Winter Getaways

Written By Beth Geiger

Winter is here — time to warm up to some of Washington’s coolest adventures. Tromp through snowy forests, dodge salt spray as waves thunder onto a driftwood-strewn beach, and get your wild on as you watch soaring eagles and blizzards of snow geese.

Snow Nice

Snowshoe into the Central Cascades for a delightful adventure in the wintery magic of forests you’ve helped protect. The quiet blur of falling snow, the flick of a gray jay, the rich shadows of a winter afternoon. Forest Service rangers lead snowshoe hikes at Snoqualmie Pass, Stevens Pass and other locations, with snowshoes available. No experience needed, but advance reservations are required. National Park Service rangers also lead guided snowshoe hikes at Paradise on Mount Rainier.

The Mountaineers’ Meany Lodge, east of Snoqualmie Pass, is a fine, if rustic, overnight base for winter explorations. The lodge, located within the Conservancy’s 2014 purchase of 48,000 forest acres, is accessible by ski or sno-cat. In winter, the property features cross-country ski and snowshoe trails, a private downhill ski area and simple, dorm-style accommodations including group meals. 

A little sunshine more your thing? Head east to the Oak Creek Wildlife Area outside Yakima, where elk share that same sensibility. Each winter, these four-legged “snowbirds” migrate from the snowy Cascade Crest to the relative warmth of the pine-scented eastern slopes. About a dozen years ago, The Conservancy purchased a 10,000-acre swath of adjacent forest and donated it to the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife. The addition protected migration corridors between the elk's summer and winter grounds. You can ride along on the feed truck for a close look at elk (reservations recommended, contact the refuge).

Surf’s Up

Waves lash the Pacific coast with wild fury. Gulls screech and whirl overhead. The scene is dynamic, yet somehow calming. And yes, storm watching is a thing, especially on Washington’s fabled western edge. At La Push, near Forks, dodge salt spray at First Beach or hike to the stunning wilderness coast at Second Beach. Either destination provides wind-whipped immersion into winter’s wrath.

Poseidon also dishes up plenty of excitement at Cape Disappointment State Park, further south near Ilwaco, Even better, some spray here may not be from waves, but the spout of south-bound grey whales. Thousands are spotted from here every winter in late December through January.

Washington’s coastline is a diverse gem, where commercial fishing is balanced with scenic treasures. The Conservancy works with the Quileute and Quinault Nations to recover lost crab pots, fishing gear, and other debris. With your help, we are working to preserve this coast for the future, while recovering valuable fishing equipment.

Winter’s For the Birds

Nothing shouts “Puget Sound winter” quite like the din of ten thousand snow geese. Clouds of the big white birds gather in the Skagit delta from November to March, attracting devoted flocks of birdwatchers. At the Skagit Wildlife Area near Conway, see birds along a two mile walk, or from the viewing platform at Fir Island Farms Reserve. Here, the Conservancy has helped restore the estuary, and farmers plant a buffet of winter wheat for geese.

It’s a special thrill to spot even one bald eagle in the wild, much less dozens. The majestic white head and stern pose are evocative symbols of nature’s power and beauty. Each winter hundreds of bald eagles gather along the upper Skagit River near Rockport to feast on a buffet of returning salmon. Pack a thermos of hot tea and float the river on a raft for a truly moving scenic experience, or look for eagles from several road-side points along Highway 20. Eagles and salmon are part of a fascinating ecological cycle at the heart of the Skagit River ecosystem. The Conservancy has been working here for decades, preserving critical habitat for both eagles and salmon.

The First Signs of Fall

Written & photographed by Phill Green, Yellow Island Land Steward

At last, the frantic pace of summer is over. Once again the islands return to what they are known for, ISLAND TIME. You’ll find many locals in the San Juans expressing the same thoughts and breathing huge sighs of relief. One of the first things I notice is that sailboats are actually sailing. During much of the summer I watch countless sailboats of all sizes motor up and down San Juan Channel. But something about September brings out the true sailors.  

Every Labor Day weekend there is a wooden boat festival in Deer Harbor. A sailboat race around Yellow Island is one of the fun events I get to witness. The following photo is of the leaders passing Yellow this year.

September is also a month of beautiful light. From the colorful sunrises, to the midday fluffy clouds and deep blue water, to the spectacular sunsets, September can be a photographers dream.

September is also a special time for both plants and wildlife. With the return of the fall rains after a usually very dry summers, Yellow along with the other San Juan Islands starts greening up. The mosses and lichens that were bone dry all summer are taking on various hues of green while plants like licorice fern and yarrow are adding their own shades of green as they re-sprout.

In the area of the control burn done on August 28, plant life is already returning as buttercup re-sprouts and fescue starts showing new growth emerging from charred clumps.

In the above photo there is a small pile of crab shells mixed in with the buttercup. Areas of the island that are burned often have many such midden sites. But these are not native American middens; these are where mink have enjoyed a meal of fresh crab. 

The bird life is in transition too. A couple of the early fall arrivals include red-necked grebes and golden-crowned sparrows. Yellow-rumped warblers that nested here are actively foraging in groups of up to eight as they “beef-up” for their migration. Savannah sparrows stop in for the month before moving on. Harlequin ducks can be seen year round but late August, early September is when their numbers start to build and they are seen on a more regular basis. The transition on Yellow is from seeing more land based birds to more marine species. Species already gone until next spring include the rufous hummingbirds and various swallow species.

September weather has a noticeably fall feel to it; the days seems crisper, the breezes cooler, and the occasional rains makes everything seem fresher. I, for one, would enjoy September weather year round. 

Ending with a question: if you don’t know the location, would you be able to tell if a photo was a sunrise or sunset?

Hot Topic: Wildfires and Wildlife

With the onset of climate change and growing human populations, more people are severely impacted by wildfires. But humans aren’t alone in losing their homes to wildfires—animals are also at risk.

Join our forest ecologist Ryan Haugo along with other wildlife and fire experts for a conversation about Washington’s increasingly hot landscape and the animals within struggling to survive.

Tuesday, Oct. 4
Naked City Brewery
8564 Greenwood Ave. N.
7 p.m.

Note this is a 21 and over event. 

Panelists include:

·        Paul Hessburg, Research Landscape Ecologist, USDA-Forest Service

·        Ryan Haugo, Senior Forest Ecologist, The Nature Conservancy

·        Jim Watson, Wildlife Research Scientist, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

Moderated by Fred Koontz, Vice President of Field Conservation, Woodland Park Zoo


Space is limited! Click here to register. 

Collaboration Works for Forest Restoration

Written by Lloyd McGee, Eastern Washington Forests Program Manager

Stewardship project launched in the Colville National Forest. 

Last week we celebrated with Congresswoman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers to kick off an innovative forest stewardship project in the Colville National Forest. This first of its kind stewardship partnership between a national forest and a private company is a pilot aimed at restoring the 54,000-acre Mill Creek watershed—a beloved area near Colville that’s been well-used by people for a century. 

Vaagen Brothers Lumber (VBL) will carry out forest treatments on more than 17,500 acres of this landscape. By removing smaller trees and leaving the big ones, this project will reduce the threat of wildfire while at the same time supporting local jobs, as small-diameter timber is harvested and processed by Vaagen Brothers.

But it’s not just harvest—these are complete forest restoration projects that include forest thinning and controlled burning to reduce forest fuels, restore streams and riparian zones, repair roads and close some roads harmful to fisheries and water quality, and restore wildlife habitat. No old growth trees will be cut.

Congresswoman McMorris-Rodgers has been instrumental in laying the groundwork for this project, working with stakeholders and the Forest Service to develop this public-private approach that enables the private sector to fund the presale environmental requirements, carried out here by Cramer Fish Sciences.

This approach was developed by the Northeast Washington Forestry Coalition, or NEWFC, of which The Nature Conservancy is a member. NEWFC is an alliance of timber companies, conservationists, business owners, tribes and forest professionals.

Work on the A to Z began last week after an onsite ceremony Aug. 12 with Congresswoman McMorris-Rodgers, VBL President Duane Vaagen, VBL Vice-President Russ Vaagen, VBL Resource Manager Josh Anderson, Lloyd McGee from the Conservancy and NEWFC, NEWFC Executive Director Gloria Flora, Stevens County Commissioner Steve Parker, Colville National Forest Supervisor Rodney Smolden and other local community members. Sen. Maria Cantwell has also supported this project. She was unable to attend the Aug. 12 ceremony, but visited the area the day before and met with stakeholders.


Learn About Our Forestry Work


Forest Restoration Spotlight

Photographed by Chris Crisman

Restoring our forests, streams and all the habitat in between.

Our work making Washington’s forests and streams healthier is spotlighted in two vastly different landscapes – the temperate coastal rainforest of Ellsworth Creek, and the dry ponderosa forests of the Central Cascades.

These two stories highlight the restoration work taking place on the ground, as well as paint a picture of the long term vision for these very special places.

From the Chinook Observer, a beautiful story that captures the breadth and depth of the work we’re doing in Ellsworth Creek. Link below. 

Chinook Observer - Towering Titans: Nature Conservancy Restoration Breathes Life Into Forest Stream

And a front page spread on the Yakima Herald that showcases our work with the Yakama Nation on the North Fork Taneum Creek. Link below.

Yakima-Herald: Creek Restoration Vital to a Healthy Forest.

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.



Search Party for Pygmy Rabbits

Written & Photographed by Lauren Miheli, Volunteer Coordinator and Anna Snook, Volunteer Photographer

A hike in Washington’s sage brush country will reveal plant, animal, and bird populations distinct from those on the West Side of the state. On a typical day one would be lucky to see mule deer, badgers, meadow larks, mourning doves, small horned lizards and a great many other small mammals, birds and reptiles. Ideally if you saw a rattle snake it would be from a distance. Something you most likely wouldn’t encounter would be a Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit. Although native to this region, the pygmy rabbit is in danger of becoming extinct. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has been working on a project to breed these rabbits in semi-captivity and reintroduce populations back into the wild, including on our Beezley Hills Preserve. Bringing a species back from the brink of extinction is challenging work. There is no manual on how it’s done. Wildlife biologists, using their knowledge of the rabbit’s behavior, funding from the federal government, and a lot of intuition, utilize a trial and error approach to breeding and reintroducing them to their native sage brush habitat in central Washington. 

In order to determine if any rabbits released have successfully survived in the wild, Jon Gallie and Shea Gibbs of WDFW invited a crew of about 30 Nature Conservancy volunteers to traverse the land near the release sites and look for signs of pygmy rabbits: burrow holes and scat. Volunteers split into groups of 4, with each group led by a member of WDFW’s staff armed with a GPS unit and collection tools. Each volunteer covered about 7 miles each day, traversing back and forth, and up and down hills, throughout sage brush.

While searching for signs of Pygmy Rabbits I was struck at how familiar I became with signs of other desert species – badger and coyote dens, snake holes, mouse holes, cottontail rabbit scat, prints and scat from deer, coyotes, and the feral horses that were grazing in the area. Upon first site a badger den filled me with excitement. After the 5th or 6th one I became jaded. Throughout two days of hiking and covering sage brush land that could once have been home to dozens of Pygmy Rabbits, with all of the volunteers intently searching on those two days, only one burrow with fresh scat was located.  So this is what it feels like to look for an endangered species - searching and searching, and not finding what you’re looking for. We collected valuable data that the biologists will use to improve their strategy, but we were disappointed that we did not find more signs of pygmy rabbits. Two days of hiking for nearly 6 hours straight and the absence of signs of Pygmy Rabbits was felt in our collective psyches. The lack of discoveries does not mean that Pygmy Rabbit recovery is hopeless. Aside from the literal silver lining (partial cloud cover on both days cooled us down and made the typically unbearable eastern Washington heat a non-issue) the one burrow that we did find gives the project managers something to be excited about. Previous surveys of the area revealed no burrows at all. Samples of the scat were collected that will be sent to the lab at the Oregon Zoo, where DNA from all captive-bred rabbits is kept on record, and we will learn when the rabbit that left the evidence was released, how long it has survived in the wild, and if we’re really lucky we will find out that it has DNA that has not yet been recorded - which would indicate that it was wild born.

The biologists at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife are doing amazing work, and are highly dedicated to their task of bringing this species back to healthy population numbers. I believe they are up to the challenge, and I hope that we can continue to improve our land management and conservation practices, so that other species are not pushed this far in the future.


Thinning for Resiliency

Written & Photographed by Zoe van Duivenbode, Marketing Intern

I recently drove to one of our central cascade properties to meet with field forester, Brian Mize, to learn more about how we plan to manage and restore our forests. Prior to my visit, I was unfamiliar with logging as a tool for restoration and was eager to find out how removing certain stands of trees can actually benefit the forest by improving health, increasing fire resiliency and creating habitat for wildlife.

Over the last decade, fire suppression has been a high priority among land managers and owners in hopes to protect property and habitat. However, this push away from fire has slowly changed the landscape of our native forests, allowing for certain species to thrive where they typically would not and creating denser tree stands.  This shift creates a problem for land managers and nearby communities because it increases the risk and severity of forest fires. Certain trees, like grand fir, are more vulnerable to forest fires and have become more common among tree stands in central cascade forests. Also, forests with high density stands forces trees to compete with each other for resources, increases the amount fuels for fires and reduces habitat suitability for wildlife.

The Nature Conservancy plans to apply restoration thinning techniques on select units of our central cascade properties to create a more historic and variable forest structure which will benefit communities, wildlife and nature. On July 9th, TNC is inviting the public to one of our central cascade properties to see our restoration first hand and learn more about the benefits of restoration thinning. Our field forester will share more about the science behind thinning,  and will answer any questions about our restoration work.

Join us for  Forestry Day and see our work! 

Learn more about our Central Cascade Preserves

Changing Our Forests from Top to Bottom

Written & Photographed by Zoe van Duivenbode, Marketing Intern

From bumpy off-roading trails and peaceful stream to exciting wildlife views and forestry education, our trip to The Nature Conservancy’s Manastash-Taneum preserve was nothing short of an adventure. Earlier this week, a group of TNC staff traveled to Cle Elum to learn more about the complex challenges centered around eastern cascade forests, headwaters and communities. This regions checkerboard like landscape, in terms of ownership and management, is slowly transforming into a more unified region for public access and conservation. Under the Tapash Sustainable Forest Collaborative, TNC is partnered with private, state and tribal groups to ensure that these forested lands can be enjoyed by the public and also preserved for wildlife. 

Our tour began with a panoramic view that overlooked valleys of densely forested hills with residential communities, Cle Elum Ridge and lake Cle Elum seen in the distance. This viewpoint painted the perfect portrait of some of the challenges TNC faces when planning for restoration and resiliency. Below we could see urban areas vulnerable to forest fires, critical habitat for endangered and threatened fish and wildlife and recreational trails for mountain bikes and off-road vehicles. Our Senior Forest Ecologist, Ryan Haugo, spoke about his plan to manage these lands in a way that positively benefits to both nature and people through large landscape restoration.

While driving through the preserve, we passed through areas that were previously effected by a moderate forest fire a few seasons ago. This burned region provided a great example of the difference between healthy and unhealthy forest fires. As we traveled higher in evaluation, we were lucky to spot four adolescent elk roaming in the woods! We stopped to take photos and watch them dash across the dirt road in front of us. After enjoying a nice lunch along a stream, we continued on and drove beside the riparian forest which lead us to open grass meadows. On our last stop of the tour, we hiked down to a river bed where Emily Howe, Aquatic Ecologist, bravely picked up a large crawdad to assess if it was native or non-native to this region. After a long day spent exploring the forests, riverbeds, and scenic views of TNC’s central cascade preserve, I found myself already planning the next time I can come back.

Interested in visiting preserves like this? Check out our upcoming event to Lake Cle Elum!

Black Bears Roam at Ellsworth Creek

Written & Photographed by Kyle Smith, Field Forester

Late Spring at The Nature Conservancy’s Ellsworth Creek Preserve in Southwest Washington is a magical place for wildlife viewing.  Spring rains bring out amphibians in huge numbers such as the tailed frog, ruffed skinned newts, Columbia torrent salamander, pacific giant salamander. In fact, a survey conducted by the Washington Natural Heritage Program and TNC scientists found that Ellsworth Creek had on of the highest populations of amphibians in Washington State. Amphibians aren’t the only things that roam the misty forest floors in Ellsworth Creek. 

Black bears come out of their winter torpor to forage on grasses, berries and the fresh sapwood of actively growing trees. Southwest Washington and in particular Ellsworth Creek have some of the largest numbers of black bears in the lower 48.  We were lucky to come across these beautiful black bears at the preserve recently!

The huge old growth forests of Ellsworth Creek offer excellent denning sites and the productive soils and over eight feet of annual prescription grow huge thickets of huckleberries, salmon berries and salal berries that bears plump up on all summer long. High among the forested trees tops a small robin sized bird called the marbled murrelet flies in at over 60 mph to nest up in the old growth canopy with in the Ellsworth Creek. These small robin sized birds rare birds spend most of their life at sea but in late spring and early summer they can be seen flying in over Ellsworth Creek to use the large old growth tree branches to nest and raise their young before returning to the sea in late summer.  Just off to the west looking down on to Willapa Bay, tens of thousands of dunlins and sandpipers swarm to Willapa Bays pristine waters to feed upon invertebrates with in the mudflats of the Bay.

Finding Tracks in the Central Cascades

Photographed by Brian Mize, Field Forester; Lara Gricar, Central Cascades Community Coordinator

Our Central Cascades forest team was lucky enough to see bear tracks on our land! The tracks were on our land on the South Cle Elum Ridge. It is likely the bear recently awoke from a winter of slumber! See the photos in the slideshow above!

Learn more about our work in forests.


Written and Photographed by David Ryan, Field Forester, Willapa Bay

We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.
— Aldo Leopold (1887-1948). A Sand County Almanac: With essays on conservation from the Round River.

I will start off by saying that A Sand County Almanac changed my life.  It is packed with quotably profound thoughts and ideas on every page.  I could have chosen a hundred (or more) different quotes to riff on.  Leopold is astute, prescient, and an excellent writer.  If you haven’t already done so, get this book, read it, then read it again, and encourage your friends and family to read it.  If you did nothing else with rest of your life but read this book, you would be better off for it. 

   Leopold does not seem to espouse the utilitarian vision of natural resource management that Gifford Pinchot did.  Neither does he reject pragmatic uses of natural resources.  Use of the land is appropriate, as long as that use comes from a place of respect rather than dominance.  The belief in dominance over a landscape is delusional.  As human beings we may seemingly be able to impose our will on the land, but if that mindset leads to arrogance and abuse in our treatment then we as a community will suffer for our hubris.  The term “land ethic” as expounded on by Aldo Leopold involved the recognition of, and respect for, the communities of which we are part.  The dominant feature of any community is the land base and its interconnected parts.  We must learn to balance our roles within that web.  This is not a new idea and was one fostered by many cultures throughout history.  Leopold managed to adroitly articulate this concept and carry it forward to a wider audience.

   Ellsworth Creek Preserve is my best chance to manifest the ideals espoused by Aldo Leopold on a significant scale.  As a forester I am, by definition, a steward of the land.  And, as a forester, my impact on this planet is quantifiable.  The metrics vary; board feet, basal area, dollars, canopy cover, crown ratio, trees per acre, rings per inch, species composition, and miles of road are among a long list of the units we track.  Some units denote commodities for human use while others are biological/ecological traits that we must understand in order to be an effective steward.  All of these metrics ultimately measure an impact on acres of land and the communities surrounding that land.

   One may think of those metrics as the language of the land spoken in terms understandable to human beings.  The ability to measure and comprehend those ecologic parameters is an important part of showing our love and respect; and balancing our role in the community.  Just as when visiting a foreign country where English is not spoken, the local people often appreciate it if we make the effort to understand the basics and try to converse with them in their language.  It is indicative of a respect for the indigenous cultures and our travels are often much better for the occasional discomfort or embarrassment as we reach out with an earnest desire to learn.

   One key way I try to be a part of the community and treat it with love and respect is by learning the language, thereby learning the properties, the needs, and how to better care for that landscape.  Ultimately, rather than making the forest work for me, I try to work for the forest. 

Next: Chief Seattle.

Washington’s Wild Future

Guest blog by Washington Fish and Wildlife Director Jim Unsworth

Written by Jim Unsworth, Director, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
Photograph by Bridget Besaw

Nature is why many of us choose to live here in the Pacific Northwest.

Whether you are an angler, a hunter, a hiker, a photographer, a camper, or just take solace in our native species and habitat, we all deeply value our lands, waters, fish and wildlife.

As Director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, I have a humbling responsibility. The mission of our agency is to preserve, protect and perpetuate fish, wildlife and ecosystems while providing sustainable fish and wildlife recreational and commercial opportunities.

Today as we face challenges ranging from a warming planet and wildfires to screen addiction and couch potato syndrome, this mission is more critical than ever.

That’s why we need your help.

Since I joined WDFW in January 2015, I have been asking people, “If you could tell the director of Fish and Wildlife one thing, what would you say?” Well now is the time for people all across the state to do just that. I want to hear about what we are doing right, where we need to improve, and where we should concentrate our efforts and our funding over the next five to 10 to 20 years.

This is the focus of our new multi-year initiative, Washington’s Wild Future: A Partnership for Fish and Wildlife.

We are embarking on this effort to strengthen the department’s relationships with communities, increase support for conservation and outdoor recreation, and help ensure WDFW programs and services meet the public’s needs.

The comments and proposals we receive – in public meetingsonline, and via social media – will help determine priorities for conserving and managing Washington’s fish and wildlife in the coming years.


The meetings are scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. at the following dates and locations: 

Sept. 30 – Center Place, 2426 N. Discovery Place, Spokane Valley. 

Oct. 6 – WDFW Mill Creek Office, 16018 Mill Creek Blvd, Mill Creek. 

Oct. 8 – Saint Martin’s University, Norman Worthington Conference Center, 5300 Pacific Ave. SE, Lacey. 

Oct. 14 – Water Resources Education Center, 4600 SE Columbia Way, Vancouver. 

Oct. 20 – Port of Chelan County Confluence Technology Center, 285 Technology Center Way, Wenatchee.

We will summarize the comments and suggestions from the public, as well as input from outdoor organizations and the department’s advisory groups, later this year (2015). That information will be used to help identify potential changes in WDFW’s operations and services, and to develop future policy, budget and fee proposals. We face major management challenges over the next several years, and for us to be successful we need the public’s support and assistance.

That’s what this initiative is all about – listening and working with you to build a stronger and more effective Fish and Wildlife.

Partners, Transformation, Salmon

Connecting with the community on the Olympic Peninsula

Written and Photographed By Byron Bishop, Board of Trustees Chair, The Nature Conservancy in Washington

There is no substitute for hands-on experience. As the incoming board chair for The Nature Conservancy in Washington I hear an awful lot and talk an awful lot about the environmental challenges our state is facing and the ways in which this organization is tackling them. But a recent trip to the Olympic Peninsula gave me an up-close view of the issues, allowed me to meet vital partners and inspired me to work even harder to build success for people and nature in this critical region.

I was privileged to spend time with leadership from both the Makah Tribe and the Quinault Indian Nation. Each of them is uniquely connected to the lands and waters of the region, and each plays a big role in assuring the health of forests, rivers, coast, and ocean. We greatly value our partnerships with the Makah and Quinault, which are built on shared values and goals. For example, one area of mutual concern is the threat of an oil spill. I toured the only oil skimmer at Neah Bay and learned that there is no capability for handling a large spill. Together we are working to diminish the risk of spills and increase our ability to respond, preventing environmental devastation. After productive meetings with each tribe, we look forward to deeper partnerships.

The region is part of a larger system along the Emerald Edge from Washington through British Columbia and up to Alaska. On this trip I learned more about the strategy of transforming forest practices across this region. In each area there is a different primary tactic: In Washington we will use changing ownership structures. In British Columbia, it is about changing how tenure works and empowering First Nations. In Alaska, we must transition industry from old growth to second growth. With a high level vision of transformation, we have the versatility to create the most powerful solutions for each area.

No trip to the region is complete without talking salmon. The iconic fish thrives where there are healthy forests and rivers, so their well-being is a very good indicator of how the system is doing. I witnessed several positive signs: Along Hurst Creek, a tributary of the Clearwater on Conservancy property, I saw engineered log jams that will be added to the creek to create spawning habitat. Along the Clearwater, a recent Conservancy acquisition, I saw property that has great potential to become prime spawning habitat, with your support. Our work to increase salmon productivity in places where salmon once flourished is an important piece of a much larger plan, and satisfying to witness first-hand.

Every trip on behalf of The Nature Conservancy leaves me inspired, and convinced we are making a large and positive impact on our state. This trip reminded me of the complexity of dealing with multi-faceted issues in a wild and treasured place.

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.