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Fiber Co-op, Sustainable Seafood, and U-Pick Farm are winners of 2017 Washington Coast Works Competition

Fiber Co-op, Sustainable Seafood, and U-Pick Farm are winners of 2017 Washington Coast Works Competition

A focus on sustainability paid off for the winners of the 2017 Coast Works Sustainable Small Business Competition honored at the Coast Works Awards Ceremony on November 9, 2017 at Olympic Theatre Arts in Sequim.

Brews and Beautiful Views

Photographed by Mo McBroom, Government Relations Director

What's better than brews and beautiful views?  We recently hosted an event for young environmental professionals to network, relax, and talk about their work in a beautiful setting. Guests enjoyed our rooftop deck, with beautiful views of Puget Sound!

Meeting up allows us to get to know other young professionals across a diverse array of conservation and outdoor industry organizations.  This will be a regular gathering, if anyone is interested in getting on the invitation list for the next event, please contact Tom Bugert:

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Quinault Indian Nation named Title Sponsor for Washington Coast Works Sustainable Business Plan Competition

June 21, 2016 (Seattle, Washington) — Washington Coast Works is pleased to announce the Quinault Indian Nation as the Title Sponsor for the 2016 Sustainable Small Business Competition. This year’s business training is underway and will conclude July 22-24 during the Entrepreneurship Summit at the Olympic Natural Resource Center in Forks, Washington. At the Summit, participants will develop their presentation pitch and polish their business plans for a chance to vie for up to $20,000 in startup financing. Winners will be announced in October. 

This year’s participating entrepreneurs include a cultural tourism business, a wood boat kit manufacturer, a bee keeper, a construction business, a chocolatier, a tiny homes builder, a food truck, a dog boarding business, a permaculture farm, a stump grinder, a nature-inspired fitness company, a sustainable vegetable and hog producer, and a manufacturer of art equipment. All are “triple-bottom-line” businesses from coastal communities in Grays Harbor, Jefferson and Clallam Counties and designed to generate profits with significant social and environmental benefits.

“The Quinault Indian Nation is a critical partner for us,” said Eric Delvin, Emerald Edge Project Manager at The Nature Conservancy. “Their commitment to conservation of their natural resources and to sustainable economic development is clearly demonstrated by their sponsorship of Washington Coast Works.” 

Other 2016 competition sponsors include Enterprise for Equity and Washington Department of Commerce. 

Washington Coast Works is an initiative of The Nature Conservancy in collaboration with Enterprise for Equity (with support from a USDA Rural Business Development Grant), the Center for Inclusive Entrepreneurship, and the Ta’ala Fund, a native community development financial institution that supports business development in western Washington coast tribal communities. 

The complete calendar of events leading up to the competition is available at www.wacoastworks.org. Contact at Mike Skinner info@wacoastworks.org to learn more about the competition, to volunteer to mentor or judge, or to request information about more sponsorship opportunities.

Act Locally, Share Globally

Written by Bob Carey, Strategic Partnerships Director
Photographs by Flickr Creative Commons

Just a few short hours north of Seattle and set in the vast beauty of British Columbia, the Conservancy's Floodplains by Design program was the featured topic at a Canadian Water Resource Association workshop in Surrey. More than 30 WATER resource management leaders overwhelmingly responded positively when, at the close, their president asked if they were inspired by this work happening just south of the border.  Their response was just as positive when asked if they’d like to see such a program in British Colombia and on the Fraser River. 

The gathering of representatives from BC’s major cities, the BC government, the Fraser River Basin Council and environmental and academic groups represent those on the forefront of managing the Fraser River – the largest river in both BC and the Salish Sea, and the watershed with the highest flood risks in Canada.  The strong affirmation that the “Floodplains by Design” approach makes sense and is applicable across the border made me proud to be part of a team leading the charge in making the region’s rivers more resilient for people and nature.

Restoring nature to address societies most pressing challenges is a prominent theme in the Conservancy's global conservation agenda.  Our Floodplains by Design work in Washington is one of the best success stories of accomplishing this at a meaningful scale.  Having secured $80M in new funding and helped catalyze 30 projects across the state, in which the restoration of nature and reduction of community risks are being pursued hand-in-hand, it’s clear that the approach can deliver tangible benefits to people and nature. That is why the invitations to share our story are numerous.

In addition to myriad audiences in Washington, over the last couple years our WATER team members have shared the Floodplains by Design story with a variety of national and international audiences, including: China Coastal Wetland Conservation Network (China), Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference (Vancouver, BC), American Planning Association (Phoenix), Association of State Floodplain Managers (Atlanta, Seattle), National Academy of Sciences (Washington DC), North American Water Learning Exchange (Pensacola, Phoenix) and the NW Floodplain Management Association (Post Falls, ID).

There are many great things about working for The Nature Conservancy, among them – the ability to innovate, the ability to scale up our work, and the ability to export beyond our borders. 

It’s a recipe for making real change in the world.


Packing Passion: Community Sits at Heart of Floodplain Planning

Written by Jeanine Stewart, Volunteer writer

In the political world of environmental activism, so often the tendency is to side with one issue at all costs, destroying any and all interests that get in the way. 

That’s not the case for The Nature Conservancy’s Puget Sound community relations manager Heather Cole, who joined last October.  She works with communities to find environmentally sound solutions to Puget Sound major river systems.

The major question she’s tasked with? How to help communities in Puget Sound develop floodplain management visions  – minimizing flood risk in areas prone to flooding while also improving ecosystem benefit, such as improving salmon habitat and water quality – that take into account the often-conflicting interests of a diverse list of stakeholders.

“Local jurisdictions, , tribes, farmers, diking districts, for example – they all have competing values for how they want to manage the same piece of land,” Cole said. “The question is, how do we integrate all those multiple values of the local community?”

Read more about the Conservancy’s work in floodplains here.

Rapid population growth necessitates swift movement on these discussions. The Puget Sound region’s population will likely grow 8 percent between 2014 and 2020, and 28 percent by 2040, according to the Puget Sound Regional Council.

This puts pressure on local jurisdictions to allow more construction. Meanwhile, farmers face a daily struggle to make a living from the same land. And the region’s iconic salmon need habitat and clean water. All these needs must be balanced with those of flood safety, Cole explains.  

She’s now hard at work on the first step of balancing these interests, identifying the barriers that get in the way of conservation planning by collaborating with all the parties involved, including local leaders.

Working through conflicting interests to find common ground is Cole’s specialty. She brings nearly a decade of experience working for the state of Washington on natural resource issues, doing research, planning and community development. She also received a master’s in international development and environmental analysis in Australia.

Cole sees each group’s interests as a key piece of the puzzle rather than barriers to a tunnel-vision view of the solution.

“Coming from a natural resources perspective and working in the natural resources field for a number of years, you come to realize that these issues can’t be solved with a technical silver bullet,” Cole said. “We have to understand the people landscape. People are part of the problem, and they are part of the solution.”

This simple and clear-headed approach is a calming reprieve from the complex and lofty goals Cole has her eyes on.

Asked to summarize her work, she says it focuses on “integrated floodplain management where local groups can find agreement on strategies and actions for our rivers that have multiple benefits, such as improving flood safety, agriculture preservation and restoring floodplain connections that support endangered species like salmon; while also bringing in climate change information so that we are making wise investments today that will survive in a changing climate fifty to a hundred years from now.”

October Volunteer Spotlight: Alicia Watras

Alicia Watras has been heavily involved as a volunteer with The Nature Conservancy in Washington ever since she signed up in July 2014 and almost immediately joined us at our first annual Passport to Port Susan Bay event.  Since then she has been actively supporting our mission in a variety of ways, including as an active member of the Conservation Ambassadors, a regular Gratitude Team caller, and by contributing to a host of office projects and work parties on our preserves.

Aside from her passion for conservation Alicia holds an MBA from the University of Washington and is an avid rock climber. 

We recently asked Alicia to give us her thoughts on volunteering with The Nature Conservancy, and here's what she had to say:


The Nature Conservancy:  What inspired you to start volunteering with The Nature Conservancy?

Alicia Watras: The global, science-based, and collaborative approach that TNC takes for protection of biodiversity, healthy environments for people and animal, and maintaining some wild lands inspired me to volunteer some of my energy and time to help further the cause.

Various volunteering opportunities I have enjoyed include restoration projects led by environmental scientists, spreading awareness about TNC and environmental issues through tabling at special events, and office work in the Seattle location. Examples:

  • Planting cottonwood in Fisherman Slough where there was an overview of the history of the project and the objectives of our volunteer efforts
  • Representing TNC and taking part in the Big Tent Event in Olympia
  • Taking notes for an in-person meeting of different, international Reef Resilience TNC scientists and coordinators

I enjoy projects where I can see progress occurring or –as the progress achieved is not tangible in some cases or in early stages of enormously-scoped projects- at least see a practical efforts in action!

TNC:  What's your favorite thing to do when you're not volunteering?

AW:  Backpacking in National Parks.

TNC:  Who is your environmental hero?

AW:  One is Jane Goodall. Among others include the many TNC employees and volunteers that I have met!

TNC:  Is there anything you would like to see The Nature Conservancy doing that we are not already doing?

AW:  In the PNW: a monumental, organized, collaborative effort to remove English Ivy and other invasive plant species. I volunteered at Chuckanut Island removing ivy and hope to volunteer for the same event next year in the aim to eventually free the island of ivy so that indigenous plant species can recover and also support the animal life there. There are many other places in Washington where I would like to help remove ivy and help a greater variety of plant life get a chance at growing. I would love to be part of a cross-organizational, multi-decade-long, concerted effort across the PNW to control the continuing spread of ivy.

Be the change. Sign up to Volunteer Today.


Memories of Port Susan Bay Day

Engaging visitors of all ages in our efforts to restore Puget Sound

Written by Laura Lea Rubino, Marketing Intern
Photographed by Katherine Cairns (1-4), Photography Volunteer and Laura Lea Rubino (5-10), Marketing Intern

More than 100 people attended this year’s Port Susan Bay Day at our local estuarine preserve. This annual family-friendly event offered visitors a rare opportunity to explore the unique landscape and learn how restoration returned the estuary to historical conditions. 

With a Port Susan Bay passport in hand, visitors stopped at science stations along the dike to learn about topics from invasive species to climate change. Visitors collected a stamp in their passport at each station to choose a prize at the end of their self-guided tour. Many took advantage of the warm beautiful day to wander along the dike and watch the tide come in. Others retreated to the shade for face painting and an ice cream sandwich. We enjoyed meeting new people and sharing our work with the local community—thank you to everyone who came out for Port Susan Bay Day!

See the slideshow above!

Making a Plan for People and Nature    What would you do if your backyard grew by 48,000 acres?    Taking on tens of thousands of acres of forestland between Snoqualmie Pass and Cle Elum is an exciting and challenging project.  Eastern Washington Conservation Director James Schroeder tells about how The Nature Conservancy in Washington is settling in and getting to work.   What’s the first thing you did after the acquisition closed?
   After the handshakes and hugging, step one was to begin meeting with local leaders and communities to learn more about how the land has been used and about people’s vision for the land. In the last two months we’ve had dozens of meetings with locals, ranging from Rotary Clubs to recreational groups and we’ve learned a lot about how the land is valued. We are also getting great input from an  online survey  where people can share their thoughts about the future of these cherished lands. 

   How do you go about getting to know so much land?
   There’s no substitute for first-hand experience.  Our forestry team is out on the ground learning about different areas, documenting current uses, restoration needs and other issues.  At times, the  beauty is quite inspiring , but it also makes clear the need for active restoration. To assure these forests are healthy and thriving, there is much work to be done and we are eager to dig in. 

   When and how will you begin restoration work?
   Our first step is to develop a management plan. This will help us to set our goals for this land and guide our restoration efforts. Our management plan will include many different elements, from how we plan to manage the forest, to what recreation uses will be allowed, to how we will maintain our system of roads and trails. Once we have this plan in place, we will begin specific restoration projects, such as thinning the forest where it is needed, fixing any problem roads or trails, and beginning commercial logging to improve the health of the forest.
   What happens next?
   We are developing our management plan now and will be adding to it over the next 6 months or so. The information we are hearing from recreationists, user groups, interested citizens, and our many members and supporters will help us as we write the plan. Over the next few months, we will continue to gather input and ideas from people so that we can consider them as we go. I am looking forward to three “open house” style meetings we are planning in Cle Elum, Ellensburg, and Yakima in March. We hope to hear from everyone who loves and uses this land and has a stake in its future.
  Meanwhile the lands are open for recreation and are being enjoyed in all kinds of weather – rain, snow and sun. 
  We are holding community meetings in March and invite everyone to attend and  be part of the dialog . 
   What do you dream about as you drive around on this land?
   Wow, I have lots of dreams! Healthy forests that shade water for salmon, protect rivers for agriculture in valleys below, are connected to allow wildlife to migrate, and provide places for humans to relax, escape and enjoy all that nature has to offer.  But I also dream about working forests that provide economic benefit to the communities that depend on them.  Achieving all this will require collaboration and teamwork as communities, conservation groups, local businesses, volunteers, tribes and many others work together to shape these forests for our future. 
 
 
 
    
 
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  Forests Questionnaire

Making a Plan for People and Nature

What would you do if your backyard grew by 48,000 acres?

Taking on tens of thousands of acres of forestland between Snoqualmie Pass and Cle Elum is an exciting and challenging project. Eastern Washington Conservation Director James Schroeder tells about how The Nature Conservancy in Washington is settling in and getting to work.

What’s the first thing you did after the acquisition closed?

After the handshakes and hugging, step one was to begin meeting with local leaders and communities to learn more about how the land has been used and about people’s vision for the land. In the last two months we’ve had dozens of meetings with locals, ranging from Rotary Clubs to recreational groups and we’ve learned a lot about how the land is valued. We are also getting great input from an online survey where people can share their thoughts about the future of these cherished lands.

How do you go about getting to know so much land?

There’s no substitute for first-hand experience. Our forestry team is out on the ground learning about different areas, documenting current uses, restoration needs and other issues. At times, the beauty is quite inspiring, but it also makes clear the need for active restoration. To assure these forests are healthy and thriving, there is much work to be done and we are eager to dig in.

When and how will you begin restoration work?

Our first step is to develop a management plan. This will help us to set our goals for this land and guide our restoration efforts. Our management plan will include many different elements, from how we plan to manage the forest, to what recreation uses will be allowed, to how we will maintain our system of roads and trails. Once we have this plan in place, we will begin specific restoration projects, such as thinning the forest where it is needed, fixing any problem roads or trails, and beginning commercial logging to improve the health of the forest.

What happens next?

We are developing our management plan now and will be adding to it over the next 6 months or so. The information we are hearing from recreationists, user groups, interested citizens, and our many members and supporters will help us as we write the plan. Over the next few months, we will continue to gather input and ideas from people so that we can consider them as we go. I am looking forward to three “open house” style meetings we are planning in Cle Elum, Ellensburg, and Yakima in March. We hope to hear from everyone who loves and uses this land and has a stake in its future.

Meanwhile the lands are open for recreation and are being enjoyed in all kinds of weather – rain, snow and sun.

We are holding community meetings in March and invite everyone to attend and be part of the dialog.

What do you dream about as you drive around on this land?

Wow, I have lots of dreams! Healthy forests that shade water for salmon, protect rivers for agriculture in valleys below, are connected to allow wildlife to migrate, and provide places for humans to relax, escape and enjoy all that nature has to offer. But I also dream about working forests that provide economic benefit to the communities that depend on them. Achieving all this will require collaboration and teamwork as communities, conservation groups, local businesses, volunteers, tribes and many others work together to shape these forests for our future.

Protecting an Emerald Edge

    

 

 

In the Tongass, and throughout the Emerald Edge, the Nature Conservancy is investing in an innovative timber industry that ensures healthy forests and healthy local communities.

The 17-million-acre Tongass National Forest is in the uppermost part of the Emerald Edge – the world’s largest temperate rainforest, which stretches from southeast Alaska to coastal British Columbia and ends in Washington. Relentless loss of old-growth forests and widespread unemployment in some areas pose real threats to the people in this region, whose economic and cultural livelihood relies on a healthy forest system.

Throughout the Emerald Edge, many of the old-growth forests have been logged, leaving behind clusters of small-diameter trees, creating inadequate habitat for wildlife. Twenty-five years ago, the U.S. Forest Service outlined plans to solve this problem by developing a young-growth timber industry in the Tongass National Forest, but little progress has been made. In an effort to protect the remaining old-growth forests in the Tongass, TNC has facilitated a revolving loan to jumpstart a more sustainable young-growth forest industry.

The revolving loan will provide a model throughout the Emerald Edge for restoring forests and offering growth opportunities otherwise unavailable to small businesses.

Volunteer of the Year   If you’ve encountered a Nature Conservancy booth at a fair or festival, chances are you’ve met Susie Saalwaechter. A devoted volunteer and lead for our Conservation Ambassador team, Susie is this year’s Volunteer of the Year. 
 Susie has been volunteering with The Nature Conservancy for 3 years, and has taken on increasing responsibility and new challenges each year. In 2014 she made impressive contributions to our work donating over 400 hours of her time, often giving up Saturdays and weekends to spread awareness of conservation as our Conservation Ambassador team Lead! Always cheerful and eager to talk about The Nature Conservancy’s projects, Susie has been the perfect representative for us in the community. 
 The Conservation Ambassador team is a group that is getting out into the local community and broadening support for conservation by reaching out to new people and giving them an introduction to our work, inviting them to sign up for our email newsletter or get involved as a volunteer. As team Lead Susie was responsible for planning and staffing these events, and because of her efforts we had a presence at several Farmer’s Markets, and events like the Sustainable Ballard Festival, the Seattle Cherry Blossom Festival, and even PRIDE Fest! Susie’s knowledge of our work is commendable, and her dedication is inspirational. Thank you Susie! 
 At The Nature Conservancy in Washington volunteers are active as stewards of our preserves and join us for restoration work parties, and also take on a wide variety of office projects. We are so impressed by the commitment of Susie, and all of our volunteers – including other nominees for Volunteer of the Year: Diana Post, Greta Nintzel, Bob Branberg and Malcolm Leytham, and Sherry Wilhelm. If you would like to get involved as a volunteer with us, please email wavolunteer@tnc.org 
 The Nature Conservancy in Washington is sincerely grateful for the hard work and dedication of all our volunteers, and we would especially like to thank and congratulate this year’s Volunteer of the Year, Susie Saalwaechter!

Volunteer of the Year

If you’ve encountered a Nature Conservancy booth at a fair or festival, chances are you’ve met Susie Saalwaechter. A devoted volunteer and lead for our Conservation Ambassador team, Susie is this year’s Volunteer of the Year.

Susie has been volunteering with The Nature Conservancy for 3 years, and has taken on increasing responsibility and new challenges each year. In 2014 she made impressive contributions to our work donating over 400 hours of her time, often giving up Saturdays and weekends to spread awareness of conservation as our Conservation Ambassador team Lead! Always cheerful and eager to talk about The Nature Conservancy’s projects, Susie has been the perfect representative for us in the community.

The Conservation Ambassador team is a group that is getting out into the local community and broadening support for conservation by reaching out to new people and giving them an introduction to our work, inviting them to sign up for our email newsletter or get involved as a volunteer. As team Lead Susie was responsible for planning and staffing these events, and because of her efforts we had a presence at several Farmer’s Markets, and events like the Sustainable Ballard Festival, the Seattle Cherry Blossom Festival, and even PRIDE Fest! Susie’s knowledge of our work is commendable, and her dedication is inspirational. Thank you Susie!

At The Nature Conservancy in Washington volunteers are active as stewards of our preserves and join us for restoration work parties, and also take on a wide variety of office projects. We are so impressed by the commitment of Susie, and all of our volunteers – including other nominees for Volunteer of the Year: Diana Post, Greta Nintzel, Bob Branberg and Malcolm Leytham, and Sherry Wilhelm. If you would like to get involved as a volunteer with us, please email wavolunteer@tnc.org

The Nature Conservancy in Washington is sincerely grateful for the hard work and dedication of all our volunteers, and we would especially like to thank and congratulate this year’s Volunteer of the Year, Susie Saalwaechter!

2014: Huge Progress for Nature and People   2014 was a year of unprecedented progress for The Nature Conservancy in Washington.  Thanks to your strong support we were able to do more for people and nature than ever before.   Here are some of the highlights as reported in the news media: 
  Top Stories of the Year Lists  
  Number 8 on Top Story of the Year.  Ellensburg Daily Record  
 Number 8 on Top 10 reasons to be encouraged by environmental progress in 2014.  The Huffington Post  
 One of the Top Outdoor Stories of the Year.  The Spokesman Review  
   Protecting, connecting and restoring forests  
  48,000 acres of prized forestland acquired for people and nature.  Seattle Times  
 2500 acres on Clearwater to be acquired, restored for Salmon.  Seattle PI  
 Report offers forest restoration needs.  The Spokesman Review  
 Manastash acquisition protects wildlife.  Yakima Herald  
 Queets land to be protected.  KONP  
 Forests play critical role in drought resiliency.  Crosscut  
    Protecting communities from catastrophic fire  
  Managing forests for resilience.  Yakima Herald  
 Wildfires, climate change,restoration.  Seattle Times  
 The science of controlled burns.  Yakima Herald  
    Protecting nature and communities from flooding  
  Communities work with nature to reduce flood risks.  The Columbian and more than 30 other outlets  
  Orting levee successful.  KOMO-TV  
   Raising voices and money for nature  
  Illabot Creek designated wild and scenic.  Skagit Valley Herald  
 Record breaking donation connects local and global work.  Seattle Times  
 Farm bill to help conservation.   NorthWest Public Radio, including KUOW  
 Bill Robinson, nature’s voice in Olympia.  The Olympian  
   Innovative science  
  Quinault Indian Nation neutralizing derelict crab pots.   The Daily World  
 Salmon recovery in Fisher Slough.   Skagit Herald  
 Science at work in Moses Coulee.  Seattle Times  
 Bat survey.  KUOW  
 Using quadcopters for conservation.  KIMA-TV ,  KUOW

2014: Huge Progress for Nature and People

2014 was a year of unprecedented progress for The Nature Conservancy in Washington.  Thanks to your strong support we were able to do more for people and nature than ever before.   Here are some of the highlights as reported in the news media:

Top Stories of the Year Lists

Protecting, connecting and restoring forests

  • 48,000 acres of prized forestland acquired for people and nature. Seattle Times
  • 2500 acres on Clearwater to be acquired, restored for Salmon. Seattle PI
  • Report offers forest restoration needs. The Spokesman Review
  • Manastash acquisition protects wildlife. Yakima Herald
  • Queets land to be protected. KONP
  • Forests play critical role in drought resiliency. Crosscut

 Protecting communities from catastrophic fire

 Protecting nature and communities from flooding

Raising voices and money for nature

Innovative science

2,500 forest acres purchased above Clearwater River

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2,500 Acres for a Sustainable Future!

The Conservancy has just bought 2,538 acres of forest above the Clearwater River on the Washington Coast!

This new acquisition adds momentum to our work with coastal communities and tribes to promote sustainable economies, restore the Olympic rainforest and support a healthy ocean.

It adds to the Conservancy Clearwater Forest Reserve and connects to the state’s Natural Resources Conservation Area to create a nearly complete 38-mile conservation corridor along the river.

The Clearwater River runs cool and clear out of the Olympic Mountains, flowing into the Queets River, which is one of the Washington Coast’s most important salmon rivers. Restoration in this forest is an important step to increasing the abundance of salmon in coastal rivers.

Together with the earlier acquisitions on the Queets and Clearwater, the Conservancy is now managing nearly 8,000 acres of forest lands in Jefferson County. Conservancy foresters and ecologists have developed long-term plans that include planting trees, restoring important salmon and wildlife habitat, and sustainable long-rotation timber harvest where it makes sense.

We hire local contractors for much of this work, providing sustainable jobs for the surrounding communities.

Farther south on the Washington Coast, the Conservancy owns and manages nearly 8,000 acres at the Ellsworth Creek Preserve adjoining Willapa National Wildlife Refuge on Willapa Bay.

All our land in the region continues to be open to public and tribal use for hunting, fishing, traditional gathering of plants and medicines, boating, birding, hiking, and other coastal outdoor activities.

Photo Credit © Keith Lazelle

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Scouts & Old Growth 

“With 13 boys along there was no shortage of energy and humor.”

BY BOB CAREY, NATURE CONSERVANCY SENIOR PARTNERSHIP DIRECTOR, PUGET SOUND PROGRAM

Thirteen boys. 600 acres. 800 year old trees. Those are the impressive numbers from a weekend backpacking trip to Noisy Creek, along the eastern shore of Baker Lake. Boy Scout troop 4100 camped in the shadows of old-growth forest protected by The Nature Conservancy in 1990.

The conservation of this forest turns out to be a gift that keeps on giving. Amidst spectacular views of Mount Baker and Baker Lake, we walked through trees up to 15 feet in diameter in an area known for prolific owl activity. An adrenaline-infused game of “wolves and rabbits” (a teen-appropriate combination of hide-and-seek and tag) among the towering trees and billowing mosses made these youngsters forget all about their day to day lives and fully enjoy this time away from it all. 

A weekend in the old-growth is a great respite from the drum of civilization and the pace of everyday lives packed to the brim with work, school, sports, music, homework. It was wonderful to see boys relax in an environment where they could be themselves. And it’s amazing how comfortable and completely un-bored they were in a place so far from their TV/video screens.

All of this was made possible through the conservation of an old growth forest, set aside for future generations before these boys were even born. What a great reminder of how critical it is that we save these very special natural places for generations to come.

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Farms, Fish & Flood Initiative

Where are you working on this project?

In the Skagit Delta located in North Puget Sound. The Skagit is the largest river in Puget Sound and the Skagit Valley is home to the largest agricultural industry in Puget Sound. We’re working with a group of organizations to come together with a commitment to achieve the Puget Sound Salmon Recovery goals of estuary restoration and resource land protection through the formation of the Farms, Fish and Floods Initiative (3FI).

Which organizations are helping with this initiative?

To date, the 3FI partners (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), Skagit Conservation District, Skagit County, Skagit County Dike and Drainage Partnership, Skagitonians to Preserve Farmland, The Nature Conservancy, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Western Washington Agricultural Association) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work in the spirit of collaboration to achieve the 3FI mission: To create and advance mutually beneficial strategies that support the long-term viability of agriculture and salmon while reducing the risks of destructive floods.

There are a lot of great people and organizations involved in this project.

Tell us a little more about why this project is so important to learn about

The 3FI is the first landscape scale effort in the Skagit Delta. It’s where the conservation and agricultural interests have agreed to come together to bring about breakthroughs in estuary restoration, flood risk reduction and farmland protection in a way that supports multiple community interests. This is not only great for people but also important for the future of the Skagit Valley in terms of flood protection, viability of agriculture as well as salmon recovery. By approaching our common goals at a landscape scale, the 3FI members will be able to work with a broad base of stakeholders and trustees to identify actions needed to achieve our goals.

Have you done any projects like this before?

After working together on restoration projects and agreements, such as the Fisher Slough Project, Drainage Fish Initiative, Tidegate Fish Initiative, and Guidance on WDFW’s Vision for Conservation and Land Acquisition for the Skagit Delta, we now know what it takes to get projects done, which is reflected in the core values developed by the 3FI member organizations.

See examples at this video link for projects The Nature Conservancy has worked on in the Skagit Valley and Stillaguamish watershed that are similar to the issues we are working to solve with our partners in the Skagit Delta through the Farms Fish and Floods Initiative.

Under Construction: Restoring Estuary Habitat in the Puget Sound from HabitatSeven on Vimeo.

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YELLOW ISLAND ADVENTURE

Much of what The Nature Conservancy does in Washington is not glamorous. Pushing back levees, cleaning up waste water and thinning forests are all vitally important, but they aren’t the stuff of postcards.

Then there’s Yellow Island. This tiny preserve in the San Juan Islands redefines natural beauty – especially this time of year. Meadows of blooming wildflowers flow down to the water, making it nearly impossible two walk more than a few steps without taking a picture. This weekend a group of 30 or so supporters visited this very special place to soak in the views and learn more about what the Nature Conservancy is doing to keep it beautiful.

Behind the beauty, there is a lot of science and hard work. To the east, in the Skagit Valley, we work to improve water quality, assuring what runs into the sound supports a healthy environment around Yellow Island and beyond. On the Washington coast, to the southwest, we restore forests, clean up streams and rivers and improve sustainable fishing practices – all to assure marine health in the region. Partnerships with farmers, fisherman, loggers and communities make this work happen. In many cases, it’s not about saving nature from people; it’s about imagining the best ways for nature and people to work together. It’s not always glamorous, though there is great beauty in the fields and farms that grow our food, the forests that shelter and clean our water and the rivers that sustain our salmon.

Yellow Island may be a crown jewel in the work we do in Washington. It’s certainly a spectacular example of the beauty of nature and an inspiration to keep up our hard work around the state. Your support makes Yellow Island – and our work in the east cascade forests, coastal rivers and around Puget Sound possible. Thank you for contributing to the multifaceted work – some glamorous, some not – that makes our state so beautiful.

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ELLSWORTH CREEK PRESERVE

What Conservancy forester Kyle Smith does in the forest might shock some Nature Conservancy members. As The Forest Manager for The Nature Conservancy Preserves on the Washington Coast, Kyle is charged with developing healthy forests on Nature Conservancy land and amazingly, he spends a fair bit of his time overseeing logging operations. Yes, logging!

The idea of cutting trees on Nature Conservancy land may feel wrong, but it actually leads to important results for humans and nature. The southwestern Washington forests are some of the most productive on earth. For over a century they’ve been heavily logged. These clear-cut lands are replanted, but the result is not always a healthy forest with the habitat requirements that many wildlife species need to survive and flourish. That’s where Kyle comes in.

With a Forest Management and a Natural Resource Management degree, Kyle is responsible for the 8,000 acre forest restoration project known as the Ellsworth Creek Preserve located in the far southwest corner of the state. Much of the land there suffers from being clear-cut, then replanted creating a forest of packed-in, equal sized, single-species trees competing for light and resources while failing to create the varied and natural habitat birds and animals need to thrive. Like a doctor, Kyle diagnoses tracts of land and creates prescriptions to return them to ecological health. Often that prescription involves selective harvesting of trees to favor a diverse presence of tree sizes and species that were once present on the landscape. Following a thinning, additional trees and plants may be added in an effort to restore the natural diversity of plants that once graced the area.

Kyle may not truly see the results of his work because a return to a more natural state takes decades or longer. Initially after selective logging, he sees a lot of tall stringy trees – trees that previous shot up as high as possible to beat out other trees for light. In the years following thinning, those trees will put down broad roots then begin to grow larger in diameter, increasing their canopy sizes, as trees in that area once were. Returning to this more natural state is a slow process, but there are immediate environmental benefits such as development of a forest understory where before it was too dark and shaded for much of anything to survive. This forest understory provides forage for many species such as elk and a large variety of forest related birds.

Success requires long term commitment. Since 2006, The Conservancy has thinned more than 3800 acres in the region. But there are many thousands of acres waiting for thinning and restorative work that will create a healthier forest for plants, birds, animals and humans.

While it might feel strange for the Nature Conservancy to be running a logging operation, the impact is significant. Local sustainable jobs provide important support for communities in the region. The logs generate income for The Nature Conservancy, money that can be funneled right back into restoration and conservation work. Most important, the end result is healthier forest giving birds and animals the opportunity to thrive, sheltering streams where salmon can breed and creating recreational opportunities for humans.

So if you ever happen to see a logging truck carrying logs with The Nature Conservancy logo on them, don’t be shocked! It’s all part of the meticulous, scientific process of restoring forest health.