Editor’s note: The Chehalis Basin Lead Entity, the community group that identifies and implements salmon habitat restoration and protection projects in the watershed, features local people who are doing good things for salmon in their “watershed heroes” series. Here they spotlight Grays Harbor Stream Team volunteer Sammy Fletcher.
Sammy Fletcher is an active and diligent volunteer with the Grays Harbor Stream Team, a coalition of students, educators, citizen volunteers, local agencies, and nonprofit organizations dedicated to the protection and restoration of streams that flow through Grays Harbor County.
Fletcher was born and raised in the Aberdeen area, and went to local schools, including Robert Gray Elementary in Aberdeen and Taholah High School on the Quinault Indian Reservation. A Quinault Indian Nation member, he also has family ties to the Chehalis Confederated Tribes of the Chehalis Reservation — his aunts and a sister married into the tribe.
Bucking hay and packing cedar was how Fletcher grew up. He works in construction, notably with a nonprofit company that deconstructs buildings and sustainably reclaims the wood and processes it into reusable base materials. From these physically demanding endeavors, he has developed a strong work ethic.
With the Grays Harbor Stream Team, he planted numerous species of trees, shrubs and emergent plants this past winter at the Lower Satsop River Restoration site, a multi-phase riparian and floodplain restoration project.
“Outdoor restoration works sets me free in my soul … and helps me get outside of myself,” Fletcher said. “I know that I will never see some of the trees fully grown that I planted with Stream Team, but generations of people in the future will.”
He’s also been involved with beach cleanups, including one as part of the Yellow Rope Project, which cleans up bits of rope used by oyster farms using the longline method left behind after harvest.
“I learned at a beach cleanup that this plastic rope breaks down into tiny pieces that never go away,” Fletcher said.
Stream Team coordinator and Yellow Rope Project co-coordinator Alexa Brown added, “the small plastic bits look like food to marine critters and as the bits get eaten, plastic accumulates in the food chain.”
Fletcher has also applied “sweat equity” in the removal of invasive species including Scotch broom, English ivy, and English holly, among others, during other volunteer stewardship events.
“The ivy suffocates trees, and the roots seem to go forever,” he said. “I also removed invasive English holly, a plant that just hogs up space. Because I’m native, when I pull out invasive plants, I often give a tobacco offering, and say that I am sorry I’m pulling you out.”
In the future, Fletcher hopes to be able to continue his education and get his associate’s degree at Grays Harbor College, and then one day work with his Quinault tribe.
“There is a Legacy Native Pathways AA degree program that I hope to enroll in,” Fletcher said. “Fawn Sharp, our current vice president of the Quinault Indian Nation, helped to set this program up. I would love to get educated in a really good way, and take biology classes.”
The program serves students from Quinault, Queets, Chehalis, Shoalwater Bay/Aberdeen, and six other local tribes, and provides specialized assistance to tribal members to be most successful. For more information on the program, check out www.ghc.edu.
In reflecting on why he volunteers with Stream Team, Fletcher said, “I volunteer because I learn so much. I just love being outdoors. When I’m outdoors, I feel its residue for days — I’m happy for days. I am single, but not lonely as I have the earth, moon and the sky.”
“It is important to recognize Sammy’s efforts because at every event, he always shows up early to set up and stays late to help pack up,” Brown said. “Sammy has a positive perspective, is determined, and has a deep commitment to the well-being of our streams and waterways. I am inspired by his commitment and the number of friends he has convinced to come to the volunteer events.”
For more information about how you can get involved with the Grays Harbor Stream Team Program, go to the Grays Harbor Stream Team on Facebook or contact Brown at email@example.com.