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Earth Day Volunteer Celebration & Open House

Photographed by Anna Snook, Volunteer Photographer

We celebrated our new office & our volunteers in honor of Earth Day!  Volunteers helped around the office and checked out our new space, learned more about our work, met staff and other volunteers who make our conservation goals a reality. 

Volunteers got to hear short presentations by staff members doing exciting conservation work, and lots of tasty food and beverages with great company! See the photos in the slideshow above!

Learn How you Can Volunteer!

Conservancy Comes Together for Northwest Forests

Written & Photographed by Caitlyn O'Connor, Staff Volunteer

The interior forests of the Northwest and Intermountain West are yielding fewer benefits for nature and people as a result of impaired forest health and reduced productivity, massive wildfires, regulatory hurdles, and challenging economics. 

Leaders from The Nature Conservancy’s Idaho, Washington, and Oregon chapters came together recently to figure out how to accelerate the pace and scale of forest restoration across private and public lands across these three states.

The goal of this meeting was to convene trustees, staff, and industry leaders to learn more about regional challenges to forest restoration, to facilitate cross-state learning, and to strengthen our regional collaboration and shared purpose.

We met in Walla Walla, where it was sunny and 80 degrees the whole weekend. Dr. Ryan Haugo, Senior Forest Ecologist for Washington kicked off the meeting by explaining what is a healthy fire environment, evaluating forest restoration needs, the hard truths, and the path forward.

We convened the next day at the Water and Environment Center for a deep dive into the issues. We started the day on a positive note by looking at our ‘bright spots’, what we were doing well and stories of integrated small diameter mills, with guest speakers Duane Vaagen from Vaagen Bros and Nils Christoffersen, Wallowa Resources.

Then we looked at the private and public forest management and their roles in forest health. We listened to Bill Aney, USFS Region 6 and Tom Lindquist, formerly of Plum Creek.

But our learning was not done yet. At dinner, we were treated to a presentation from Dr. Kevin Pogue, a geology professor at Whitman College, where he is known for his expertise on terroir for winegrape production.

This presentation wrapped up the official program for our Walla Walla conference.

For those who had extra time, Dr. Pogue helped us explore multiple vineyards, the different types of terroir and explained how much location matters when growing grapes and what conditions make the best type of grapes for the type of wine. Fascinating information where we learned about the Rocks District in the Walla Walla Valley. Yes, growing wine on rocks.

We are constantly learning more about how much nature is intertwined and interconnected with everything we love!

When The Ship Sets Sail

Written by Jodie Toft, Senior Marine Ecologist; Kara Cardinal, Marine Projects Manager
Photographed by various members of the Conservancy staff

Last week, we brought out our best marine metaphors for a send-off of our (now former) Director of Marine Conservation, Paul Dye.  Paul recently joined Washington Sea Grant as the Assistant Director for Outreach. Paul was beloved across the chapter, as a leader, mentor and friend.  He was wise to keep us from eulogizing him, by reminding us that "I'm Paul Dye, not Paul Dead."  The evening was just right - a balance of roast and toast, with a custom-crafted song just for Paul.  And in fine form, the fabulous tribute below to "Paulisms" - sayings or phrases that Paul has deployed over the years - from our Marine Projects Manager, Kara Cardinal.  Thank you, Paul, to your contributions to conservation and conversation. You are already missed.

 BOLD TEXT DENOTES A "PAULISM"

Alright everyone, gather ‘round as we share a few stories about the great Paul Dye.  Now as much as we don’t want to believe it, it’s time to pull the rat out of the wood pile and say our goodbyes.  Paul – I apologize in advance but I may step on your toes here a little bit, so just scream when it hurts.  I’m not mean, I’m just crafty.

We all know you can hear the steak sizzling over at Sea Grant, but let’s not go putting the cart before the horse. Today is the cart, and we might be throwing a lot of sh*t in it this afternoon. 

It’s been an exciting adventure hearing your stories about working for TNC - from the prairies of Illinois to the reefs of the Florida Keys to the rocky shores of the Washington coast. Man, with that kinda background, you must really know the ins and outs and ups and downs of TNC, or in Chicago speak, where all those bodies are buried.  Sometimes hearing you talk about your times down in Key West, I often wondered to myself if your role as Director of Marine Conservation wasn’t just a stalking horse for an excuse to search for buried pirate treasures

We’ve all learned many things from you, Paul.  You’ve taught us how to run the trap lines and create change for the better.

You’ve taught us how to think big picture.  To not get mired in district level mischief, but to not be afraid to throw some short circuit switches every now and then, as it never hurts to ruffle a few feathers.  I don’t know what your fairy dust is, but you have made an impact on all of our lives for certain. 

Now I don’t want to go being the banty rooster, but even though you are leaving, I know our team is going to be just fine without you.   I’m betting on the draw here, but it seems like you may have been preparing us all along.  Pushing us to dream big and believe in our innate abilities. That was your shell-game I guess, and it proved to be successful.

Well, I feel like I’ve gotten my licks in, so I will pass it on.  Paul, we know that you will be our cheerleader and our catalyst.  Our watchdog.  Even though you will be moving on to work with Sea Grant, your spirit and your optimism will continue to be felt throughout our team and I know that together, we can create a new truth.  Together we can keep reaching for that brass ring of marine conservation.  And you know the old saying, you really CAN teach an old dog new tricks.

An Urban, Suburban Trek in Bellevue

Written and Photographed by Carrie Krueger, Director of Marketing, The Nature Conservancy in Washington

We want to know: Where do you see Nature Nearby? Share your stories and images below for the chance to be featured on a future blog post!

Our state- and our world – are becoming increasingly urban.  For some of us, that means that what was once a rural suburb is now a bustling city filled with homes and high rises. Yet as we grow, it’s vital we keep a strong connection to nature including wildlife corridors, water retention areas and places we can go for peace and solace.

Bellevue has gone from sleepy bedroom community to hub of commerce and industry. But its string of pearls is a connected series of parks allowing us to travel from Lake Sammamish to Lake Washington through forests, wetlands, farms and gardens.

Most recently, I began this trek at Weowna Park on the shores of Lake Sammamish. In the crisp morning air, we climbed through lush, mossy forests, across streams, occasionally pausing to look back at the lake below.  We emerged into a residential area and wandered through lovely neighborhoods, past the Lake Hills Park.

Phantom Lake and the surrounding wetlands were teeming with birds, and as we made our way through the Lake Hills greenbelt, many walkers carried binoculars. The meandering greenbelt features towering trees, wetlands and even agriculture in the form of blueberry farms where signs of a tasty harvest next summer are just beginning.  At the northern end of the greenbelt is beautiful Larson Lake – so peaceful though thoroughfare traffic, shopping and other signs of urban life are close by.

Following the trail behind and around Sammamish High School, we were again reminded that we are in the middle of a burgeoning city where the already large high school is being expanded to accommodate growth.  But just beyond, we were plunged back into nature, joining the powerline trail and then the forest behind Kelsey Creek Farm. In the creek, salmon still spawn and the surrounding wetlands hold and filter water. In the middle, farm animals are a draw for kids – and their parents.

Just three blocks of neighborhood walking took us to the rich forest east of Wilberton Park. Ballfields and a playground on the other side connected us to the Bellevue Botanical Gardens. Here there is much to see in the form of immaculate, groomed gardens but also a wild canyon experience complete with a suspension bridge.

From the serenity of the gardens, we experienced the most urban and perhaps least enjoyable part of the trek – a brief walk directly parallel to the much-used 405 freeway. It’s hard to ignore growth and demands on nature when walking next to a jam-packed freeway. Fortunately we were quickly under the 405 and into the spectacular Mercer Slough. It’s remarkable that such an important and natural place exists in the shadow of downtown high-rises. Heron, turtles and other wildlife are common sights and this time of year, hints of spring popping up everywhere.

From the slough, we shared the trail with bicyclists as we made our way to the shore of Lake Washington at Enatai park.  The park is a perfect place for considering the interface between nature and development because it is set literally underneath the I-90 freeway. Yet looking out on to the lake, nature abounds as does wildlife and recreation. 

Our trek through Bellevue demonstrates many of the benefits of creating a strong tie to nature in the midst of intense growth. Parks, greenbelts and even small pockets of plants foster wildlife, cool the air in the summer, clean urban storm water runoff and give us a place to retreat and reenergize.



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.”

Our New Nest

Written by Carrie Krueger, Director of Marketing, The Nature Conservancy in Washington

You would think that staff for The Nature Conservancy spend workdays scaling mountains, paddling rivers and soaking in our iconic Pacific coast. But the reality is that most of us spend a lot of our time in an office.  Together we use science to shape strategies that benefit people and nature.  We fundraise and use innovative financial strategies to figure out how to pay for transformative work. We use social media to share stories about our work as a way of generating support. We form partnerships to do work with the biggest impact possible and to push for action from government leaders.  It’s not as glamourous as a walk in the woods, but it’s critical to our commitment to doing more, faster.

Starting this week, a lot of this work will be done from a new nest. After ten years in a historic building at the market, we’ve moved! Our new space is just a few blocks north in Seattle’s Belltown. Here are just a few reasons we are excited:

Our new space is all open, giving us enhanced opportunities for collaboration and partnership.

The modern, efficient layout allows us to use less space, saving money and stretching precious resources to do more for people and nature.

We’ve “recycled” an older low rise building, keeping the character of the neighborhood, and allowing us to sit right in the heart of a vibrant urban scene.

Keeping our easy access to public transit and bike routes will allow our Seattle office to continue to be nearly 100% car-free.

Our urban setting fosters increased focus on keeping cities connected to nature and employing green infrastructure – work that’s increasing in importance as our state and world become increasingly urban

Our field offices across the state continue to be critical to our work. And the Seattle team will still relish every opportunity to be outside working in nature. But for those days when meetings and computer screens fill our time, our new nest will allow us to do more faster, for people and nature.

BECOME A MEMBER OF THE NATURE CONSERVANCY

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.

Exploring the Central Cascades - Our All Staff Field trip

All-staff meeting at our 48,000 acre Central Cascades acquisition!

Written by Ashley Collings, Philanthropy Administrator
Photographed by Tomas Corsini, Northwest Photographer

Last week, our entire staff had the opportunity to take a field trip out to our newly acquired lands in the Central Cascades. Since we are spread out all over the state, our leadership team makes an enormous effort for us to get together on a quarterly basis to exchange ideas and spend time together as a cohesive team. It’s not easy to coordinate a staff of over 70 people to meet in the wilderness, but it’s something our office culture highly values.

This time we were lucky enough to view the results of a year of hard work to purchase this beautiful land. We met just outside the town of Roslyn, WA and caravanned up to the top of a mountain. From our lookout spot we could see Roslyn and Cle Elum, as well as Mt. Stewart and off in the very distance, Mt. Rainier.

We split up into three experiences. One could choose to learn about forestry and use the tools a forester would use. Another choice was to take a geology walk where the participants learned that the Cascades are a “young” mountain range at only 9 million years old! Or you could commune with nature and take an easy hike through the woods, which we dubbed the Hippie Hike. We also learned about the increasing fire risk to these forests as Washington continues in the drought season.

Meetings like this not only allow us to get out into the field (a major reason why many of us work for The Nature Conservancy), but it also reconnects us to the mission of our organization. There is something very powerful about standing on the side of a mountain and seeing trees and snowcaps and turkey vultures everywhere you look. Lastly, this trip allowed each of us to bond with our coworkers in a way that just can’t be replicated in the office. It’s a different experiencing hiking through the woods with your teammates than sitting at a computer writing emails back and forth.

And thankfully, the weather cooperated! We had a fantastic day!

G. Tomas Corsini Sr. is a freelance Northwest based photographer working on projects in Digital Media to include: Photography, Video Productions, Video Editing, Web Content Management, Motion Graphics, Graphics Illustration, and more. Learn more about his work here.

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1,300 Feet of Fun

My first week at the Nature Conservancy

Written by Lara Gricar, Central Cascades Community Coordinator
Photographed by Kyle Smith & Dave Rolph

My friends were quite envious when they learned that I had the opportunity to go mountain biking on the Roslyn Ridge my first week of work with The Nature Conservancy.

Roslyn Ridge is located in the Central Cascades bordering the towns of Roslyn and Ronald. Much of the ridge is part of the Conservancy’s recent acquisition of 48,000 acres of forestland between Snoqualmie Pass and Cle Elum on both sides of I-90. One benefit of protecting these hardworking forests is that it will help to ensure future generations of mountain bikers have just as much fun as we did playing along this ridge and soaking up the beauty of this land.

We were lucky enough to have Glenn Burkhart, the owner of Northwest Bicycle Improvement Co. based in Roslyn, be our tour guide. The ride covered around seven miles of ground and gained approximately 1,300 feet in elevation. Not only did he show us the way, but he also provided us with a wealth of information about how these trails are used today and how we could all work together moving forward.

This ride was a step in the right direction towards our goal of working with the community to develop a shared vision for conserving these lands for people and nature. Although I was hot and out of breath most of the way – both up and down – I was inspired by the prospect of building partnerships with the community to make this conservation effort a success for everyone!

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Out in the Field at Port Susan Bay: Edmonds Community College

A Q & A Interview with Restoration Ecology Student Zacharay Bigelow

Written & Photographed by Marlo Mytty, Conservation Coordinator Puget Sound Programs

What is your major?

I’m planning to major in Environmental Sciences and hopefully attend Huxley College of the Environment at Western Washington University.

What type of restoration projects are you most interested in?

Restoration projects that involve the community, like the Port Susan Bay project. I have travelled quite a bit and observed and been involved in restoration projects that the community doesn’t see or know about, which is one of the major problems in restoration. If the community doesn’t see the work going on, they aren’t going to care about it. Outreach and getting people out there, like volunteer groups, is important. 

What do you hope to do after graduation?

Two things – to travel more and see what projects are going on; and to be skilled at what it takes to start a non-profit.  I want to have the skills to be able to set one up in a part of the world where there is less funding available and more need. Also to start one that is a leader in worldwide conservation efforts.

What interested you most about today’s tour/what will you take away?

The process of the recovery of the habitat. What really struck me is how much of this habitat there must have used to have been. This project supports hundreds of thousands of birds and it’s cool to see a piece of history/what the area historically must have been like.

What would you tell someone who thinks that the current environmental challenges we are facing are too big to overcome?

I read a quote once on a wall in a big CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) cabin that is a testament to how much work one person can do. The quote was something like “The biggest mistake a person could ever make is deciding to do nothing because it was not enough.”

That fits with this and the scope of problems we are trying to fix. It’s not just what’s going on now, but what’s been done historically; and it’s just now that we are really trying to change a lot of these things. 

What do you think is the most important thing for The Nature Conservancy to be working on?

To continue engaging the public in environmental issues. Education has the capacity to spread much further through society than just work does. If you inspire a single person, they can keep reaching out to others. 

That’s what I’m hoping to do.

Working in a Dream Called Yellow Island

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Experiencing our work on Yellow Island up close

Written and Photographed by Dennis and Stephanie Burgart, Contracts and Conservation Programs Coordinator

I got to experience firsthand our gem tucked away in the island chains of Puget Sound, our Yellow Island Preserve.

On one glorious sunny day I was easily transported to a dream with the whirl of hummingbirds, rustling of the madrone leaves, and the plethora of wildflowers. The trail, which is really a bucolic footpath that Elizabeth Bennett would adore, transported me from one rocky spit to another, while providing salt water views that healed the soul. Nature Conservancy members were definitely treated to this experience the first weekend of May, and I had the pleasure of joining them.

I gave my directions on eating and bathrooms (there are none), and then enjoyed the boat ride. Captain Matt was superb at piloting the brand new craft (Black Fish III), and even gave insight into the names of islands we passed, or a fun fact about them. The flowers were in full bloom under the rays of a gorgeous spring sun, and after disembarking on the beach all of the members and staff strolled the path and enjoyed the spoils of nature. This was truly a day that displayed the meaning behind our mission.

I wanted to get out to this tiny preserve to better educate myself on the diversity of lands we work to conserve, because it is a personal mission to see my organization’s mission in action, and to share it with my husband. We both adore the outside world, and I knew he would love coming out to Yellow Island to show off his photography skills. I love my job!

Strategizing A Future with Healthy Floodplains

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Innovative Topics on Display at the Floodplains by Design Management Meeting

Guest blog by Gordon White, Program Manager, Shorelands & Environmental Assistance, Department of Ecology
Photograph by (1) Andy Porter, Northwest Photographer

What do we want our rivers and valleys to look like in ten years? How can we strategize and plan now so that we have reduced flooding, clean water and ample wildlife habitat a decade from now? Those are some of the topics that were tackled at Floodplains by Design Management meeting hosted by The Nature Conservancy, Department of Ecology and Puget Sound Partnership.

“Fun” and “enlightening” are not words you usually hear after an all-day workshop on a beautiful Friday in Seattle. Yet I came away from the gathering feeling I’d enjoyed myself and gained important new insights into our challenges and our work.

The workshop was a working session with key leaders and project proponents from across the region with an interest in advancing integrated floodplain management and implementing Floodplains by Design-like projects. It presented an opportunity to continue the dialogue on what “it” is; what makes for useful planning scales and timeframes; and how to talk about success measures and stories.

Bob Carey from The Nature Conservancy gave an overview of the Floodplains by Design initiative, which created a strong entry point for everyone to work from as they discussed the finer points of the program. Jim Kramer, who specializes in building collaborative programs and initiatives, facilitated moving the dialog from conceptual to specific.

Cogs began spinning for attendees when Carol MacIlroy, a specialist in natural resource planning, shared a regional vision and planning scale along with timing. Participants were challenged with how best to capture the multi-benefit approach in their watersheds and regions. The Nature Conservancy’s Kris Johnson of gave a clear explanation of a GIS tool that creates new possibilities for scoping projects, leaving participants eager to learn more and try the tool.

For a summary of the legislative process and the Capital Budget we turned to Tom Bugert of The Nature Conservancy. The time is critical for this kind of information, and participants were empowered to play a role in fostering a successful outcome to the current legislative session.

We covered a lot of ground in one day and it was truly a team effort – one that is sure to yield long term results around our region. Results that will help our communities and ecosystems thrive well into the future.

You can learn more about Floodplains by Desgn.

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BIG: Topic of the day at Puget Sound floodplains conference

Exploring the Gem of the San Juan Islands

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Our Membership Trip to Yellow Island Preserve - Day 2

Photography by Cameron Karsten, Northwest Photographer

Set amidst Washington’s scenic San Juan Islands, Yellow Island is a one-of-a kind location. Owned by The Nature Conservancy, the island offers unique beauty, an example of conservation in action and an escape from everyday life. Each spring it is bathed in fields of wildflowers, tumbling down hillsides towards the water.

We traveled by charter boat from Anacortes to the island, while learning about the ecology of the region from Nature Conservancy scientists. Members were able to roam the island, take photos and ask questions. 

Yellow Island may be a crown jewel in the work we do in Washington, as evidenced by this mesmerizing slideshow! It’s certainly a spectacular example of the beauty of nature and an inspiration to keep up our hard work around the state.

See the slideshow from Day one of the trip!

Not yet a member? Join the Nature Conservancy today!

Cameron Karsten is a coldwater surfer, cultural traveler, professional photographer/videographer, amateur craft brewer. Looking for the new, the unique and the challenging, having been raised in the Pacific Northwest, where cold water and wet mountains converge. Began a career as a travel writer, from the age of 19 to 25 backpacking around the world, beginning in SE Asia, thru Europe, down East Africa, into the Creeks of Nigeria, and along the beaches of Central America. View more of Cameron Karsten’s work: CameronKarsten.com

Lasting Memories on Yellow Island

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Our Membership Trip to the Gem of the San Juans - Day 1

Photography by Tomas Corsini, Northwest Photographer

What a spectacular weekend to visit Yellow Island! The weather and wildflowers both cooperated and we had so much fun showing our members this treasure! The pictures are remarkable and the memories even better. Enjoy this slideshow of Day 1 of a two day trip to the gem of the San Juan Islands: Our Yellow Island Preserve!

Not yet a member? Join the Nature Conservancy today!

G. Tomas Corsini Sr. is a freelance Northwest based photographer working on projects in Digital Media to include: Photography, Video Productions, Video Editing, Web Content Management, Motion Graphics, Graphics Illustration, and more. Learn more about his work here.

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Spring in Full Swing at Yakima Arbor Day

Written and Photographed by Ryan Haugo, Senior Forest Ecologist

Arbor Day. This has become an annual tradition for my family and many in the Yakima Valley. It is a wonderful community gathering of the many conservation and community minded groups in the Yakima Valley, celebrating trees and love of nature! 

This year my daughters particularly loved being able to get up close with cute adult and baby great horned owls! Another highlight was stopping by the Yakima Basin Wildlife Recovery Board and Mid-Columbia Fisheries Enhance Group table and learning a neat device to remember the 5 species of native salmon in Washington with your five fingers.

Thumb = Chum Salmon
First Finger = stick in someone’s eye = Sockeye Salmon
Middle Finger = biggest finger = king finger = King Salmon (aka Chinook)
Ringer Finger = silver wedding ring = Silver Salmon (aka Coho)
Pinky Finger = Pink Salmon

In addition to being a dependably windy day, Arbor Day in Yakima means that spring is in full swing across the Yakima Valley and that it’s time to get outside and enjoy nature.

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A Bird’s Eye View of Our Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Cover Photo – the story behind the picture 

Early Morning High in the Mountains 

Written by Molly Bogeberg, Marc Hershman Marine Policy Fellow
Photographs by TNC and (3) Benj Drummond

We set out early from Seattle, leaving in the dark at 4 a.m. Lauren Miheli, Iris Redwood-Sawyerr, Robin Stanton and I were heading east of Snoqualmie Pass to meet photographer Benj Drummond to capture images of us exploring some of the 48,000 acres of forests the Conservancy was about to acquire in the Central Cascades.

Once we arrived, we consolidated our bags of gear and warm layers and piled into one car to head up the mountain. At our destination on Cabin Mountain, I put on every layer that I had brought with me–a wool layer, puffy down jacket, teal scarf, teal mittens, wool beanie, and my blue raincoat. I had been told that red and orange were the best colors for an outdoor photoshoot, but I could not be convinced. As an ocean- loving, marine scientist (and now a marine policy fellow at the Nature Conservancy), I was sure that blue would be best!

We all donned our headlamps and followed Benj (who had pre-scouted the area) into the dark, straight up to the peak where the photoshoot would commence. As we hiked up the mountain, we did our best not to slip on the slick muddy ground and dew covered rocks. We were met with gusty winds and fog banks moving in and out of the trees. My warm layers seemed futile against the elements and we all found refuge from the wind huddled behind a rock.

Lauren, Iris, and I took turns climbing high up on rocks with our headlamps as the sun started to appear. It was apparent that the light conditions were going to be a challenge. After a couple of hours of waiting for the sun to shine through the high clouds and fog, we lumbered back down to the car and took off down the mountain to get breakfast in a nearby town.

When returned to the site, the light was still not ideal, but Benj showed his expertise and patience working with different angles and locations to get “the shot.” As I climbed to the top of themost prominent rock, it was a little bit precarious, but thanks to a background in ballet I was able to keep my balance. This rock begs to be climbed! It juts out from a ridge on Cabin Mountain and overlooks a gorgeous valley with expansive views of the new land acquisition. It was really a breathtaking place to stand and take in your surroundings.

And that’s what made the cover of Nature Conservancy Magazine!

As an avid hiker, explorer, and conservationist I was excited for this opportunity to see the forest team’s hard work in the Eastern Cascade forests firsthand. I am truly honored to work for an organization that seeks to protect areas such as these to maintain ecosystem services, sustainable jobs, and places for us all to find peace in nature.

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Meet our amazing Director of Philanthropy, Mary Kaufman-Cranney! 

The 2015 Professional Achievement Award winner!

Written by Meghan Wagner, Associate Director of Philanthropy 

We have amazing colleagues here at The Nature Conservancy and are so proud to honor one of our very own, Mary Kaufman-Cranney, Director of Philanthropy for our Washington Program. Mary brings energy, excitement and leadership to our Philanthropy team and most importantly, her work brings support and critical funding to our large-scale conservation projects both locally and globally. It was announced today that Mary is the winner of the prestigious 2015 Professional Achievement Award through AFP Advancement Northwest.

Mary joins a select group of Northwest leaders who have made a big impact in the social sector through fundraising and storytelling. She shares a deep commitment to mentoring others, is the embodiment of integrity, professionalism and excellence and is a Philanthropy superstar!

Mary’s leadership has spanned more than 25 years in our Seattle community. She is passionate about making an impact in our community through cause-driven organizations. She directed three major capital campaigns and secured over $60 million for youth development initiatives while the Senior Vice President of Financial Development at the YMCA of Greater Seattle.

Mary joined The Nature Conservancy in Washington in 2010 and has reinvigorated funding impact for critical conservation projects. Fundraising, at its core, is connecting people to the mission by first learning what ignites the passion in their hearts and then connecting those values to the impact they could make in the community. Mary helps donor visualize their values in action through her authenticity, and unwavering belief in the work of The Nature Conservancy’s mission. One of her great strengths is relationship building with board leaders, volunteers and our staff teams.

As a lifelong resident of Washington State, Mary has a strong connection to our lands and waters. Some of her most cherished and beloved memories are time spent with her family in nature or at her favorite lake cabin. She has experienced firsthand how nature can inspire and enrich lives and she brings that level of dedication and passion to the mission of The Nature Conservancy. 

Through her work at the Conservancy, she has traveled to Africa, Mexico, Great Sand dunes of Colorado, Alaska, and beyond. Whether she is helping with a science observation project tracking alligators in Mexico or staying in yurts in the African safari, Mary’s passion for her work comes through seeing the projects firsthand.

Please join us in congratulating Mary on this well-deserved recognition for her impact in our community!

A Friendly Farewell

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Sending Kris to Kansas

Story & Photography by Julie Morse, Regional Ecologist

Working for The Nature Conservancy is a dream job. Right? I mean, especially here in Washington, and even more especially, here in the Skagit Valley. If your job entails having coffee with farmers, and taking people on a raft trip down the Skagit River to see bald eagles… does it get any better than that??

So who on earth, would trade that for a job in Kansas?

My colleague Kris just did. See he grew up in Kansas, so when the opportunity came up to do the job he loves – working for The Nature Conservancy, in the place he loves, it was a no-brainer. He says the decision was all about family and the chance for Bryson - his 2 year old son, to grow up on the family farm.

So yesterday we “celebrated” Kris’ moving on. It was a beautiful sunny day so we hiked out to Craft Island, a little gem of a rock in the middle of Skagit Bay. There were toasts, and really nice things said. And then there was a whole lot of banter about wheat products and all the whitewater he could run, in Kansas.

As a going away present, one of the local farmers gave Kris a model International tractor, an exact replica of his first tractor on his potato farm. I don’t know how many environmentalist get model tractors as their going away present, but Kris did. It speaks volumes to the relationships he built here, and his incredible skill and finesse in finding common ground, and getting people to work together.

But honestly, the day didn’t feel like much of a celebration to me. It felt like we were losing a family member. Like we just lost the family dog.

The thing about working for The Nature Conservancy is we are all fiercely dedicated and passionate about the work we do, of course. But it made me realize a dream job is not about the work you do, it’s about having fun doing it.

Over the last 7 years we’ve had so much fun together – from canon-balling in Fisher Slough, to donut eating competitions during painfully long meetings, to annual Ski to Sea races (by the way, still waiting for you to man up and beat me in the ski leg Kris). In our small Mount Vernon office we are friends first, and colleagues second.

So here’s to Kris (the tall guy in the photo) and Kansas. We’ll miss you.

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The Earth From Space – A Warning

NOAA Chief Says Climate ‘Ain’t Like It Used to Be’

Story by Wendy Marsh, Associate Director of Philanthropy
Photography by Barbie Hull

A beautiful spring evening was the perfect backdrop to our dinner with Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, NOAA Administrator and the first American female astronaut to walk in space, and our Chief Scientist, Peter Kareiva.

What better person to speak about our conservation challenges than a former astronaut who has looked down on the beauty and vulnerability of our planet from space and also happens to be a renowned scientist.

“It was exactly 23 years ago today, in 1992, that I was in orbit on Space Shuttle Atlantis on my third and final mission,” shared Dr. Sullivan. “It suddenly clicked for me that I wanted to bring back my experience in space and make it connect to the real world. That’s why NOAA is such a fabulous fit for me – especially with a mission that extends literally from the surface of the sun to the bottom of the sea.”

As America’s environmental intelligence agency, NOAA’s job is to build an understanding of the Earth, the atmosphere, and the oceans and to transform that understanding into critical “environmental intelligence”: timely, actionable information, developed from reliable science, that gives us foresight about future conditions; that can inform the myriad decisions we confront every day as we live our lives on this very dynamic planet — both to natural disasters and to longer-term changes in the environment due to climate change.

Why is this important to us? Weather and climate patterns your parents and your grandparents — and even you in your younger years – were used to before are gone. It ain’t like it used to be. The past is no longer prologue.

No more can you say “normally we have x inches of snow on Rainier in February.” With increasing frequency, we’re not seeing the same patterns.

Dry areas are getting drier, and we’re seeing more frequent drought and mega-droughts. Wet areas are getting wetter as the precipitation gets more extreme. And the wet is less consistent with more, frequent intense bursts.

We’re seeing starker differences between the east and west parts of the country. The west is getting warmer; the east is getting wetter.

Today, the snow pack of Washington State is 27% of normal. Eight river basins have less than half the normal snow pack than usual. There’s almost 100% likelihood this summer’s stream flow levels will be significantly less than what they should be – that will affect hydropower, agriculture, salmon – a domino effect that will have economic impact.

When things are changing this way, two things come into play”

  1. For short-term events like the next major storm or hurricane, it’s about being prepared for them and having the foresight that they’re coming so you can prepare for them. 
  2. But for the longer term trends – remember, the past is not prologue – it’s about something different. It’s about being resilient. It’s about being able to re-gain capacity after some kind of shock or disruption. It’s not about “building back” because statistics and data keep changing. You actually want to “build forward” so that you are prepared for whatever we may face next.

The Nature Conservancy and NOAA have been partnering since 2001. To see the impact this partnership has had in Washington, visit: Floodplains by Design, Port Susan Bay