A Bird’s Eye View of Our Home

Written by Melissa Garvey, Deputy Director, The Nature Conservancy in Washington
Photography by John Marshall

What better way to take in our region’s natural beauty than by flying over it in a plane. I got to take a very special flight with my colleagues at NatureVest, a Nature Conservancy initiative that creates innovative financing for conservation. Joining us were NatureVest’s advisory board and leaders from the sustainable finance team at JP Morgan Chase.

On a stunningly clear Spring day, we shared a remarkable vantage point from which we could see the tremendous breadth and beauty of nature in our region, while considering some of the challenges and opportunities we have to conserve it.

An aerial view of the Cedar River Watershed was a reminder of the great investment made in this forest decades ago. It holds and protects the water Seattle relies upon. But the land around the watershed is fragmented and in need of restoration.

Approaching the cascade crest, we were reminded of the amazing potential of conservation finance. Working with NatureVest, we protected 48,000 acres of forestland with the use of innovative financing. But there is much more to do to restore forests to health on both sides of the cascades.

Working lands, rivers and Puget Sound come together in the Skagit Valley. This area is critical for agriculture, salmon and the health of the sound. It was also the first time I’ve seen our Port Susan Bay and Fisher Slough projects from above - innovative work that is having an impact!

Next stop – the beautiful San Juan Islands! From a plane they look pristine. But growing vessel traffic is increasing pollution and the risk of oil spills. There are big opportunities for conservation to protect the marine environment that is so critical to our well-being.

From there we flew over the Elwha River restoration site– the largest dam removal in history. The Elwha River now flows freely from its headwaters in the Olympic Mountains to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The sediment once trapped behind the dams is rebuilding critical habitats, vegetation is being restored, and salmon and trout are naturally migrating past the former dam site for the first time in over 100 years.

An inspiring view of the Olympic mountain range brought to mind the need for summit-to-sea conservation to protect wildlife, Native culture, and irreplaceable environment. Looking out to the coast and the remarkable Emerald Edge we saw big opportunities for large scale impact across geographic boundaries.

Turning back towards Seattle, the urban environment came back into focus. This is where the majority of our state’s population makes their homes. To create sustainable cities, we must address stormwater runoff. By engaging leaders and creating innovative green solutions, we can restore the health of Puget Sound for people and nature.

The bird’s eye view of our region highlights how much is a stake as we work to conserve and restore the place we call home. Together we can shape the future for nature and for people.