people

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Community Centered Conservation in Africa

A conversation with David Banks, Program Director, Africa

Written by Deb Crespin, Associate Director of Philanthropy
Photography by Ami Vitale

“Still the wildest place on the planet, a landscape that evokes our essential humanity and connection to animals and to the earth, the continent of Africa is still in great shape from the perspective of nature. While the economies and governance are improving fast, however, the current population of 1 billion will grow to a staggering 4 billion people in the next 90 years. It is ‘crunch time’ for Africa.”

This was the start of the talk by David Banks, The Nature Conservancy’s Program Director in Africa, to a group of TNC supporters gathered at the gracious home of TNC friends who share a passion for Africa and conservation.

As David explained, Africa continues to be the land of opportunity and promise. Phenomenal wildlife, rivers, and forested landscapes, yet we know that there will be a “perfect storm” over the next ninety years of tremendous challenge.  As the human population is projected to expand, at the same time, the natural systems that have supported this continent for tens of thousands of years are at risk of being inappropriately developed. 

The equivalent of   hyenas circling their prey, the threats to the African continent range from the undeveloped hydropower potential – damming, bifurcating, and re-channeling rivers – to oil, gas, mining and forestry.  The last remaining lands of the savannah… the dense tropical rainforest…and the nearby marine systems are going to be stressed like never before.

The Nature Conservancy in Africa has worked from the ground up, with community partners and informed by science, to take on these huge threats and seek new solutions that can alter the course of where Africa is headed.  

Banks spoke of three extraordinary projects/opportunities:  

  1. Marine protection in the Seychelles, helping leaders make smart choices about how lands, waters and oceans are used for food, water, energy, industry and more. TNC is working with the local government to protect hundreds of acres of marine systems;  
  2. Preserving habitat and increasing wildlife security – using a community-based model, TNC is working with locals in Kenya, Zambia and Tanzania.  TNC is working with lakeshore villagers who live on Lake Tanganyika on wildlife and health issues, partnering with a global health organization Pathfinder to support women and families;
  3. Restoring and protecting sources of food and water, with innovative programs, such as bringing livestock to market, creating more opportunities for local economic growth.  

We learned this: what’s good for the cow is good for the elephant! TNC has improved over 7.4 MILLION acres of rangelands throughout eastern Africa! What helps people helps livestock which helps wildlife which helps habitat.

And bringing it all back home: State Director Mike Stevens wrapped up the conversation by noting that the strength of The Nature Conservancy is that we are guided by science, work through partnerships, and capitalize on our local to global lessons and approach.  

Asante sana!

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Well Worth it – Capturing the Color of the Mountains

Hiking the Enchantments, Alpine Lakes Wilderness

Story and Photographs by Andy Porter

The Enchantments are a part of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, (which is itself a part of the Wenatchee National Forest) located near the town of Leavenworth, along Highway 2, in Washington State.

The Enchantments area is actually very small, making upmaybe 10 square miles. Packed in to this wondrous world there are scads of small lakes and tarns of fantastic hues of blue and green surrounded by stark jagged peaks. Autumn brings fantastic colors. Because of the high elevation of the Enchantments Basin (between 6,000 and 8,000 feet) there are dense stands of larch. These trees have needles, and come fall they turn a bright orange color, and look like they are aglow from inside.

I spent some time reading about the trail and lakes, the approach and parking and all that. There are two routes in to -or rather up to- the Enchantments Basin. One is very long (12 miles) with a lot (more than 6,000 feet) of elevation gain. The other route is a little shorter, and has a little less elevation gain, but it includes a hike up Aasgard Pass (more than 2,000 feet up in less than one mile).

I recruited two of my friends to help me use the 5-day permit I’d won. I gave them fair (sort of) warning about the hike.

The first day’s short hike took us up to Colchuck Lake. We arrived late in the day and from the lake could see the gash of Aasgard Pass soaring above the lakes far edge. Late morning finds us clambering over the boulder fields along the lake at the base of the trail up. The morning light flares behind the larch atop the pass.

The hike up to the top of the pass was… arduous.  

Once you manage to crest the pass you arrive in a wonderland of rock and ice. Dragontail Peak’s serrated edge rips the sky asunder above Isolation Lake. Ice fields dot the lake’s edge. A cool wind and a long drink from the icy stream revive me. There are several inviting tent spots here and we quickly set up our portable North Face fortress and prepare food. There are a smattering of larches up here in the alpine zone, but mostly it’s rocks and water.

The light starts to fade and the colors glow along the lakes shore, the blues, greens and pinkish reds don’t look real at all. Late at night I manage to drag myself out of the tent and capture a few shots of the stars and the tent in this moon-ish looking landscape.

The next day as we start hiking I tell my two friends that this will probably be one of the best days hiking ever. We set out excited to see what the day has to offer.

Skirting a low ridge we drop into a new basin filled with countless ponds. We cross a small snow field as we make our way gently down the trail. Our goal for the day is to establish a new camp on a ledge above Crystal Lake and then hike down to Perfection Lake. From there the plan I have is to make our way up to tiny Gnome Tarn for some wonderful views of Prussik Peak reflected.

Each turn of the trail elicits a new sense of wonder. The larches thicken as we descend.

Overlooking Crystal Lake our new camp gloriously commands a wonderful view. Below us the ridges are crusted in orange larch, offset by the blue skies and green lakes. Once camp is set up we (now without heavy packs!) set out for Perfection.

This basin is on fire with orange. As a true color junky I am juiced to my eyeballs with sensory overload. I feel like I’ve been teleported to a new world, like Avatar, or a scene from Middle Earth. Finding the trail junction amid an orange forest, we branch off and start the easy climb up to Prussik Pass, in search of Gnome Tarn.

A little searching and gawking later were there. The place is as promised, nestled at the base of Prussik Peak, exquisitely framed by larch and water. I enter a photographic trance state.

It’s a perfect day, sunny and warm, a cool breeze refreshes us as we bask in the glory of nature. Lingering for lunch we now set off again. Ambling my way back up to camp I encounter a few hikers who report mountain goats ahead. I arrive back at camp and there is a Mom and her young kid, looking for grass and munching away. A new photo frenzy starts I circumnavigate the goats several times as they make their way about.

Finally tiring of goats and picture taking, I go fire up the stove and make some coffee. My friends return and we marvel at all around us. Dinner is served and eaten just in time for the sunset.

The small ponds make wonderful reflections of the sky. Early the next morning the skies are dark and we head back to to the Pass and start the slow descent to Colchuck Lake. Taking a break on a huge slab precariously perched above a stand of larch I capture one last image of larch and lake.

Andy is a nature photographer lured to Washington State by the glorious vistas. He lives along the North Cascades Highway, where he teaches photography and leads photo tours. You can see more of his work at: www.AndyPorterImages.com

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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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Expedia Day of Caring

Volunteers Help Restore a Forest at Squak Mountain

Volunteers from Expedia joined with The Nature Conservancy to begin the work of restoring natural forest on the site of a former private RV park at Squak Mountain as part of a nationwide Day of Caring in early September.

Some 20 volunteers turned out to work on the site, which was recently acquired by King County Parks. Tucked between Cougar Mountain Regional Wildlands Park and Squak Mountain State Park Natural Area on the Issaquah-Renton Road, the site is richly forested with big leaf maples and soaring evergreens. The new park will fit into the terrific Cougar-Squak-Tiger Mountain Corridor.

Volunteers from Expedia swung pickaxes and shoved shovels into hard-packed gravel to break up camping pads so that native trees and shrubs can be planted.

Volunteers had a variety of reasons for choosing to volunteer with the Conservancy:

  • “I’m here for the fresh air.”
  • “I’m here because I live 10 minutes from here, and I want to bring my daughter to hike on these trails.”
  • “I’m here to get out from behind a computer and into nature.”

And they all had fun!

Learn more about volunteer opportunities with The Nature Conservancy.

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Meet Debra Crespin!

Our fantastic Associate Director of Philanthropy!

Deb was born in the Bronx, but grew up in the suburbs of California. Eventually she escaped to Northern California before moving to Vermont and now Seattle! That’s a lot of traveling, something she loves to do!

If you could live anywhere, where would it be?

I’d split my time: a few months on San Juan Island, a few months in rural Vermont, and the rest in Seattle. Then, of course, I’d travel a lot – everywhere else!

What is your favorite part of nature?

I love forests and high mountain landscapes.

Favorite hobby?

Birding

Favorite food?

Anything Mexican

In one simple and plain sentence, what do you do?

I build relationships with donors who have a passion for conservation, connecting them to our work, and working to secure their philanthropic investment.

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Bill Robinson: Lobbyist for Nature

Washington’s lands, waters, wildlife and people are all better off because of Bill Robinson.

As The Nature Conservancy’s lobbyist in Olympia, he’s led successful efforts to create and fund conservation programs and projects in every corner of the state. He’s fought off efforts to gut state environmental protections. And he’s kept his cool throughout his career, always calm and often with a friendly quip.

Bill, who is retiring after 12 years with the Conservancy, , was honored at a reception in Olympia on Tuesday, Feb. 3.

Before coming to the Conservancy, Bill Robinson served for many years in state government, where he developed his deep understanding of the budget process. He served as the Budget Officer for The Evergreen State College, the governor’s Senior Budget Coordinator under Gov. Dixy Lee Ray, and was the Staff Director for the House Capital Budget Committee for many years.

Working as part of strong, effective coalitions, he helped achieve milestones in state funding and policies for conservation including $100 million for wildlife and recreation programs in 2007 and $100 million in state funding for counties to prevent polluted stormwater from reaching Puget Sound in 2013.

“Washington’s people have always cherished our natural beauty and rich environment,” Bill says. “I’m proud I’ve been able to assist in upholding that core value for our state.”

Last fall, Bill was honored by the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition at its 25th anniversary breakfast, with the Joan Thomas Award for a lifetime of service to conservation.

“Joan Thomas was a friend of mine.  And I admire so much her untiring commitment to preserving our natural places and parks,” said Rep. Frank Chopp, D-Seattle, the Speaker of the House. “Bill Robinson has also shown a Joan Thomas-like dedication to making sure our state continues to have the natural beauty accessible to all people - for recreation, for hunting and fishing, to preserve farms and forest and to make sure our salmon are healthy and abundant.  Bill also knows about as much as anybody about the capital budget. Like many, I relied on his knowledge and integrity to help make my decisions as Speaker of the House.   Joan set a high bar for this award and Bill rose to that standard throughout his career.

The Conservancy is a member of both the Wildlife and Recreation Coalition, which lobbies for funding for parks, open space and conservation lands, and the Environmental Priorities Coalition, which unites about 25 state environmental groups around three or four priorities during each Legislative session. As the Conservancy’s state lobbyist Bill has played a leading role in both those coalitions.

“There is no greater source of information or credibility than Bill Robinson when it comes to the capital budget or natural resources policy in Washington state. Bill’s institutional knowledge is unparalleled and his integrity unquestioned,” said Joanna Grist, director of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition.

“Bill Robinson is one of the smartest and most effective voices for conservation in our state,” says Peter Goldmark, Washington Public Lands Commissioner. “He has worked tirelessly to promote funding for the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program, as well as many other critical conservation efforts, ensuring that we leave future generations a landscape that retains the wildness that feeds our souls and draws so many of us to this beautiful state.”

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Salmon of the North Cascades

By Andy Porter

Backpacking is a passion for me. Getting outdoors, hefting a big pack, climbing and sweating and enjoying solitude are all part of the allure. Then there are the views of stunning mountains, glaciers, forests and rivers. Breathing in the fresh air, feeling the hot sun, or wind and rain all bring one back to the basic roots of it all.

And sometimes you get blessed with wildlife encounters. I have been lucky enough to get close to deer, elk, black bear, marmots, mountain goats and once a wolverine.

But the wildlife encounter that stays in my mind and heart the most has to do with salmon.

In the North Cascades National Park, near the border with Canada there is a confluence of two streams: the Chilliwack River and Indian Creek. Each year in early August these two streams are filled with bright red salmon spawning.

I have made the long hike twice to be a part of their event, and both times have been completely awestruck.

Maybe it’s the remoteness of the place: It’s a long hike up over Hannegan pass and then down deep into the cleft where these streams meet. The surrounding peaks have foreboding names: Mount Terror, Phantom Peak and Mount Challenger and Mount Fury soar nearby, their jagged teeth gnashing the sky above. These glacier draped summits add to the sense of seclusion.

The trail plunges down from the heights of Copper Ridge to the ford of the Chilliwack. My sore aching feet welcome the cold fresh waters…then I hobble across a short section of wet forest and come to Indian Creek.

The creek was full of salmon, bright orange in color, hovering in the crystal clear water. Here Indian Creek is about 10 meters across, its banks enveloped with dark green. The sky is a narrowing strip curving away.

Looking up steam, back towards the North Cascades, the channel is choked with fallen trees. The river bed is here soft silt and there brightly colored stones, adding to the illusion of the salmon practicing a form of levitation.

The view north, towards Canada is equally alluring, the confluence of the two streams creates an opening. The sky is now blue with dark clouds gathering.

I feel like I have been transported to an entirely different point of the globe. Time seems to stand still. There is a fallen tree stretching out in the middle of the stream and I make my way there. A birch provides some support as I try to balance myself and marvel at the majesty of the fish.

This is what wilderness is all about.

Andy Porter is a Washington based photographer capturing the wild beauty of the great outdoors in the Northwest. Learn more

50 Years of the Wild    By Mike Stevens, Washington State Director  
 Wrangell-St. Elias. Absaroka-Beartooth. Yosemite. Craters of the Moon. Weminuche. Mt. Adams. John Muir.   These names conjure vivid memories for me of glaciers, grizzlies, rock spires, wildflowers, rain, sun and streams. And they bring up strong emotions as I remember family and friends and shared experiences – epic lightning storms, being close to wild animals, skiing on high ridgelines, the freedom of just walking, eating, and swimming, shivering through star-filled nights, learning about each other and about ourselves.   I write this in my office overlooking Puget Sound and the port of Seattle. Ten million visitors a year crowd the marketplace below, just steps from a busy bay where we have seen orcas. In the distance, over the tops of freighters arriving full from China, I can see the wilderness peaks of the Olympic Mountains. Most of the time, when I look out the window, I make sure to enjoy the beauty of the place, and then I return to working through our piece of the challenge of conservation in the 21st century.   The challenge is overwhelming given that the pace of change is staggering – when I graduated from college in 1990, global population was just over 5 billion. We are at 7 billion today and I will retire as we hit 9 billion. How do we sustain large landscapes and wide-ranging wildlife on a planet with 9 billion people? How do we secure food, clean water, energy and shelter? Surely, we must deploy every strategy and every tool at hand, we must fire our imaginations and work together.   Today, however, on the Wilderness Act’s 50th birthday, I’m keeping things simple. I am going to think about those wilderness areas, those magical names, and how they mean so much to me and to so many others. I will treasure my memories and look forward to the next adventure, to learning a new mountain range, to introducing young friends to their first backpack or peak climb. I am going to reflect on how a few committed people dedicated themselves to the protection and stewardship of these places. And give thanks.

50 Years of the Wild

By Mike Stevens, Washington State Director

Wrangell-St. Elias. Absaroka-Beartooth. Yosemite. Craters of the Moon. Weminuche. Mt. Adams. John Muir.

These names conjure vivid memories for me of glaciers, grizzlies, rock spires, wildflowers, rain, sun and streams. And they bring up strong emotions as I remember family and friends and shared experiences – epic lightning storms, being close to wild animals, skiing on high ridgelines, the freedom of just walking, eating, and swimming, shivering through star-filled nights, learning about each other and about ourselves.

I write this in my office overlooking Puget Sound and the port of Seattle. Ten million visitors a year crowd the marketplace below, just steps from a busy bay where we have seen orcas. In the distance, over the tops of freighters arriving full from China, I can see the wilderness peaks of the Olympic Mountains. Most of the time, when I look out the window, I make sure to enjoy the beauty of the place, and then I return to working through our piece of the challenge of conservation in the 21st century.

The challenge is overwhelming given that the pace of change is staggering – when I graduated from college in 1990, global population was just over 5 billion. We are at 7 billion today and I will retire as we hit 9 billion. How do we sustain large landscapes and wide-ranging wildlife on a planet with 9 billion people? How do we secure food, clean water, energy and shelter? Surely, we must deploy every strategy and every tool at hand, we must fire our imaginations and work together.

Today, however, on the Wilderness Act’s 50th birthday, I’m keeping things simple. I am going to think about those wilderness areas, those magical names, and how they mean so much to me and to so many others. I will treasure my memories and look forward to the next adventure, to learning a new mountain range, to introducing young friends to their first backpack or peak climb. I am going to reflect on how a few committed people dedicated themselves to the protection and stewardship of these places. And give thanks.

A Ride Through Puget Sound   Last night, I needed to get into a better head space, and I knew that being outside would do it. I grabbed my bike and headed straight from my neighborhood on the hill to the flatlands below. The houses thinned out and soon I was in open farmland. 
 One of my favorite ride starts out along the Skagit River. I don’t see the river because there’s a dike between the road I’m on and the river, but the mark of the river is evident. The road winds and twists – something not many roads in the flat lands do because they’re on a big grid system – and I discover new sights and sensations around each corner. A house with an orchard, the alpaca farm, wide open fields. The very ground that I’m looking out over is a product of the river. This silty, rich soil is some of the best in the world for farming. 
 Some places I pass through are shady because of the towering cottonwoods that grow next to the river. An eddy in the wind patterns brings the river’s cool air to greet me as I heat up from the exertion of my pedaling. Soon I’m in Conway and pass over the green waters of the south fork Skagit. My first “hill” is the bridge that carries me over the river. 
 I continue across Fir Island where the farmland stretches out toward salty Skagit Bay. I stop in when I see a friend out in his yard. He and his crew have butchered a hog today and planted 10,000 young plants he will grow for winter vegetables. He notes that my steel-framed bike is a good thing on these Skagit County chip-seal roads, and a bike-savvy farm hand nods in agreement. The sun is fading and we all want to head in for dinner. I hit the road again, now passing over the north fork Skagit River (hill #2!) and onto rocky, wooded Pleasant Ridge. The quiet forested roads here offer up choruses of bird song. 
 Soon I’m on the flat lands again – I take the long, straight roads now and my shadow stretches out in front of me. I am racing the sun for home. My mind is clear and I remember why it is that I live and work here. This place is a patchwork of bountiful farms, open space, towering trees, cool river air, friends and community. 
  I am home.  
  Jenny Baker is a Restoration Manager with TNC. She is grateful to be involved in work that impacts places around Puget Sound like the Skagit delta.

A Ride Through Puget Sound

Last night, I needed to get into a better head space, and I knew that being outside would do it. I grabbed my bike and headed straight from my neighborhood on the hill to the flatlands below. The houses thinned out and soon I was in open farmland.

One of my favorite ride starts out along the Skagit River. I don’t see the river because there’s a dike between the road I’m on and the river, but the mark of the river is evident. The road winds and twists – something not many roads in the flat lands do because they’re on a big grid system – and I discover new sights and sensations around each corner. A house with an orchard, the alpaca farm, wide open fields. The very ground that I’m looking out over is a product of the river. This silty, rich soil is some of the best in the world for farming.

Some places I pass through are shady because of the towering cottonwoods that grow next to the river. An eddy in the wind patterns brings the river’s cool air to greet me as I heat up from the exertion of my pedaling. Soon I’m in Conway and pass over the green waters of the south fork Skagit. My first “hill” is the bridge that carries me over the river.

I continue across Fir Island where the farmland stretches out toward salty Skagit Bay. I stop in when I see a friend out in his yard. He and his crew have butchered a hog today and planted 10,000 young plants he will grow for winter vegetables. He notes that my steel-framed bike is a good thing on these Skagit County chip-seal roads, and a bike-savvy farm hand nods in agreement. The sun is fading and we all want to head in for dinner. I hit the road again, now passing over the north fork Skagit River (hill #2!) and onto rocky, wooded Pleasant Ridge. The quiet forested roads here offer up choruses of bird song.

Soon I’m on the flat lands again – I take the long, straight roads now and my shadow stretches out in front of me. I am racing the sun for home. My mind is clear and I remember why it is that I live and work here. This place is a patchwork of bountiful farms, open space, towering trees, cool river air, friends and community.

I am home.

Jenny Baker is a Restoration Manager with TNC. She is grateful to be involved in work that impacts places around Puget Sound like the Skagit delta.

EARTH OVERSHOOT DAY WITH WENDY MARSH     By Kiara Serantes, Gonzaga University, Journalism Candidate   
 Our own Director of Donor Communications and Stewardship, Wendy Marsh, discussed her thoughts about Earth Overshoot Day, and why its date is incredibly significant. 
   Wendy:   Earth Overshoot Day is a barometer of the state of the earth which affects The Conservancy’s work (we have to work faster and bigger) and my quality of life (heath, safety, prosperity). My most compelling reason for my interest in this cause is part of the report by the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: “climate change will complicate and worsen existing global security problems, such as civil wars, poverty, strife between nations and refugees. Fights over resources, like water and energy, hunger and extreme weather will all go into the mix to destabilize the world.”  
 I don’t think people realize the domino effect and how wide-spread the repercussions are. 
    It is my understanding that Earth Overshoot Day happens each year, can you please describe what this is and why it’s significant for every person?    
   Wendy:   That’s the day we bust our ecological budget. From that day forward, the planet will be operating under an ecological deficit, using more resources than the planet can produce  and emitting more carbon dioxide than the planet can filter out.  Basically, it’s like living on credit cards until the next payday  – which isn’t until January1, 2015.    Ecological Debt Day is calculated by dividing the world’s biocapacity (the amount of natural resources generated by Earth that year), by the world Ecological Footprint (humanity’s consumption of Earth’s natural resources such as food, fish, fiber, energy –for that year), and multiplying by 365. 
   How significant is the date?    
   Wendy:   The date is an unsettling reminder that we are closing in on the point of no return. We’ve been living beyond our means since the 1970s. Earth Overshoot Day has moved ahead by an average of 3 days per year since 2011 indicating we are not making progress (except this year it is on August 20th – the same as last year) 
   Gonzaga University is currently undergoing a lot of construction installing new facilities, of which are likely to bare LEED Certification (green building). Do you feel that constructing new facilities to be more “green” is enough to help lead to a more sustainable future on campuses (and beyond), or is more palpable change necessary?   
   Wendy:   LEED certified buildings are a good step.  There’s a lot more colleges can do, however, especially since they are grooming our next generation of leaders who need to have an understanding of the interdependencies between environmental, social, and economic forces.  There are a lot of little examples such as retrofitting the current buildings to be energy efficient, banning plastic bottles from the campus (something a number of institutions are already doing), to low impact dining, and integrating sustainability into the curriculum. Check out the Association of Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.  There’s a lot campuses can do! 
   What is the most important factor when it comes to solving the resource problem, on a local and community level?   
   Wendy:   The two most important factors are awareness and changes in our behavior. We need the political will to cause change.  The political denial of climate change is unacceptable.  The media needs to be challenged to start covering these issues.  Businesses and government need to step up and set policies that are good for all of us. It’s up to us to cause this change because they listen to consumers and constituents.  And we all must consume better, wiser, and more conservatively. 

EARTH OVERSHOOT DAY WITH WENDY MARSH

By Kiara Serantes, Gonzaga University, Journalism Candidate

Our own Director of Donor Communications and Stewardship, Wendy Marsh, discussed her thoughts about Earth Overshoot Day, and why its date is incredibly significant.

Wendy: Earth Overshoot Day is a barometer of the state of the earth which affects The Conservancy’s work (we have to work faster and bigger) and my quality of life (heath, safety, prosperity). My most compelling reason for my interest in this cause is part of the report by the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: “climate change will complicate and worsen existing global security problems, such as civil wars, poverty, strife between nations and refugees. Fights over resources, like water and energy, hunger and extreme weather will all go into the mix to destabilize the world.” 

I don’t think people realize the domino effect and how wide-spread the repercussions are.


It is my understanding that Earth Overshoot Day happens each year, can you please describe what this is and why it’s significant for every person?

Wendy: That’s the day we bust our ecological budget. From that day forward, the planet will be operating under an ecological deficit, using more resources than the planet can produce  and emitting more carbon dioxide than the planet can filter out.  Basically, it’s like living on credit cards until the next payday  – which isn’t until January1, 2015. 

Ecological Debt Day is calculated by dividing the world’s biocapacity (the amount of natural resources generated by Earth that year), by the world Ecological Footprint (humanity’s consumption of Earth’s natural resources such as food, fish, fiber, energy –for that year), and multiplying by 365.

How significant is the date?

Wendy: The date is an unsettling reminder that we are closing in on the point of no return. We’ve been living beyond our means since the 1970s. Earth Overshoot Day has moved ahead by an average of 3 days per year since 2011 indicating we are not making progress (except this year it is on August 20th – the same as last year)

Gonzaga University is currently undergoing a lot of construction installing new facilities, of which are likely to bare LEED Certification (green building). Do you feel that constructing new facilities to be more “green” is enough to help lead to a more sustainable future on campuses (and beyond), or is more palpable change necessary?

Wendy: LEED certified buildings are a good step.  There’s a lot more colleges can do, however, especially since they are grooming our next generation of leaders who need to have an understanding of the interdependencies between environmental, social, and economic forces.

There are a lot of little examples such as retrofitting the current buildings to be energy efficient, banning plastic bottles from the campus (something a number of institutions are already doing), to low impact dining, and integrating sustainability into the curriculum. Check out the Association of Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.  There’s a lot campuses can do!

What is the most important factor when it comes to solving the resource problem, on a local and community level?

Wendy: The two most important factors are awareness and changes in our behavior. We need the political will to cause change.  The political denial of climate change is unacceptable.  The media needs to be challenged to start covering these issues.  Businesses and government need to step up and set policies that are good for all of us. It’s up to us to cause this change because they listen to consumers and constituents.  And we all must consume better, wiser, and more conservatively. 

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A SECRET SKAGIT BEACH

By Robin Stanton, Senior Media Relations Manager

It’s a party like no other, a uniquely Puget Soundish adventure. Once each summer, a clan of paddlers sets out to be marooned for the day on a secret Skagit beach uncovered by the low tide.

We launch onto one of the tendrils of the Skagit South Fork as it makes its way out into the Sound. A motley assortment of canoes and kayaks, packed with kids and dogs and happy adults, floats out on the ebb current, easing over the sandy bottom of a channel that will be high and dry a few minutes after we pass.

A 45- minute paddle and we beach, dragging the boats up to make camp on the highest spot on this temporary island of sand in the midst of Skagit Bay. Kids and dogs spill out and zoom off to dig in the sand, wade in the water, search for sand shrimp and build epic sand castles.

Out come the coolers, Frisbees, shade tarps, a volleyball net. My husband and I, having neither children nor dogs, sit and sip our coffee and watch the scene unfold. Out here on the Skagit estuary, you can see the connection between land and water—it’s an evershifting, permeable boundary. I’m so proud of the work I support at The Nature Conservancy, which supports the whole system, from the forested foothills through farmlands and the river valley out to Puget Sound.

Today, we can enjoy the company, or turn and walk out onto the sand, exploring the pools left behind. Some days it seems like you could walk clear to Camano Island. Sea lions are hauled out on another distant sandbar. Dunlin swoop and swirl overhead.

It’s enforced relaxation – there is no leaving early, no running errands. There is just the beach and waiting for the tide. For four or five hours—no one really knows exactly how long.

“Is it coming?” “I think it’s coming!” “Not yet….” “Maybe it’s time….”

Everything goes back in the boats. Kids are building a bigger and bigger sand mound, creating their own island, trying to make it last a little longer.

Watch what happens as the tide comes in!

And then the tide comes in and we paddle home. Till next summer.

Your gifts to The Nature Conservancy will help ensure that rivers and sand bars in Puget Sound are clean and healthy and continue to support the wide variety of life that makes this place so spectacular.

Ebey’s Landing + Instagram

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By Kiara Serantes, Photography Intern

For as long as I can remember I’ve been absolutely in love with Washington’s nature. From obsessing over hundred-foot coniferous wonders, to towering mountains that split the horizon like a jagged smile, this love of nature led me to intern at the Nature Conservancy over summer.

Recently, I saw it pay off when I was lucky enough to be invited on a field trip with the Conservancy’s Social Media Manager, Don Macanlalay, and nine guests. Those guests are popular photographers from the networking site Instagram, who came on the trip to explore Ebey’s Landing National Reserve, now federal park that used to be one of The Nature Conservancy’s preserves. Our objective was to take photos and inspire fellow users of the site to get out and appreciate Washington nature.

The photographers invited include Griffin Lamb, Samuel Elkins, Caleb & Ariana BabcockAj Ragasa, Forest Eckley, Danny OwensWhitney Moreno and Kristen Smith.                 

When we first pulled into the parking lot of Ebey’s Landing, located on Whidbey Island, I was instantly struck by the serene beauty of the Puget Sound. The water seemed to stretch vastly before me, being met by other faded scenes of seemingly far away land masses. Now, I would not consider myself a photographer, but there at Ebey’s I had suddenly felt the urge to at least try and capture the beauty that was all around me. The inspiration was tangible as the photographers rhythmically dispersed into their own digital narratives.

We began moving up the trail as a scattered group, each individual stopping in random ways to capture photos of the different landscapes and wildlife. Passing a vast field of grain and moving up a hill that stretched suddenly up from the shore (which at times had felt more like a small mountain), the photographers seemed to be able work effortlessly. The wildflowers bloomed vibrantly, coating the hill as if they were warming it from the sometimes heavy coastal winds. It was while on this trail and on this hike (my first experience out hiking since I had been back from my stressful first year of college) when it hit me just how much I had missed the low-stress and completeness of being in nature. 

It’s really easy to get caught up in professional lives; after all, working is necessary for support and certain ambitions. Working is important for many reasons, but just as important is remembering the reason why we go to work each day; it’s important to remember the beauty all around us, and the things and people we love.

As someone who’s lived in Washington State my entire life, it was too easy to overlook the lush beauty and nature all around me. My mind had remained focused on my career goals for so long. Ironically, it was through my own professional life as an intern that I was able to remember just how calming and supportive being in nature can feel.

In an ever technologically growing society, it’s important now more than ever to remember the things we love and reconnect with the now abundant nature. There doesn’t have to be a divide between technology and nature; a divide from work and what you love. So go out and find your own Ebey’s Landing; go out and be inspired to share the nature that exists all around us. At the very least, it will give you a chance to take some really cool pictures!

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Restoring Forest Health to Prevent Catastrophic Fires

Disastrous fires ravaged Washington in July. Multiple fires closed major roads, led to the evacuation of thousands, scorched more than 400 square miles and destroyed about 300 homes. The lives of both residents and firefighters remain in jeopardy and the road to recovery will be long and costly.

The conversation has already begun on how we as a society can prepare resilient communities and mitigate and reduce future catastrophic fires.

The Nature Conservancy’s Washington state director, Mike Stevens, explores the question of how to prepare and adapt in a guest opinion column that appeared in the Seattle Times on Sunday, July 27.

Read Mike Stevens’s column here.


Climate change and damaged forests are increasing the risk of huge and catastrophic wildfires in Washington.

James Schroeder, director of our eastern Washington conservation program, explains the role of fires in our forests, and the role of The Nature Conservancy in mitigating the risk of catastrophic fires.

Question: Are forest fires natural?

James: Fires have always been a normal part of healthy, thriving forests, especially in eastern Washington where our forests are drier and lightning strikes are common. So-called “good” fires have historically, and can still, help thin out small trees, clean out underbrush and ultimately leave behind stronger, more resilient trees and forests.

But in a damaged, unhealthy forest, a fire sparked by lightening can quickly spread like wildfire –literally, climbing up and jumping from tree to tree, across natural boundaries like rivers and threatening homes, communities and people.

Q: Are damaged forests and the fire that can spread through them a problem in our state?

James: We have almost 3 million acres of forest that are unhealthy, and much of that is at risk for catastrophic fire. One of the biggest causes is past logging practices followed by dense replanting of trees (often of a single species). Replanting is good, but without good fire those trees grow packed together to similar size, competing for water and other resources, become stressed and prone to burn with bad results.  Another driver of unhealthy forests is climate change, which has allowed some insects to thrive where they once died off earlier each winter.  Already stressed trees and more insects attacking them, mean more dead trees and fuel for fires. 

Q. So what can be done?

James: We use a number of techniques to restore forests to health. One is thinning, where lots of these crowded, smaller, less fire resilient trees are removed. This lessens the amount of dry fuel waiting to burn, allows larger trees to survive fires, and promotes greater biodiversity which is important to forest health.  Another interesting technique is what is called a prescribed or controlled burn. Basically this is a fire that is carefully and intentionally set by fire professionals in order to clear out that fuel in a contained way.

Q. Why is concern over forest fires growing?

James: Climate change is already making our fire season longer and hotter. With higher temperatures and snowpack declining and melting earlier in the year, scientists predict the situation will get much worse.  Also with our state’s growing population, people now live much closer to fire prone areas. So the threat to humans, homes and infrastructure such as power lines is much higher.

In addition, fighting fires is very expensive and of course it puts lives at risk.

Q. What can be done to assure the health and safety of communities and protect our forests?

James: At The Nature Conservancy, we are working to keep key forest land parcels that may get developed in public ownership so that we can restore forests to health. We also work to assure adequate public funding of forest restoration programs which protect all of us from the danger and expense of wild fires.

Another valuable tool we are investing in is Forest Collaboratives. These groups pull together a wide variety of folks who have an interest in the forest – land owners, business, industry, tribes.  Everyone comes together to work on solutions for the good of the forest and everyone who depends on the forest for their livelihood and well-being.

Q. For people who live in or near dry forests, what can they do to protect their homes and keep safe?

James: The Nature Conservancy in Washington is part of a program building what is called Fire Adaptive Communities. The idea is that fire is inevitable, so we must proactively learn how to live with it intentionally and safely – taking actions to protect homes and lives and recognizing the differences between good and bad fire.  There is much home and property owners and communities can do working together to prepare for and lessen the risk of fire.

Learn more about or work to restore forests in eastern Washington.

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Washington Board Hits the Road

First-hand look leads to big vision for ocean and coastal forests

By:  Byron Bishop, The Nature Conservancy in Washington Board of Trustees Vice-Chair

Vision is rarely achieved sitting in a boardroom.

That’s why the Washington Board of Trustees took to the Washington Coast to experience the beauty and power of nature and learned first-hand of the threats to our natural environment, and our conservation work in the forests, rivers and oceans to counter those threats.

The Board is in the midst of setting goals and creating a vision for our conservation work in the coming decade.  In a July visit, we got a deep look into our marine and coastal forest work, and why it matters.

The marine and terrestrial worlds are deeply interconnected, and the ocean’s complex ecosystem affects the health of the shorelines and even the forest, we learned from marine ecologist Jodie Toft.

We explored the ocean environment and the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary with our partners at NOAA.

We hiked up the Hoh River and learned about the importance of the area’s rivers and forests – to the tribes who have made the area their home for centuries, to the community and economy, and to the salmon, plants and animals unique to the area. 

Guests from the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary and local tribes shared their first hand experiences working in the area, giving the board greater insight into what is at stake in this unique region.

We have a vision of summit-to-sea conservation.  Healthy oceans are fed by healthy rivers. Salmon in healthy rivers ultimately feed the forests around them.  Forests shade rivers, assuring cool clean water reaches the ocean.

The path to conservation and restoration in this region requires integrated, science-based focus and hands-on work in each area.  The risks are huge, the potential is huge, the vision is huge.

These are not the lessons of PowerPoint presentations in board rooms. These lessons, and the vision that springs from them, are best learned on the land and water which depend on us, and on which we depend.

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Foulweather Bluff & Cobalt

On Friday July 11th a team of 11 volunteers from Cobalt Automotive Marketing Solutions took a day out of their busy work week to come tackle a patch of invasive Yellow Archangel at our Foulweather Bluff Preserve in Hansville, WA. No one knows how this noxious weed was introduced to the area, but thanks to their efforts we can be sure that it will not be spreading to different parts of the preserve!

Roots left underground can re-sprout, so the team had to be extra careful to remove it gently. Because of their careful work native plants that support local birds and animals can reclaim that area. It was a beautiful day, with a light breeze and sunshine – and definitely not all work and no play!

The Cobalt crew took a guided tour of the preserve led by volunteer docents Tom and Sally where they learned about the history of our Pacific Northwest forests and saw some impressive nurse logs and snags. We all enjoyed lunch and some low-tide exploration on the beach, which included checking out some really cool shore crabs in the surf and aggregating anemones and barnacles on the rocks.

We like to give our sincerest thank you to Cobalt! Your team rocks!

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Port Susan Bay Day

We had a fantastic time learning and witnessing how successful restoration can be for our waters around Puget Sound. Everyone had such a great time learning, going birding and enjoying the massive ice cream sandwiches to top off our day with nature at Port Susan Bay!

We loved having everyone come out and visit! Did you get your photo taken? Check out our photo gallery on Facebook, and let us know if you’d like a copy!

Port Susan Bay is one of The Nature Conservancy’s beautiful nature preserves in Washington, highlighting collaborative efforts to restore our floodplains and keep Washington beautiful.

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Meet Meghan Wagner

She’s our Campaign Manager who inspires others to transform nature through the power of giving. Read her story:

As a lifelong resident of WA state, I am passionate about the outdoors. My most cherished and beloved memories are with my family learning and exploring the water and land of our beautiful local natural resources. At an early age, I was taught that our collective future is intrinsically linked with the ways we respect and protect nature, and I have been a committed advocate in both my personal and volunteer pursuits to this cause.

I have experienced firsthand how nature can inspire and enrich lives and I bring this level of dedication and passion to the mission of The Nature Conservancy.

This is a quote from my good friend, Sarah Brooks (Associate Director, Methow Conservancy):

“I believe, deep in my soul, that one of the most noble and amazing things you can do in your life is to find a cause you care deeply about and invite others to join you in transforming the world. I believe asking – fundraising – is an incredible privilege.

I believe asking others to give is like being a really good matchmaker – you have the rare opportunity to give another person a chance to express what they value by giving to a cause that will make life better. That moment – when a person realizes they can make a difference – is magic and to be a catalyst of that is nothing short of stunning. Done with joy, respect, and humility, “asking” can be one of the most meaningful and powerful things you will ever do.”