washington

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.


A Path Forward on Carbon

Written By Mo McBroom, Government Relations Director for The Nature Conservancy Washington Chapter. Photographed by John Marshall

The people of Washington want to act on climate

Washington voters overwhelmingly understand that climate change is affecting us now and want our state to take action to reduce the carbon pollution that causes climate change.

A post-election poll commissioned by The Nature Conservancy and partners found that four-in-five voters think climate change is happening; more than three-in-five attribute it primarily to human activities; and a consistent one-half of Washington voters think climate change will cause them at least moderate personal harm.

Read a Seattle Times op-ed by the Conservancy’s Washington State Director Mike Stevens, and Brenna Davis, chair of Washington Business for Climate Action.

Although Initiative 732 did not pass, Washington voters clearly have an appetite for state-level action to address carbon pollution. Over two-thirds of Washington voters support climate action at the state level – nearly half “strongly support” it.

We must come together to craft smart climate policy that protects our natural resources and works for all of Washington.

Even those who opposed I-732 still want the state to take action on climate. In response to a direct question about I-732, 38 percent characterized the measure as an important step forward in fighting climate change; while nearly three in ten said it was too flawed – but that they support action on climate change. Taken together, this demonstrates the broad appeal of state-level climate action, despite the results of the I-732 vote.

Washington voters also agreed that they want revenue generated by any carbon-pricing measure to be spent on protecting our natural resources like clean water and healthy forests, to help mitigate the impacts of climate change.

The survey showed that 73 percent of voters thought it was either Extremely or Very Important to prevent pollution of rivers, lakes and streams, including Puget Sound. And 56 percent said it was Extremely or Very Important to restore forest health to reduce wildfires.

The poll was conducted by the bipartisan polling team of FM3 Research (D) and Moore Information (R). They interviewed Washington voters who participated in the November 2016 election to examine their perceptions of I-732 and appetite for future state action on climate change.

So where do we go from here?

The Nature Conservancy is committed to working with every community in Washington that wants to take action on climate change. We will continue our efforts to craft and champion smart carbon policy with a wide and varied coalition of voices, including business interests, health, social justice, labor, faith and environmental groups.

By developing a comprehensive and broadly supportive climate policy, Washington can lead the nation, protect our natural environment and our way of life, and create a prosperous economy for our businesses and our families.

We define success as a carbon-pricing policy that significantly drives down emissions over time and invests in clean energy and natural infrastructure to prepare our communities for the future.


Volunteer Photographer Spotlight

Our volunteers help support our mission in many ways. From pulling invasive plants, to overnight camping clean up trips, to sharing our message at local farmers markets and events, our volunteers are doing their part to help protect the places they love most in Washington. A very important way for us to inspire people to get involved in conservation is through stunning photos of nature. Our talented volunteer photographers make our work and our preserves shine!  They are an amazing group of people who are willing to drive all over the state to document our work so we are able to share it with the public right here on our blog, on social media, in The Nature Conservancy magazine, and much more!

Each photographer has played an important role in highlighting our work, so now its our chance to showcase theirs! Check out some of our favorite photos from each photographer in the gallery below! 


Hannah Letinich

Hannah is our Lead Volunteer Photographer. On top of taking on the majority of our volunteer photo assignments, Hannah has developed training guidelines and coordinates the efforts of the Volunteer Photography team, making sure each assignment is paired with the photographer with the right specialty. When she’s not volunteering with us she volunteers with other environmental groups and is an avid kayaker!


Anna Snook

Anna recently moved to Washington from Oregon and has been busy traveling Washington and getting to know our state through her photo assignments. She’s willing to wake up at the crack of dawn or stay up into the late night to get great lighting.


Milo Zorzino

Milo is one of our more active volunteer photographers, he documents volunteer events all over the state, and is also willing to put down his camera and get his hands dirty when we need a little more help with the heavy lifting.


AJ Dent

Before leaving Washington to move to sunny California, AJ was an active member of our volunteer photography team and traveled all over the state to shoot our events.


Cameron Karsten

Cameron was one of our first official volunteer photographers, and has been volunteering with us since 2014. He has traveled all over the world as a photographer, and has done work for TNC in both Washington and in Haiti.


Jacob Hall

Jacob has traveled all over the Puget Sound region this year photographing major conservation projects for us. On top of having a passion for photography and using that talent to support our work, Jacob graduated this spring from Washington State University with a degree in Bio-Engineering.


Marissa Singleton          

Marissa has been volunteering for us for just a few months, and in that time she’s taken on projects photographing special events and conservation leaders in the community. She specializes in landscape, abstract, and macrophotography.


Interested in becoming a volunteer photographer? Learn more here 

Wildfire Smoke from Space

Graphics by Erica Simek Sloniker, Conservation Information Manager

These Washington wildfires are now the largest in state’s history. Check out these NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration maps that capture the past week in smoke from space in the slideshow above, then explore Washington State University’s smoke projection mapping tool!
 

The Shape of Our Forests - A Geology Walk

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A glimpse into the fascinating past of Washington Forests

Written by Erica Simek Sloniker, Conservation Information Manager
Photographed by Tomas Corsini, Northwest Photographer

Big data is all buzz in the news today, but what exactly is it?

Big data is a broad term used for data sets so large or complex that is difficult to process using traditional techniques. Geologic time is a lot like big data. The Earth’s history starts 4.5 billion years ago, but what does that really mean to our lives today? With a history so vast, how can we begin to comprehend our place in time?

I gave a geology talk to Nature Conservancy staff at a staff field trip on our newly acquired forest preserve in Central Washington, near Cle Elum. Surrounded by the Cascade mountains, the Stuart Range within the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, and on the western edge of the Columbia Pleateau, I attempted to help staff better understand Washington’s geologic history within the vast context of geologic time.

“I need 6 volunteers”, I told the group. Six people walked forward to help hold a 4.5 meter (about 15 feet) string that, when stretched out, marked a few of earth’s major geologic milestones. Each meter on the string represented 1 billion years, each millimeter 1 million years.

Washington is known for its beautiful mountain peaks, meandering coastlines, and its arid landscapes. Due to geologic forces, the Washington we know today gives us a glimpse into its fascinating and complex geologic past. The oldest rocks in Washington are dated to be around 1 billion years old. Just west of present day Spokane and Pullman, the ancient coastline of North America once boasted an abundance of life. Volcanic island arcs from far off places, collided and welded themselves to our ancient coastline, slowly adding more land mass to our state.

It wasn’t until 55 million years ago, that the Pacific Northwest had begun to approximate its present geographic configuration. Since this time, volcanic events dominated northwest geologic history including the building of the Cascade mountain range and fissuring that caused the Columbia River lava flows. More recently, 2 million years ago, a large ice sheet covered the northern portion of our state carving out deep basins like the Puget Sound and depositing vast amounts of sediment. In eastern Washington, just 15,000 years ago, enormous floods from melting ice, holding the water capacity similar of Lake Erie and Ontario, repeatedly thundered across the landscape from the Columbia Plateau to the Pacific Ocean.

“Everyone, take a look at the present day on the geologic time string”, I said. A billion years, Washington’s early beginnings, is less than 1/5th of this string. The early beginning of human kind is only a thumbnail long. Our species, homo sapians, around for just 200,000 years, is but a tiny fraction of a millimeter, unrecognizable to us on this long string.

Our lives in the present day are just a spec in geologic time, yet our actions are vital to the future condition of the ancient landscape around us and all of us who depend on it. A million years goes by fast. What will our legacy be?

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!

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”

Three New Trustees Join Washington Board    Order of Portraits (L to R): Kathleen Hebert, Mary Marshall, Kate Janeway   We are thrilled to announce three new trustees have joined our state board.  Kathleen Hebert, Seattle, former vice president of Software Divisions at Microsoft, has focused on early learning initiatives since she left the company where she worked from 1988 to 2003.   Read more about Kathleen.   Mary Marshall, Seattle, is an experienced CEO, small-business coach and trainer currently serving as the president of CEO Global Network Western United States, an executive peer-group networking organization.    Read more about Mary.   Kate Janeway, Seattle, is an executive coach and trainer with long history with The Nature Conservancy. She was the Washington chapter’s assistant director in the 1980s, and has also served on the board for the Alaska chapter.   Read more about Kate.

Three New Trustees Join Washington Board

Order of Portraits (L to R): Kathleen Hebert, Mary Marshall, Kate Janeway

We are thrilled to announce three new trustees have joined our state board.

Kathleen Hebert, Seattle, former vice president of Software Divisions at Microsoft, has focused on early learning initiatives since she left the company where she worked from 1988 to 2003.

Read more about Kathleen.

Mary Marshall, Seattle, is an experienced CEO, small-business coach and trainer currently serving as the president of CEO Global Network Western United States, an executive peer-group networking organization.

Read more about Mary.

Kate Janeway, Seattle, is an executive coach and trainer with long history with The Nature Conservancy. She was the Washington chapter’s assistant director in the 1980s, and has also served on the board for the Alaska chapter.

Read more about Kate.

Capturing the beauty of Washington’s Olympic Coast

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Story and Photography by Andy Porter

Washington boasts some of the most pristine and untouched coastline anywhere in the lower 48. I normally associate wilderness with the mountains or desert southwest, but here, in Olympic National Park, the beaches are sublime.

Wide sand beaches separated by jagged headlands that cutoff small sections, sea stacks jutting out of the ocean just off shore, forests of driftwood thrown up like matchsticks along the beach, there all make for a fantastic place to hike and camp.

My favorite stretch of Washington coastline is called Point of the Arches. Here you can camp along the water’s edge, and soak in all the air and surf you like. I plan my trips here based on the weather forecast. I have spent many nights here in the cold rain and now have become more of a fair weather visitor. Last week was one of those golden windows, a three day forecast for warmer temps and sun…and in February!

I made my way out to the Olympic Peninsula and finally down to my favorite spot, right in front of the sea stacks and tide pools. Capturing images seaside demands a good amount of luck. The light mid-day is harsh and unforgiving. For this reason I almost never do any day hiking, but rather make the trek in with all that I need to spend a night or 3 and bask in all the glory of wilderness and sea.

I was lucky again. The afternoon shadows lengthened and the light came alive. The glow of the fading sun lit up the rocks and sand.

As the golden hour progressed the colors became more magical. Things could not be better! Late night brought stars and the glow of ships and nearby settlements.

The following morning the sunrise crept up, and then pounced on the shore. The soft colors, like a pastel artist’s image, are so smooth… Luckily I was ready and able to capture a few images before the sun crested the horizon.  

Most of my images were captured with a 14mm lens. I also carry a 24-105mm lens, but love the detail and depth of field from the wide angle lens. Make sure to bring a few memory cards, you’ll need them!

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

Did you know? In the late 1970s, Portland heiress and sculptor Marie Louise Feldenheimer wrote a $500,000 check to enable The Nature Conservancy to buy Point of Arches, on the Olympic Coast. When the Conservancy sold the property to the Olympic National Park, the proceeds helped to establish the Land Preservation Fund, a Conservancy revolving fund for acquisitions around the world.

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Cle Elum Open House

By Stephanie Burgart, Contracts and Conservation Program Coordinator
Photographs by Tom Bugert & Benj Drummond/LightHawk

“Over here there’s still room,” he commented.

The gentleman, part of a crowd in the large hall of the Cle Elum Putnam Centennial Senior Center, was sharing his reasons for why the lands of the Eastern Cascades are important to his family. They live on the West side of the Cascades, where cities and suburbs encroach more and more on recreational land areas. His comment, and the many others like it, point to a love of outdoor activities in any capacity, and room to enjoy them.

His comment was just one of many shared at the first of three community open houses focused on The Nature Conservancy’s purchase of forestland in the Central Cascades.

Off road vehicle users are a huge interest group in places like Cle Elum, Roslyn, and Ronald. ATVs, side by sides, snowmobiles, street legal bikes, and more take thousands of people into the Cascades every year. Folks who love this form of recreation were active participants in the meeting.

Others spoke of how the local economies benefit from tourists coming to enjoy the backyards of these towns. For others, the best use of the land is for nature – wildlife habitat, forest restoration and untouched wilderness.

Since purchasing 47,921 acres of land from Plum Creek along the I-90 corridor, TNC has engaged interest groups of the surrounding communities in conversations about why this land is a treasure to those who live and play in the area. The open house, the first in a series of three, continued these talks with members of the general public.

Everyone echoed the desire for healthy forests, wildfire protection, water quality and quantity, and recreational use of the land. Maps were drawn on, post it notes stuck up, and comments recorded. It was heartening to see so many people gathered because of a shared and deep love of this place. Those who made it to this event added important pieces to the conversation, and in the next two open houses, there’s still room.

Related Blog Posts

Community engagement critical to conservation

Central Cascades Project Details

Forests for Our Future

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Enjoying & Protecting the Sea

Story and Photography by Molly Bogeberg, Marc Hershman Marine Policy Fellow

Much of our time as a marine team is spent traveling the coast to meet stakeholders in their communities. Right now, we are working with local shellfish growers, fishermen and citizens who care about their coast in Pacific and Grays Harbor Counties. We are finding that their goals for the coast are not so different than our own; to promote the protection of marine habitats, species, and resources.

We are assisting Pacific County and Grays Harbor to become the first counties in Washington to establish environmental designations in the marine waters to ensure no net loss of their ecological functions through the Shoreline Master Program (SMP). Updates to local SMPs allow counties to create policies and regulations within their shoreline jurisdiction. These two counties are highly dependent on healthy marine ecosystems and we are working together to make sure that these systems remain intact for the generations to come

In between meetings on the coast, Kara Cardinal (our Marine Projects Manager) and I, take some time to explore. On our last trip, we woke up early to catch a low tide at Bottle Beach State Park in Grays Harbor. On the beach we found clam shells and a field of the invasive dwarf eelgrass, Zostera japonica. Dwarf eelgrass likely has negative effects on shellfish growing areas and mudflats and is one invasive species that will be addressed in the SMP update. We had just enough time to enjoy the beach before it started to pour.

On our run back to the car we got sopping wet and had to go to our next meeting a little soggy- but it was worth it!