By Randi Shaw, Stewardship Manager
Hunting season is in full swing now, so get out your blaze orange and go give a hunter a high-five. Why? Because more of those hunters than you might realize have done a lot to help our conservation cause.
First and foremost, it's a pleasure to report on the incredible and continued success of the Moses Coulee Hunter Steward program in our shrub-steppe preserves. Eastern Washington Stewardship Coordinator Nick Altadonna and Moses Coulee Land Manager Corinna Hanson led a big effort to make this program possible once again, running more than 15 events across the Conservancy’s Washington preserve complex — with projects including trail maintenance, signage, fencing, field monitoring and taking care of our facilities.
These essential stewardship tasks would never get done without the more than 50 hunter-stewards this year that came out to help. Each steward gives a minimum of two days and in return receives deer hunting privileges on our lands. Many of these stewards come from the surrounding communities, but some come from hours away to give their time to our Eastern Washington landscapes. And the majority of these hunter-stewards have participated year after year, upwards of 10 years. That's a lot of on-the-ground support.
A sampling of the stats for 2017 that got my gratitude going:
- Number of volunteer hours: 515 (that's more than 12 40-hour work weeks!)
- Number of projects: 15-plus
- Miles of trail: 7.5
- Hours of facility maintenance: 18
- Miles of signage installed: 7.5
- Pounds of trash removed: 4,000
- Hours of field monitoring: 132
I must also mention, however, another superstar on the subject of hunter support. Rick Skiba, of the Washington Waterfowl Association (WWA), regularly checks in on Port Susan Bay and helps with the recurring issues of dumping and other human misuse throughout the year. He also takes care of our "swan sign," ensuring that the vegetation doesn't block it, and taking it down every fall to keep it in good condition.
Rick also organizes an important community event twice a season for the local hunting community at Port Susan Bay. He, with others at the WWA, run the annual youth hunt day at Port Susan, part of a statewide day meant to help teach the next generation of hunters ethical and safe practices. It also brings families together in the outdoors, which is ever-more important in a digital age.
It's good to remember these examples of all the hunters out there who support The Nature Conservancy, conservation work and who recognize you can't hunt without habitat. Kudos to them!