Forests are essential to our island. They provide habitat and shade, building materials and fuel, hold and improve our soils, and most important allow rainwater to seep into our underground aquifer.
Vashon Island was declared a sole source aquifer by the EPA in 1994. Without our ground water Vashon would be mostly waterless. What allows the rain water to percolate down into the aquifer is the forest duff, the floor of the forest which is one of the most distinctive features of the forest ecosystem. Duff is largely comprised of shed vegetative parts such as leaves, branches, bark and stems which exist in various stages of decomposition above the soil surface. It acts like a sponge, holding rainwater in suspension long enough for it to gradually seep down into our aquifer.
Vashon/Maury Island was formed from glacial deposits laid down between about 17,000 to 15,000 years ago. Glacial till is not good growing soil, so we are fortunate that 60% of the island is forested. The forest duff gradually enriches the glacial till into better soil. So, our island's health is directly related to its forest cover - therefore it is essential we retain as much as possible. Ever see the bumper sticker "God is Soil"?
Private landowners own most of that forestland. As part of our mission, VFS strives to educate these owners about forests: including forest stewardship planning and management, forest ecology and sustainable, low-impact, environmentally sensitive forestry techniques.
Our Education Program includes our Consultant Services which works with both public and privte forest owners to help manage forests towards health. We also lead tours of our mill yard and island forests. This year those tours included groups from the University of Washington, Washington State Cooperative Extension, and King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks. We helped lead community tours of the recent thinning operations in Island Center Forest and Dockton Forest and have given tours to private forest owners interested in seeing what a previously thinned forest looks like before they thin their own woods.
We have an educational outreach booth with forest and wood displays that participates in community fairs (The Vashon WisEnergy Fair, Vashon Home Fair, Strawberry Festival, etc) and travels to regional workshops focused on forest management, tree planting, and invasive plant eradication.
We also work with all ages of students. We designed and built two outdoor forest classrooms in the Vashon Island School District Forest primarily to further forest education for Chautauqua Elementay school classes. The outdoor classrooms were built by our Forest Youth Corps. This Forest Youth Corps program helps get high school students outdoors and into the woods or to the mill yard where they learn while doing meaningful work - some for community service credit, some for hourly pay. And this year we started leading forest tours for pre-schoolers - all ages can get something from the woods.
Forest Education Grants
VFS as a 501c3 non-profit organization has received educational grants from govenmrnt entities and private foundations that include funding for forest ecology outreach, a "Wood is Good" local lumber awareness program and youth and forestry grants which evolved into our Forest Youth Corps program.