17