nature

Photo of the month: Reflections on Golden Larches and Enchanted Places

Written and Photographed by Joshua Stern, Northwest Photographer

Every autumn there is an amazing transformation that takes place in the North Cascades—the turning of the larches. These beautiful deciduous conifers abandon their summer green for the warm glow of fall. This natural phenomenon is best showcased amongst the granite peaks and alpine lakes of The Enchantments. To protect this fragile environment wilderness permits, which are limited and difficult to obtain, are required for overnight trips. Unfortunately, I was unable to secure a permit during peak season and knew my only option was a one-day thru hike.

I have always been reticent about thru hiking this route knowing the 18-mile grind would keep me out of the core of the Enchantments during the golden hour. Watching the weather I realized there would be a single bluebird day immediately following a snowstorm. Despite my reservations, the thought of golden larches, alpine lakes, and granite peaks dusted in snow was too powerful to be ignored.

All I can say is the Enchantments blew me away. For the majority of the hike I was in complete awe and left at a loss for words. Every turn in the trail brought a new magical paradise. Nothing exemplified this like the view from Leprechaun Lake: a perfect reflection of golden larches and a snowy McClellan Peak painted on the lake’s still surface. To capture this image, I had to balance, crouching precariously, on the slippery rocks at the edge of lake. Even today, I am left with a perfect memory of that moment, framed in my mind.

I spend much of my time in the mountains and when I am not out in the wilderness I am home thinking about where to explore next. I keep heading back into the mountains for the adventure and challenge each new experience brings. I love our public lands and cherish the environment, as they are what fuel me. However, now more than ever, I fear for their preservation. It's up to us to fight for these special places.

Joshua Stern is a New York transplant who fell in love with the wild landscapes of the Pacific Northwest. He spends his time in the mountains climbing alpine rock, skiing backcountry powder, and backpacking while always searching for the perfect image. You can see more of his work and follow his adventures on Instagram @alpinenapping.


Gratitude for Harvest

By Mike Stevens, Washington State Director for The Nature Conservancy

Harvest season brings the bounty of earth and sea to our tables.

In the Pacific Northwest, we enjoy plentiful seafood, fruits and vegetables, grains and meats, even wine and beer that come from within a day’s drive.

Yet ancient Romans built roads to transport salt, grain and olive oil to the capital. Today we’d be hard-pressed to do without our coffee, tea, or chocolate here in the Northwest.

How can we work both locally and globally to ensure that natural systems that sustain our food supply—clean fresh water, a healthy living ocean, productive soil—will support the coming population of 9 billion? And how do we protect and restore wild places in the face of global demands for land and water?

In Washington, the Conservancy is collaborating with farmers around Puget Sound to preserve working farms and expand practices that produce clean water and healthy soils. We’re partnering with commercial fishermen and tribes on the coast to sustain fishing. We’re supporting statewide solutions to floods and droughts that threaten water for drinking, farms and fish.

Globally, the Conservancy is working with food growers, from large companies to local farmers, to keep soils healthy and water quality high. In Brazil we’re working with agricultural giant Cargill and with local farmers on practices to combat deforestation and protect the Amazon. In Kenya, we’re working with families who raise livestock to improve market access while protecting their lands and wildlife. Learn more at https://global.nature.org/content/the-next-agriculture-revolution-is-under-our-feet

The work we do to protect nature and our food supply is not possible without your support. In this season of gratitude, I am most thankful for your generous gifts. 

Learn more about our work


Nature on Your Table

Salmon from the Skagit River. Mushrooms gathered from the forest. A heritage turkey or pasture pork. Winter kale, acorn squash, ripe red apples and sweet golden pears.

Hungry yet?

You can set the table for a Thanksgiving feast with the yield from Washington’s farmers, fishermen, foragers and shellfish growers. This rich resource depends on nature—healthy land and air, and clean water in the right quantities at the right time.

“A teaspoon of soil has more than a billion organisms in it,” says Jack Toevs, who grows organic apples on his family farm near Quincy. “One of the big reasons I went organic was learning about the soil—it’s a living thing.” As a farmer, Toevs values clean water and healthy soil, and he works to protect the wild sagelands nearby. “Those wild lands are important as a reservoir for a diversity of flowers, of pollinators, of life.”

Bill Taylor likes oysters raw, fried, barbecued, sautéed, smoked—any way they can be prepared. He has a simple message: “You need clean water to have healthy shellfish that are safe to eat.” His great-grandfather started farming shellfish more than 120 years ago, and today Taylor Shellfish is a leading advocate for clean water and Puget Sound. “Ensuring that the rivers that flow into marine waters and the land around them are healthy is vital.”

Food producers like Taylor and Toevs, who serves on the Conservancy’s Washington Leadership Council, are vital partners as we work on innovative solutions to protect our lands and waters and assure strong resilient farms and abundant seafood. They understand the value of nature in protecting our food supply.


Exploring Ebey’s Landing with Members of Seattle’s Chinese Community

Photographed by Ling LV & Shengyuan Zhang

Xinying Zeng is on a mission to connect members of Seattle’s Chinese community with The Nature Conservancy both here and in China.

She recently partnered with community organization Chinese Meet Seattle to lead a hike at Ebey’s Landing on Whidbey Island, where the Conservancy owns the Robert Y. Pratt Preserve.

“The hike was great, with around 50 people joining,” Xinying reports. “They were appreciative of the trip and information our volunteers provided.”

The Conservancy has an active program in China, as well as a Mandarin-language web site.


Senate Capital Budget Eliminates Programs that Help Nature and People    Statement from Mike Stevens, Washington State Director for The Nature Conservancy Photograph by Bridget Besaw  
 OLYMPIA—The Nature Conservancy released the following statement from its Washington State Director, Mike Stevens, regarding today’s release of the State Senate’s proposed capital budget.
 
  “We are disappointed that the State Senate cut or eliminated so many programs in their proposed capital budget that would have benefited communities and people. Conservation of our state’s lands and waters not only protects wildlife and clean drinking water, but also helps protect our communities from the increasing fires, floods and droughts that our state is already experiencing.”
 
  “We are particularly troubled by the Senate’s proposal to eliminate the Floodplains by Design program, a multi-benefits approach to flood risk reduction, habitat protection and recreational access that helps protect communities against catastrophic flood events in a cost effective way. We have seen this innovative approach transform the way cities, counties and the state do business to the benefit of communities and taxpayers. With the House proposing increased funding in recognition of the program’s effectiveness, we respectfully suggest that the Senate has missed the mark by zeroing out this critical program.”
 
  “Additionally, the Senate’s proposal to remove all habitat projects from the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program would set our state back. Our state is attractive to businesses like Amazon and Boeing in part because of the great outdoors, protected in part through the Wildlife and Recreation Program. With Washington’s population exploding over the next decade, it is critical for us to invest early and often in our great outdoors to ensure that our kids and grandkids enjoy the same quality of life and access to the outdoors that we do.”
 
  “We are also concerned about the Senate’s deep cuts to clean water and salmon protection programs like the Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration Program and the Estuary and Salmon Restoration Program. Slowing the pace of restoration for our state’s waters could set us back.”
 
  “The Senate budget even reduces funding from the Washington Coastal Restoration Initiative from the Houses’ proposal of $8.2 million, a locally driven effort by a coalition of fishermen, local businesses, county commissioners and tribes to restore coastal forests and streams in a region with some of the highest unemployment in the state.”
 
  “We recognize that there were many difficult budget decisions to be made, but these cuts will cost our state more in both the short and long term. Our scientists and field staff in every corner of the state are witnessing the increased impacts of drought, wildfires and flooding on Washington communities, businesses and families. Stepping back from innovative, cost-effective natural solutions right now bodes poorly for our communities and economies. We urge elected leaders to take note and restore funding for these critical programs”

Senate Capital Budget Eliminates Programs that Help Nature and People

Statement from Mike Stevens, Washington State Director for The Nature Conservancy
Photograph by Bridget Besaw

OLYMPIA—The Nature Conservancy released the following statement from its Washington State Director, Mike Stevens, regarding today’s release of the State Senate’s proposed capital budget.

“We are disappointed that the State Senate cut or eliminated so many programs in their proposed capital budget that would have benefited communities and people. Conservation of our state’s lands and waters not only protects wildlife and clean drinking water, but also helps protect our communities from the increasing fires, floods and droughts that our state is already experiencing.”

“We are particularly troubled by the Senate’s proposal to eliminate the Floodplains by Design program, a multi-benefits approach to flood risk reduction, habitat protection and recreational access that helps protect communities against catastrophic flood events in a cost effective way. We have seen this innovative approach transform the way cities, counties and the state do business to the benefit of communities and taxpayers. With the House proposing increased funding in recognition of the program’s effectiveness, we respectfully suggest that the Senate has missed the mark by zeroing out this critical program.”

“Additionally, the Senate’s proposal to remove all habitat projects from the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program would set our state back. Our state is attractive to businesses like Amazon and Boeing in part because of the great outdoors, protected in part through the Wildlife and Recreation Program. With Washington’s population exploding over the next decade, it is critical for us to invest early and often in our great outdoors to ensure that our kids and grandkids enjoy the same quality of life and access to the outdoors that we do.”

“We are also concerned about the Senate’s deep cuts to clean water and salmon protection programs like the Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration Program and the Estuary and Salmon Restoration Program. Slowing the pace of restoration for our state’s waters could set us back.”

“The Senate budget even reduces funding from the Washington Coastal Restoration Initiative from the Houses’ proposal of $8.2 million, a locally driven effort by a coalition of fishermen, local businesses, county commissioners and tribes to restore coastal forests and streams in a region with some of the highest unemployment in the state.”

“We recognize that there were many difficult budget decisions to be made, but these cuts will cost our state more in both the short and long term. Our scientists and field staff in every corner of the state are witnessing the increased impacts of drought, wildfires and flooding on Washington communities, businesses and families. Stepping back from innovative, cost-effective natural solutions right now bodes poorly for our communities and economies. We urge elected leaders to take note and restore funding for these critical programs”

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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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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.”

Enamored By The Coast    By Wendy Marsh, Director of Donor Communication & Stewardship   The thing I love the most about tide pools is that they offer a window into the ocean by revealing the fascinating beauty below the surface. 
 Last week I visited Second Beach, an incredible wilderness coastline in Olympic National Park. The Quileute Needles—jagged, dagger-shaped rock formations—are visible jutting out of the sea. Cliffs line the shoreline and, during low tide, reveal shallow tide pools. I was excited about this trip since I was traveling with members of our conservation and science staff. They are intimately knowledgeable and passionate about our work; seeing nature through their eyes is an incredibly rich experience. 
 However, my enthusiasm for exploring the tide pools had turned to trepidation after our meeting with NOAA earlier that morning in Port Angeles. I had asked her if she had any insight into the tragically massive die-off of starfish along the Pacific coasts. 
 Starfish have always seemed indestructible to me; if they lose a leg, it grows back. If you cut one in half, it can regenerate itself into two more individual stars. 
 But now there is an alarming wasting illness spreading through the starfish population. Similar to a flesh-eating disease, it’s a gruesome way to die. White lesions on the starfish’s limbs appear. Then the tissue surrounding the lesion starts to decay. The body fragments and “melts”, basically turning to goo. 
 Scientists don’t know what’s causing the disease or its spread, though it’s also possible that the disease is a result of a virus. But they’re not ruling out ocean acidification, lower oxygen levels or warming waters. 
 Why does this matter? Despite the fact that starfish are fascinating creatures that come in a variety of colors and shapes, they are a “keystone species” – meaning that, like in any stone building, if you remove the keystone, things start to crumble. Other species depend on them. Their extinction would have an extraordinarily significant effect on the biodiversity of their community. 
 The next day we surveyed the forests and land along the Hoh River. Our work here in the Olympics revolves around restoring salmon. Salmon are another keystone species and a symbol for building support for the conservation of the coastal ecosystems of the Pacific Northwest. 
 For me, here was an example of how environmental changes on one area create a domino effect on other parts of related ecosystems – in this case, specifically between the Hoh River and the Pacific Ocean. 
 Salmon make the case since they are also an indicator species. Because their lifecycle takes them from mountain headwaters, to the ocean, and back again, they are a litmus test of sorts for the overall health of our region. When they are healthy, so are our soil, our water, and our food supply. So we need to behave like salmon and bring together forests, rivers, estuaries and the ocean. 
 Unfortunately, most of the pressing threats to our natural world are anthropogenic (caused by humans): over fishing, land clearing, runoff pollution, removal of old growth forest, urban runoff, water and sediment contamination with toxic substances. The cumulative impact of several stressors has reduced the resiliency of many ecosystems. But we can and are changing all that . 
 Just as the land and the sea meet at tide pools, TNC’s work is to help these natural assets adjust, adapt, and become resilient in the challenging changing of the tides every day. 
 I hope you’re a member – I can tell you first hand that there is nothing like the feeling that comes from creating change that is better for the environment and, therefore, ourselves.

Enamored By The Coast

By Wendy Marsh, Director of Donor Communication & Stewardship

The thing I love the most about tide pools is that they offer a window into the ocean by revealing the fascinating beauty below the surface.

Last week I visited Second Beach, an incredible wilderness coastline in Olympic National Park. The Quileute Needles—jagged, dagger-shaped rock formations—are visible jutting out of the sea. Cliffs line the shoreline and, during low tide, reveal shallow tide pools. I was excited about this trip since I was traveling with members of our conservation and science staff. They are intimately knowledgeable and passionate about our work; seeing nature through their eyes is an incredibly rich experience.

However, my enthusiasm for exploring the tide pools had turned to trepidation after our meeting with NOAA earlier that morning in Port Angeles. I had asked her if she had any insight into the tragically massive die-off of starfish along the Pacific coasts.

Starfish have always seemed indestructible to me; if they lose a leg, it grows back. If you cut one in half, it can regenerate itself into two more individual stars.

But now there is an alarming wasting illness spreading through the starfish population. Similar to a flesh-eating disease, it’s a gruesome way to die. White lesions on the starfish’s limbs appear. Then the tissue surrounding the lesion starts to decay. The body fragments and “melts”, basically turning to goo.

Scientists don’t know what’s causing the disease or its spread, though it’s also possible that the disease is a result of a virus. But they’re not ruling out ocean acidification, lower oxygen levels or warming waters.

Why does this matter? Despite the fact that starfish are fascinating creatures that come in a variety of colors and shapes, they are a “keystone species” – meaning that, like in any stone building, if you remove the keystone, things start to crumble. Other species depend on them. Their extinction would have an extraordinarily significant effect on the biodiversity of their community.

The next day we surveyed the forests and land along the Hoh River. Our work here in the Olympics revolves around restoring salmon. Salmon are another keystone species and a symbol for building support for the conservation of the coastal ecosystems of the Pacific Northwest.

For me, here was an example of how environmental changes on one area create a domino effect on other parts of related ecosystems – in this case, specifically between the Hoh River and the Pacific Ocean.

Salmon make the case since they are also an indicator species. Because their lifecycle takes them from mountain headwaters, to the ocean, and back again, they are a litmus test of sorts for the overall health of our region. When they are healthy, so are our soil, our water, and our food supply. So we need to behave like salmon and bring together forests, rivers, estuaries and the ocean.

Unfortunately, most of the pressing threats to our natural world are anthropogenic (caused by humans): over fishing, land clearing, runoff pollution, removal of old growth forest, urban runoff, water and sediment contamination with toxic substances. The cumulative impact of several stressors has reduced the resiliency of many ecosystems. But we can and are changing all that .

Just as the land and the sea meet at tide pools, TNC’s work is to help these natural assets adjust, adapt, and become resilient in the challenging changing of the tides every day.

I hope you’re a member – I can tell you first hand that there is nothing like the feeling that comes from creating change that is better for the environment and, therefore, ourselves.

CLAYOQUOT SOUND

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Written and Photographed By Washington State Director, Mike Stevens

Last week, I traveled with a group of staff and trustees to Clayoquot Sound to explore the area with our hosts and partners from the Ahousaht, Tla-o-qui-aht and Hesquiaht First Nations. 

On our last day, we spent the day touring the coast by boat. In the fjords, we watched black bears flipping rocks for crabs and we saw aboriginal rock carvings on cliffs. Once out to sea, as our boat rocked up and down in six-foot seas and navigated through rock islands, we watched a grey whale surface and then dive, otters and marbled murrelets foraging, and sea lions basking in the sun. 

In the midst of this abundance of life, native traditions, and wildness, I realized: this is the Emerald Edge. It was an inspiring and informative trip – and a reminder of the impact we are striving to achieve as we work with First Nations and support indigenous leadership and stewardship in Clayoquot Sound.