land

On the Radio: Washington’s Forests In the News

Washington’s forests are critical for water, recreation, wildlife, local economies.

The Nature Conservancy is working with many partners to restore these forest to health, to better withstand the impacts of climate change and reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires.

LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR WORK IN FORESTS


Search Party for Pygmy Rabbits

Written & Photographed by Lauren Miheli, Volunteer Coordinator and Anna Snook, Volunteer Photographer

A hike in Washington’s sage brush country will reveal plant, animal, and bird populations distinct from those on the West Side of the state. On a typical day one would be lucky to see mule deer, badgers, meadow larks, mourning doves, small horned lizards and a great many other small mammals, birds and reptiles. Ideally if you saw a rattle snake it would be from a distance. Something you most likely wouldn’t encounter would be a Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit. Although native to this region, the pygmy rabbit is in danger of becoming extinct. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has been working on a project to breed these rabbits in semi-captivity and reintroduce populations back into the wild, including on our Beezley Hills Preserve. Bringing a species back from the brink of extinction is challenging work. There is no manual on how it’s done. Wildlife biologists, using their knowledge of the rabbit’s behavior, funding from the federal government, and a lot of intuition, utilize a trial and error approach to breeding and reintroducing them to their native sage brush habitat in central Washington. 

In order to determine if any rabbits released have successfully survived in the wild, Jon Gallie and Shea Gibbs of WDFW invited a crew of about 30 Nature Conservancy volunteers to traverse the land near the release sites and look for signs of pygmy rabbits: burrow holes and scat. Volunteers split into groups of 4, with each group led by a member of WDFW’s staff armed with a GPS unit and collection tools. Each volunteer covered about 7 miles each day, traversing back and forth, and up and down hills, throughout sage brush.

While searching for signs of Pygmy Rabbits I was struck at how familiar I became with signs of other desert species – badger and coyote dens, snake holes, mouse holes, cottontail rabbit scat, prints and scat from deer, coyotes, and the feral horses that were grazing in the area. Upon first site a badger den filled me with excitement. After the 5th or 6th one I became jaded. Throughout two days of hiking and covering sage brush land that could once have been home to dozens of Pygmy Rabbits, with all of the volunteers intently searching on those two days, only one burrow with fresh scat was located.  So this is what it feels like to look for an endangered species - searching and searching, and not finding what you’re looking for. We collected valuable data that the biologists will use to improve their strategy, but we were disappointed that we did not find more signs of pygmy rabbits. Two days of hiking for nearly 6 hours straight and the absence of signs of Pygmy Rabbits was felt in our collective psyches. The lack of discoveries does not mean that Pygmy Rabbit recovery is hopeless. Aside from the literal silver lining (partial cloud cover on both days cooled us down and made the typically unbearable eastern Washington heat a non-issue) the one burrow that we did find gives the project managers something to be excited about. Previous surveys of the area revealed no burrows at all. Samples of the scat were collected that will be sent to the lab at the Oregon Zoo, where DNA from all captive-bred rabbits is kept on record, and we will learn when the rabbit that left the evidence was released, how long it has survived in the wild, and if we’re really lucky we will find out that it has DNA that has not yet been recorded - which would indicate that it was wild born.

The biologists at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife are doing amazing work, and are highly dedicated to their task of bringing this species back to healthy population numbers. I believe they are up to the challenge, and I hope that we can continue to improve our land management and conservation practices, so that other species are not pushed this far in the future.

LEARN HOW YOU CAN VOLUNTEER


Land of Free Beauty: July Photo of the Month

Written & Photographed by Evan Eremita, Northwest Photographer

Last year the northwest was treated to a very early and long summer which, to me, translated to lots of swimming! I decided early on to spend most of this long summer seeking out and jumping into as many blue and turquoise lakes as I could.

This hike was to Goat Lake in the Goat Rocks Wilderness, in the center of three volcanoes, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams. After a good swim in the beautiful turquoise waters, much snacking, and a long nap in my hammock, it felt just about right to start making the hike back to the car. I decided to make the loop and take a different trail back, and I'm glad I did. Long views of Mt. Adams towering above thick forest highlighted the early portion of the hike back, especially as the sun began to set and paint the sky with beautiful pink and purple tones.

What looks to be a giant cloud in the left side of the frame is actually thick smoke from one of the many wildfires last summer. Mt. Adams is acting as a barrier, momentarily keeping the smoke to the east. Another beautiful end to a beautiful summer day in the Pacific Northwest.

I first got into photography shooting with a cheap point and shoot camera on a 4 month cross country road trip, eventually landing in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, which is now my current home, living in a sailboat in Seattle.

Evan's goal as a photographer is to help develop a deeper appreciation for this beautiful world we live in, to spark something in the back of people's minds to become a little more conscious and caring for the earth with their actions. To see more of his work visit his ETSY shop, and follow his adventures on Instagram: @Snuggly.Bear!


The Fir Island Farm Project

Written by Beth Geiger
Photographs by Jenny Baker, Senior Restoration Manager

A tiny juvenile salmon swims down the Skagit River toward Puget Sound. The finger-sized fish finally arrives in the tidal reaches of the lower Skagit. It’s a big world of water and fields. Saltwater is just a splash away.  

Next to the river, on Fir Island, farmers work some of the world’s most fertile agricultural land. In winter, thousands of migrating snow geese arrive in noisy white clouds. The scene is framed by snowy vistas of Mt. Baker to the east and verdant islands of Puget Sound to the west. It’s a beautiful place.

Yet for this little salmon, something critical is limited: a shallow estuary where it can grow, feed, and hide before entering the deep, exposed waters of Puget Sound. Century-old dikes built to keep floods and tides off the land to make farming the Skagit delta possible eliminated much of the estuarine marshes this young fish needs. Science tells us that restoring tidal estuaries is key to helping revive Chinook salmon populations in the Skagit watershed.

In a partnership with TNC, the Fir Island Farm project, managed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), aims to do just what science tells us is needed for salmon, but in a collaborative way that also pays homage to the current agricultural productivity of this great place.

Most food is produced hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles from where it is consumed. That requires significant energy consumption, and it leaves communities at risk if the food supply chain becomes challenged. Preserving and enhancing farm productivity means preserving our ability to have local, sustainable fruits and vegetables now and in the future.

This is a complex system, in a critical landscape with lots of public and private interests at play – which is exactly The Nature Conservancy’s wheelhouse. No wonder this project is a balancing act. Balance estuaries for juvenile salmon with improved protection for farmland. Balance nature with community, farmers, and recreation.

The Conservancy is a critical partner in navigating this complex task. We contribute our expertise and “lessons learned” from projects that set the stage for this project, including nearby Fisher Slough. That project was managed by the Conservancy and completed in 2011.

This experience and others have taught us the importance of partners such as Consolidated Diking and Drainage District 22, which helps keep Fir Island’s farms dry. “The Conservancy was instrumental in encouraging us to talk to the Diking District early in the process,” says Jenna Friebel, Fir Island project manager for the WDFW. The Diking District, Friebel says, brought essential ideas to the project planning table, such as what type of tide gates and pumping station would work best.

In 2015 the Fir Island Farm project constructed 5,800 feet of brand new dike inland from the old dike, on a parcel of former farmland now owned by the Department of Fish and Wildlife. This summer the old dike will be removed, tides will flood in, and 131 acres will become a new tidal marsh.

By spring of 2017, tens of thousands of tiny Chinook salmon coming down the Skagit will find a safe haven, and a better future. “If the habitat is there, they can grow bigger and ready for the ocean,” says Friebel.  At the same time, the future of farming here is preserved as well. 


Talkin’ Conservation Communication

Written and Photographed by Nick Altadonna, Eastern WA Stewardship Coord.

It probably comes as no surprise that most land stewards are not the gregarious type.  Few of us dreamt of “fighting the good fight” via WebEx calls, stakeholder meetings, or social media, in spite of the benefits to our cause. Winning friends and influencing people to support the mission, is not usually our natural inclination…restoration planning, protecting preserve resources, ecological monitoring, and soaking in wild places seem to make a lot more sense.

As a firm believer that nature conservation is intrinsically intertwined with the needs of people, and suffering a steward’s disposition, I often feel hamstrung upon the social stage in which so much of The Nature Conservancy’s work takes place. Embracing my inner extrovert to champion our work is tough, but thankfully I have an opportunity through our volunteer program.

The personal power of the volunteer program, is that I can engage and be engaged by the public in a setting and a style that’s my own. Out on our preserves, communicating about conservation is easy, naturally inspired, and not subject to deadlines. Through volunteer stewardship, you not only meet a person’s need to tangibly affect nature conservation, but also to share the story behind that ethic.  Take the time to listen to their story, and it’s often reciprocated in kind.  It is at this intersection that I found Volunteer Steward Paulette Murphy, out in Lind Coulee.  

Paulette grew up in a rural setting outside the Tri-Cities and in a past life was a NOAA climate scientist, one of a collection of amazing threads from her tale I am still unraveling. Now a resident of greater Seattle, her ethic is nourished in the fantastic geology of the Columbia Plateau, working with her hands, and rediscovering the nature of eastern Washington. Given her interests, our conversation “magically snowballed” into TNC’s work on the “sunny side” of the state, and as the dust settled on our fence retirement at Lind, we concocted a plan to get her in on the action. Two weeks later, she accepted my proposal to serve as a Volunteer Steward, co-leading monitoring of our Moxee Bog & Yakima River Canyon preserves.

Now that’s my kind of talk.

VISIT MOSES COULEE   

No joke: Compromise on Eastern WA Water and Lands

Guest post by Nicky Pasi, Conservation Outreach Associate, American Rivers
Photographs by Keith Lazelle; Benj Drummond/LightHawk

There are so many proverbs, pithy quips and wry one-liners about western water conflicts, you could bind them up in a respectably thick book.  But here’s a new one, less of a joke than it might seem:

“An irrigator, an environmentalist, and a tribal member walk into a Senator’s office … and the room doesn’t erupt?”

Question mark intentional. It’s an unexpected scenario, but it’s exactly how the people of the Yakima Basin have decided to address their many, often conflicting, demands on water.

  • Since time immemorial, the Yakama Nation has gathered, fished, and hunted here, and retain the rights to do so today.
  • Ours is the most agriculturally productive basin in Washington, generating about $4 billion in crops and jobs every year.
  • The proximity of our mountains, rivers, trails and canyons to the densely populated Puget Sound makes the Yakima a popular destination for folks searching for connection with nature and the outdoors.

All of these needs – tribal, agricultural, recreational, environmental - are kept afloat by the Yakima River.  And all are threatened by climate change. 

Warmer winters and hotter summers empty our reservoirs, prevent snowpack from accumulating to refill them, and raise in-stream temperatures to dangerous highs. Drought threatens salmon and trout, while farmers let fields fallow and orchards die, and fires keep hikers out of the woods. 

That’s a lot of struggling users, and in 2009, the groups advocating for each did something really extreme. They stopped throwing rocks (read: lawsuits) at one another.  They came out from behind entrenched positions.  They mapped out their needs, compared those against their wants, and went to work negotiating between the two.

The result was the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan, a compromise so broad and interwoven that Deputy Secretary of the Interior Michael Connor has called it “a model – not just for working through watershed challenges, but for any natural resources management [issues].”

These stakeholders – our irrigators, environmentalists, tribal leaders and management agencies- took their plan to Senator Maria Cantwell, who recognized the importance of such an unusual partnership.  In 2015 she and Senator Patty Murray introduced legislation to provide federal authorization for the first decade of Yakima Plan projects.

Last November, the Yakima Bill unanimously passed out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.  In April,  it was amended to the Senate Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2016 (also unanimously), which then passed out of the Senate by a vote of 85-12.   As the Yakima Herald Editorial Board put it, “the success of [the Yakima Bill] so far speaks to the collaboration of the various stakeholders and the bipartisan cooperation of the state’s congressional delegation.”  The Energy Bill now moves on to the House of Representatives, where Yakima Basin Representatives Reichert and Newhouse set the stage by introducing a companion Yakima Bill back in February.

So here’s the punch line, which isn’t actually a punch line at all, but rather the thread that ties the whole package together: cooperative compromise. 

As with any compromise, there is give and take.  No one gets 100% of what they want, but they’ve determined what they need, and where those needs overlap.

Because the plan recognized the needs of water users and eastern Washington county commissioners, these people backed environmental priorities of the Yakama Nation and an environmental coalition led by American Rivers, The Wilderness Society and Trout Unlimited.

On that front, we have protected 50,000 acres in the Teanaway, now Washington’s first Community Forest, complementing parallel forest conservation efforts of partners like The Nature Conservancy.  In exchange for protective designations, private citizens keep access to wild areas and enjoy better management of facilities.

It’s a network as complicated and vital as the ecosystems we’re striving to protect, all moving forward on a consensus built on compromise.

That’s no joke, but it’s worth smiling about.

A Quick Peek at Ellsworth Creek

Written by Jeff Compton, Conservancy staffer and sometime tree hugger

It’s been more than a decade since I first stepped foot in The Nature Conservancy’s Ellsworth Creek Preserve. That first visit was an introduction to an ambitious new project full of promise, challenge and uncertainty. We were talking about owning an entire coastal watershed, not just to protect it, but to use it as a laboratory for forest restoration – a place where we could collaborate on long-term trials that we hoped would deliver far-reaching benefits for nature and people.

But what really captivated many of us then were the serene patches of forest that were home to the few true giants that remained. In select spots above or beside the creek we met massive, ancient Western red cedar and Sitka spruce. We were dwarfed by those awe-inspiring trees, the mightiest of which were older than the Magna Carta.

Over the years I had the privilege of visiting this preserve many times, and always thrilled to spend a few peaceful moments in the tranquil forest with those enduring titans.

After a several year absence, I recently headed to southwest Washington with a group of colleagues and stepped once again into the Ellsworth Creek watershed. I am thrilled to report that the preserve is still there. The restoration work continues. The vision and optimism about our future forests is alive. And those giants still stand – old-growth trees that now feel like old friends.

The Conservancy’s efforts at Ellsworth Creek are about the future and the big picture. But the place offers something personal for me today. I sometimes feel overwhelmed, even intimidated, by the pace of change in my life, my city, my world. I take great comfort in knowing that some things – and some places – remain steadily, beautifully the same.

From the Field: Log jams at Ellsworth Creek

Video by David Ryan, Field Forester

Check out this video from the field showcasing how we construct log jams!

In the late 1970's and early 1980's, many northwest streams were completely logged - log jams restore the woody debris salmon need. This project helps reach our restoration goals for the nearly 10,000 acres of Olympic land and water we protect. 

Learn more about our work at Ellsworth Creek

The Conversations & Community at Ellsworth Creek

Written by David Ryan, Field Forester
Photographed by Larry Workman, Quinault Indian Nation

We are standing in a creek bottom with water around our feet.  It’s raining.  It’s cool, but not too uncomfortable.  As the old saying goes: “There’s no such thing as bad weather; just bad clothing.”  I am fortunate that my guests seem to understand that.  My guests are several members of the Quinault Nation and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

They are here to look at the work we are doing at Ellsworth Creek Preserve.  This year we have decommissioned roads, upgraded roads, implemented a forest restoration thinning, and worked on an in-stream restoration … among other things.

As a field forester for The Nature Conservancy one of my duties is to participate in meetings, tours, and workshops pertaining to forestry and ecology.  I thoroughly enjoy when those events are held at Ellsworth Creek.  I love meeting people who are interested enough to visit and look at the forest and I always learn every time guests arrive. 

As a temperate, coastal rainforest Ellsworth can be a challenging place to visit.  It is steep.  It is brushy.  It is wet.  Those logistical challenges increase when coupled with management activities on the landscape.  Again, I am fortunate that my current guests understand that as well.  They are game for inclement weather, rough ground to walk over, and heavy machinery to coordinate around.

The rewards are rich.  We visit log jams installed this summer that are already re-engaging historic floodplains and channels.  We look at forest stands that were recently managed, historically managed, and others that will not see human management again.  We checked roads that no longer exist due to our work.  And most importantly, we talk.  We discuss.  We question.  We answer… or we don’t.  We think critically.  We don’t always agree.  One course of action here may or may not work for other land managers elsewhere.  But the discourse is always respectful.  And we all seem to enjoy the conversation.

We have now spent many hours walking, talking, and wending our way through the rain and the woods; certainly a physically uncomfortable day for many people.  Eventually a discussion arises of whether people want to continue downstream to look at some bigger log jams and another forest stand treatment or go back and get warm and dry.  I hear a colleague call out for “a coalition of the willing to venture further downstream” to continue the discussion.

Almost everyone walks downstream.  The conversation continues.  I am grateful when people take the effort to really look at our work.  I am grateful for my guests.  And this place.

Our Role from Land to Sea - and How I Make it Look Good

Written and Created by Erica Simek Sloniker, GIS & Visual Communications Specialist

How many times have you heard the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words”?

Scientific research can back this up and has shown that humans process visual information much more rapidly than pure text. It is no surprise then that infographics that combine art with science are helping present data and scientific concepts in memorable and easy to understand ways.

I make maps and illustrations for The Nature Conservancy. Let me introduce you to my most recent creation, an illustration about The Nature Conservancy’s marine conservation goals. In this slideshow, I will take you step-by-step through the artistic and conceptual decisions made in its creation in order to leave you with a better understanding of the drivers behind our marine conservation program.

Find out how this infographic was made in the interactive slideshow above!

Support Our Work

Back to the Future of Our Forests

Photographed by Nathan Hadley, Northwest Photographer

We recently went to our project in Oak Creek to restore the forest to health, prior to the advent of wildfire suppression efforts. We've partnered with the Department of Fish and Wildlife, Yakama Nation and the U.S. Forest Service to thin brush and cut trees for timber to pay for most of the project. Some of the trees end up on creeks and rivers. They help sediment build up and restore fish habitat, also lost with wildfire suppression. This project is also a great opportunity to provide the local community with work and renewed habitat for wildlife. See photos from the day in the slideshow above!

Learn how we protect our forests.

Help us restore our forests for nature and people.

Good Morning Mount Rainier: November Photo of the Month

The perfect place for sunrise in Washington: Tolmie Peak Fire Lookout

Written and Photographed by Riley Beck, Northwest Photographer

        My friends and I decided to drive down to Tolmie Peak Fire Lookout at Mount Rainer National Park for a sunrise. We didn't sleep (being that the drive was a little over a three hour drive from home). We got coffee from the 24 hour coffee stand and left around one in the morning. 
        After hours of driving, followed by 17 miles of potholes and washboard, we arrived at the trailhead and took off with headlamps excited for what was ahead. It was my first time that close to Mount Rainer and it was stunning. You reach Eunice Lake a couple miles in and see Rainer for the first time in all of its glory and a fire lookout perched high above the lake. 
       Some moderate switchbacks lead you above Eunice Lake until you reach the fire lookout. If there is possibly a perfect sunrise spot in Washington this is it. An unobstructed view of Rainer lit up by the golden sun with Eunice Lake below is the perfect setting. It was a very long night and morning, but well worth the hours of driving and lack of sleep. The trip and view are one I will not soon forget. 

Riley Beck has lived in Washington his whole life. He enjoys hiking and backpacking with his friends and spends every day off possible on the trails. See more of his photos.


 

FORESTRY FRIDAY: WORKING FOR THE FOREST

Written and Photographed by David Ryan, Field Forester, Willapa Bay

We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.
— Aldo Leopold (1887-1948). A Sand County Almanac: With essays on conservation from the Round River.

I will start off by saying that A Sand County Almanac changed my life.  It is packed with quotably profound thoughts and ideas on every page.  I could have chosen a hundred (or more) different quotes to riff on.  Leopold is astute, prescient, and an excellent writer.  If you haven’t already done so, get this book, read it, then read it again, and encourage your friends and family to read it.  If you did nothing else with rest of your life but read this book, you would be better off for it. 

   Leopold does not seem to espouse the utilitarian vision of natural resource management that Gifford Pinchot did.  Neither does he reject pragmatic uses of natural resources.  Use of the land is appropriate, as long as that use comes from a place of respect rather than dominance.  The belief in dominance over a landscape is delusional.  As human beings we may seemingly be able to impose our will on the land, but if that mindset leads to arrogance and abuse in our treatment then we as a community will suffer for our hubris.  The term “land ethic” as expounded on by Aldo Leopold involved the recognition of, and respect for, the communities of which we are part.  The dominant feature of any community is the land base and its interconnected parts.  We must learn to balance our roles within that web.  This is not a new idea and was one fostered by many cultures throughout history.  Leopold managed to adroitly articulate this concept and carry it forward to a wider audience.

   Ellsworth Creek Preserve is my best chance to manifest the ideals espoused by Aldo Leopold on a significant scale.  As a forester I am, by definition, a steward of the land.  And, as a forester, my impact on this planet is quantifiable.  The metrics vary; board feet, basal area, dollars, canopy cover, crown ratio, trees per acre, rings per inch, species composition, and miles of road are among a long list of the units we track.  Some units denote commodities for human use while others are biological/ecological traits that we must understand in order to be an effective steward.  All of these metrics ultimately measure an impact on acres of land and the communities surrounding that land.

   One may think of those metrics as the language of the land spoken in terms understandable to human beings.  The ability to measure and comprehend those ecologic parameters is an important part of showing our love and respect; and balancing our role in the community.  Just as when visiting a foreign country where English is not spoken, the local people often appreciate it if we make the effort to understand the basics and try to converse with them in their language.  It is indicative of a respect for the indigenous cultures and our travels are often much better for the occasional discomfort or embarrassment as we reach out with an earnest desire to learn.

   One key way I try to be a part of the community and treat it with love and respect is by learning the language, thereby learning the properties, the needs, and how to better care for that landscape.  Ultimately, rather than making the forest work for me, I try to work for the forest. 

Next: Chief Seattle.

Revelling in the Beauty of Roslyn

Scenes from our October Membership Hike through the Central Cascades

Photographed by Hannah Letinich, Volunteer Northwest Photographer

The Conservancy preserves some of the best places to view Autumn's colorful arrival. Members were in for a treat during our fall membership hike through the Central Cascades. It was exciting day learning about the wondrous beauty of our 48,000 acre acquisition near Roslyn. Members enjoyed the scenery and had a chance to learn firsthand the work our foresters are doing to keep Washington beautiful. See photos from the day in the slideshow above!

Become a member, today.

Forestry Friday: Creating a healthy ecosystem and a healthy community

Written by David Ryan, Field Forester, Willapa Bay

Conservation is the foresighted utilization, preservation and/or renewal of forests, waters, lands and minerals for the greatest good of the greatest number for the longest time.
— Gifford Pinchot (1865-1946), Breaking New Ground

This famous quote of our first U.S. Forest Service Chief is regularly heard by any student of forestry or natural resource management.  In my mind, this statement primarily encompasses two philosophical concepts of natural resource management.  First, that our forests, waters, lands and minerals are essentially resources to benefit humankind.  Second, for these resources to benefit humankind they must be managed in a way that will not deplete them over time, i.e. sustained yield.  Pinchot’s philosophy put him at odds with preservationists such as John Muir, with whom he shared a friendship until a disagreement over the Hetch Hetchy Project created a permanent rift.  Other conservationists, such as Aldo Leopold, would refine, and in some ways reject, Pinchot’s utilitarian conservation philosophy.

Treating our forests as if they were agricultural commodities has led to some silviculture practices which may reasonably be considered questionable, e.g. terracing.  Practices that were meant to increase the productivity of a landscape often altered the natural succession, or ecologic pathway, of many forests.  These foresters were not malicious, nor were they necessarily incompetent.  They believed in what they were doing; that increased forest productivity was a benefit to the people and to the landscape.  For them, utilitarian based land management was not only good for the economy and their communities, but for the forests as well.  I have found myself using the similar utilitarian arguments while explaining my own management actions.

Ellsworth Creek Preserve is a landscape whose succession was altered from its natural, original, unmanaged course and put on an artificial trajectory consisting of simplified, essentially monoculture forests.  The ramifications of these stands continuing on that artificial course are homogenous forests with limited biodiversity and limited ability to recover to their original successional state.  I now have the honor of trying to help this landscape recover and restore it to an old-growth trajectory.   In so doing I also have the honor of being a member of the community that surrounds Ellsworth Creek Preserve and to help that community in the form of good work and positive economic activity.

Ellsworth is an example of a working forest.  In the past it was a working forest under industrial style management with a primary goal of economic returns based on an agricultural model.  Now it’s still a working forest, the main purpose of which is not one of anthropocentric utility but environmental health based on an ecosystem restoration model.  Under this model, we are still putting people to work.  In the few short months I have been at this preserve, I have worked with many men and women in the interest of furthering Ellsworth’s goals.  One may reasonably say that the forest ecosystem itself is “working” to create a diverse and healthy region; and with the help of these working men and women, this forest will continue to do so for many generations.

Helping create a healthy ecosystem and a healthy community feels like the “greatest good of the greatest number for the longest time” to me.          

Next week: Aldo Leopold.

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.