Talkin’ Conservation Communication

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

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

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

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

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

Now that’s my kind of talk.