Moses Coulee

Listening in the Night

Photographed by Anna Snook

On a nice summer night, with a sky full of bright stars, it was a wonderful time for our volunteers and for spotted bats! Experience the bat survey fun with the slideshow of photos above.

For over 13 years, The Nature Conservancy has conducted spotted bat surveys on our Moses Coulee preserve with the help of our volunteers. This July, two groups of volunteers gathered at Moses Coulee to listen for the unique calls of the elusive spotted bat. Volunteers of all ages participated in using specialized audio equipment to learn more about the different bat species of Moses Coulee and gather data on the presence and behavior of the spotted bat.  This data is used to help understand how habitat loss and White Nose Syndrome impacts the spotted bat and will aid in species conservation.



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.


Hunters Become Stewards at Beezley Hills

Written & Photographed by Anna Snook, Northwest Photographer

Everyone who loves the outdoors interacts with it in different ways. Some of us go out to shoot with cameras; some of us, to shoot with rifles. Some shoot wildflowers and landscapes, some shoot animals, and some shoot glass bottles. All these activities intersect on the Beezley Hills preserve in Eastern Washington. By day, Beezley Hills is an expansive steppe; the sprawling sagebrush reaching to the sky in all directions, dry ground under foot. In the spring, it’s home to dozens of wildflower species – balsamroots bowing their golden heads in the breeze, sprinkled with the purple of phlox and shooting star, followed by lupine and camas. In the fall, home to a hunting tradition that precedes the preserve’s TNC days.

Several times a year, local hunters are provided the opportunity to learn more about the preserve, and the chance to take care of it – in exchange, they get hunting rights on the land. When we’ve seen what kind of conflict can arise from “othering” in states like Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, a project like The Nature Conservancy’s Hunter Steward program is heartening. It shows us that there are environmentalists, and there are hunters, and there are both. Conservation is as simple as that: people who love the land take care of it, no matter how they use it.

So, on a warm sunny Saturday in April, you might find a few of these dedicated stewards, bags in hand, picking up everything from broken glass bottles and beer cans, to burn piles and even car frames. Hopping out of their pickup in between clean-up sites every time they see a bit of roadside litter. Finding hidden treasures among the trash – a marble, a usable car part, a coin. Every once in a while, standing up to take in the never-ending sky, or the mountains, or the perfume of sagebrush. It’s all in a day’s work on the Beezley Hills preserve. 

Anna Snook is a Northwest photographer, see more of her work

Learn more about our work at Moses Coulee and Beezley Hills

Learn how you can volunteer too!

Winging It: The 2015 Bat Count

Citizen science is critical to spotted bat monitoring in Eastern sagelands

Written and Photographed by Cailin Mackenzie, GLOBE Intern

Twenty-four committed volunteers gathered on July 25th to count bats at the Conservancy’s Moses Coulee preserve, home to the largest concentration of spotted bats in the state.  Collecting this data not only furthers white nose syndrome research and treatment, but also informs wind turbine impacts on bat migration. Although the wind made hearing the bats’ distinctive clicking noises difficult, we enjoyed a meditative evening under the stars surrounded by the coulee’s unique shrub-steppe ecosystem. 

Soaring Above These Historic Lands

The Beauty of Moses Coulee

Video by Ryan Haugo, Senior Forest Ecologist

Last year, we partnered with the Yakima Valley Community College to build new aerial tools for forest conservation.

Recently, we brought this tool to the Nature Conservancy Field Station in Eastern Washington. It gave us a chance to film the first attempt for the Conservancy at flying the “quadcopter for conservation” through the beautiful perspective of our 33,000 acre Moses Coulee Preserve – an amazing preserve that doesn’t have a lot attention today. 

It’s a staggeringly beautiful place created by the great lava flows and flooding of the early Miocene epoch. Today, it’s mostly farmland, providing a stunning contrast of bright green fields, breezy plateaus and a deep river gorge that has developed over the past 20 million years. As a result of the erosion, beautifully textured igneous rock canyon walls and precious sagebrush habitat that local wildlife rely on are abundant and easily accessible by foot and the many trails throughout the preserve.

This bird’s eye view helped to see both the beauty and the landscape scale of our conservation in and around the historic preserve!

Sagebrush Giants at Moses Coulee


Story and Photograph by Andrew Lindgren, Biologist for the United States Geological Survey

Is it a bush or a tree? Last spring when the SageSTEP field crew and I were staying at the Moses Coulee Field Station, one of our crew members found a giant sagebrush north of the station along one of the spurs of the trail that spurs off the entrance road to the station.  When we went back and measured it, we measured it to be about 15’ tall and 15’ in diameter, the trunk at ground level was 4’ in circumference!  I was blown away when I saw it!  

It’s by far the largest one I’ve ever seen in my 10 years working! My co-workers have said they’ve never seen one that big.  If you haven’t seen it, next time you’re at the field station its well worth the walk.

Totaling more than 30,000 acres, The Nature Conservancy’s Moses Coulee/Beezley Hills Preserve is an especially rich and diverse example of Washington’s shrub-steppe. With its Ice Age floodcarved, steep-walled coulees, its pothole lakes, dunes, haystack boulders, waterfalls and scablands—this area is home to a rich and fragile mosaic of rare living things.