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Local youths taking part in river restoration project

Sunnyside Pioneer Elementary School students Miguel Garcia and Raymond Ramirez (L-R) prepare a wood rose for planting at Heavenly Hills Harvest Farm. The effort to plant native plants along the Yakima River is part of the habitat restoration underway from Sunnyside to Cle Elum.

Sunnyside Pioneer Elementary School students Miguel Garcia and Raymond Ramirez (L-R) prepare a wood rose for planting at Heavenly Hills Harvest Farm. The effort to plant native plants along the Yakima River is part of the habitat restoration underway from Sunnyside to Cle Elum. Photo by Jennie McGhan.

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It’s only the beginning of restoring habitat along the Yakima River, but officials are pleased with a partnership between Heavenly Hills Harvest Farm, the Yakima Basin Environmental Education Project and Mid-Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group.

Margaret Neuman, executive director of the Mid-Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group, said restoration projects from Sunnyside to Cle Elum are planned to take place. The Department of Ecology has provided funding for riparian restoration along the Yakima River.

“The project at Heavenly Hills Harvest near Sunnyside is the first one in the effort,” she said.

Students from schools in Granger and Sunnyside were invited to participate in the project at Heavenly Hills and this week were busy planting a number of trees and shrubs that are native to the area.

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Students from Pioneer Elementary School and volunteers with the Yakima Basin Environmental Education Project, the Mid-Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group and Washington Conservation Corps work toward the goal of planting 384 native trees and shrubs this past Wednesday.

They planted four plots of 192 trees and shrubs, including wood rose, cottonwood, willows, dogwoods and blue elderberry near the Yakima River.

“It’s exciting to get the youngsters involved in such a project because it brings the classroom into the real world,” said Neuman.

She said projects that give students hands-on experience with the environment around them help them gain a greater knowledge of the habitat.

The learning doesn’t stop once the planting of the trees and shrubs is complete. Neuman said the students will be visited by a watershed educator, who will help them better understand the function of riparian zones, salmon and watersheds.

This year Tiffany Bishop was named the director of the Yakima Basin Environmental Education Project, succeeding Bob Tuck. She will visit classrooms throughout the region for the salmon in the classroom educational experience.

Neuman said Bishop was on hand at the riparian restoration project, helping youngsters with the planting this week.

“She will help them better understand the importance of protecting the environment,” Neuman said of Bishop’s role.

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