Anacortes Community Forest Lands (ACFL) Forest Monitoring

Anacortes Community Forest Lands (ACFL)
Forest Monitoring

Contact us at to be involved with this new and exciting Citizen Science opportunity. Begun in the spring of 2019, we have nearly finished four years of studies now! Now we are preparing for our fall studies and next year’s program to carry on.

The Anacortes Community Forest Lands (ACFL) are a defining feature of our community and key to our sense of place.

The ACFL is changing, as it has from its very beginning. Now, though, it faces a climate that has started changing at rates that will become faster than ecosystems, or humans, have ever experienced.

Transition Fidalgo & Friends is sponsoring a citizen science project to monitor change in the ACFL. We have three objectives: (1) to get to know our forest better (we care for things that we know more intimately); (2) to document current conditions and then to track how the forest is responding and changing; and (3) to make that data available to researchers and land managers, so that we learn how forests respond and if/how we can help them adapt more successfully.

Climate change is a global challenge unfolding over many decades. Its vast scale across both space and time can make it difficult to understand or observe. By studying our local forest, we can make both the challenges and the solutions to climate change a tangible reality for our community. 

This is a volunteer-led project, guided by an advisory board that includes experts in forest ecology, resource management, and the administration of volunteer programs. We’ll need many volunteers to ensure success. And not just people who want to study the forest, but also those interested in data entry, education, recording people’s stories, writing articles about forest critters, organizing and contacting volunteers, and many other tasks.

We’ll also need donations to make this work. While this is a volunteer-led project, the management of a swarm of volunteers and a blizzard of data takes dedicated time from a part-time paid volunteer manager. We’re exploring different scenarios, but all will involve some cost. We hope that community members who value the ACFL will support this program both as volunteers and as donors.

Here are the ACFL studies we are involved with so far:

  • Plot studies: 12 plots on a couple trails.
  • Cedar tree monitoring: evaluating the health of 100 cedars found along each of  several trails
  • Phenology: identifying the timing of when various plants bud, flower, put forth leaves, and lose leaves.
  • Soil moisture monitoring: we have two different locations with sensors at various depths in the soil to measure how much water is available for vegetation
  • Burn area photos: annual photos of the changes in the burn area around Little Cranberry Lake
  • Weather measurements: we have a professional weather station monitoring daily weather in the Anacortes area, and compare it to measurements throughout the past 120 years
  • Bird surveys: expert birders are identifying the species and numbers of birds monthly on specific trails
  • Water flow: two high school interns are measuring water flow from Heart lake this spring.

Our special thanks to the City of Anacortes for partnering with Transition Fidalgo & Friends in sponsoring the Anacortes Community Forest Lands Forest Monitoring Project. From special funds created through a previous partnership between the city and TF&F, the City of Anacortes Parks Department contributed to the acquisition of our initial equipment
outlay for the project.

Thank you Jonn Lunsford, Parks Department Director, and the City of Anacortes for your vision in encouraging this study and for your contributions from those funds to make these and future studies possible.


ACFL Annual Report 2023








ACFL-ffs annual report 2022



trailside monitoring data sheet

Volunteer Engagement Survey: January 2023

Phenology data sheet -march10  – blank sheets, now in pdf format – updated March 10,2020

Phenology guide (2020.02.16)

Phenology-masterdata-2022-0502 Ongoing spreadsheet of dates recorded, in pdf. The date of the spreadsheet shows when it was last updated.


2021 Final (draft) Phenology master data: Phenology-masterdata-2021-finalmaybe

2020 Final Phenology master data (for comparison): Phenology-masterdata-2020-final

Image of Indian Plum courtesy of Evelyn Adams, 1/21/2021

Phenology Study – Tree locations at Heart Lake

Salmonberry  Salmonberry photo guide (Thank you Jan Hersey)

Fidalgo Climate History by Jon Ranney (2021)