Monday, September 19, 2016

Supporting the Pacific Northwest Environment: Volunteer!

With explosive growth in the Pacific Northwestespecially in Seattle and Portlandmore and more people are adding to the stresses on our rich and complex natural environment. How about pitching in to help keep this place beautiful and restore damaged habitats?

Recently a group I'm involved with spent part of a day volunteering with the Nature Conservancy at one of their sites in the Puget Sound region.  (One of the cool things about helping out the Nature Conservancy is that their sites are often scenic and rarely open to the public. Hence, no crowds.)

On a breezy Sunday morning, about 10 of us, an eclectic collection of Zen Buddhists, a retired teacher, father and son duck hunters, conservation biologists, and more, met up near Camano Island and carpooled to a private property to access the Livingston Bay Pocket Estuary site on Camano. Our goal for the day:  pull invasive Scotch broom, which changes the chemical composition of soil and crowds out native plants.

Our Nature Conservancy coordinater for the event, Lauren Mihel, gathered us in a circle for introductions before heading down through the woods to the beach.

"What's your name and what are you excited about for fall?" she asked as an ice breaker. Our responses varied from "making soup again", "fall colors," "cooler weather and rain," and mine: "hiking to see the golden larches." Then we headed down to the estuary with tools for uprooting the Scotch broom and big plastic bags for picking up trash.

We spent a few hours uprooting most of the Scotch broom we could spot, and some of us walked the beach looking for trash.  

On the outside of the pocket estuary, exposed to the ebb and flow of the tides, a lot of trash had washed upplastic bottles, plastic lighters, plastic bags, a few stray shoes, old tires, bits of plastic, and even a big plastic trash can.

I filled a big bag until it got too heavy to squeeze in anything else. Sadly, this much trash, predominantly plastic refuse, is now common, even on wilderness beaches and shorelines. So there are plenty of opportunities to help clean up on your own, too.

Pulling Scotch broom among the driftwood.
This plastic trash can was trash on the beach.
Photo courtesy of Milo Zorzino/Nature Conservancy.
Some things wouldn't fit in trash bags.
We finished up a bit earlier than the allotted time, and gathered for Lauren and fellow coordinator Joelene Boyd to talk a bit about the site, ongoing restoration efforts here that began in 2012, its value as refuge for juvenile salmon, and the Nature Conservancy's programs in general.
It's all part of a larger restoration effort in the area. 

In a sweet gesture, Lauren passed around tins of excellent chocolate chip cookies she made for the group.

Lauren Mihel, Nature Conservancy volunteer coordinator and cookie baker extraordinaire.
And of course it was a beautiful, peaceful place to spend several hours on a sunny Sunday.

Photo courtesy of Milo Zorzino/Nature Conservancy

Overall it was a thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding day well spent.  I met good people, got better acquainted with people I already knew, felt a sense of accomplishment, was outside moving in fresh air, and learned more about our precious Salish Sea ecosystem.

While there are many options for volunteering with the Nature Conservancy, there are lots of other organizations that could use your help too. Here are a few:

The U.S. Forest Service in the Pacific Northwest needs volunteers for many things such as trail maintenance and youth programs. Conservation Northwest has many volunteer needs for things like monitoring wildlife and planting native trees. EarthShare Washington and Oregon have a variety of volunteer and organizational needs. Portland Audubon and Seattle Audubon have active and well-organized volunteer programs. Sierra Club offers lots of ways to get involved. Washington Trails Association has regular work parties. The Portland-based Mazamas has lots of volunteer needs.

I could go on and on, although time doesn't permit it right now. Maybe you would like to suggest some ways to volunteer and your favorite environmental organizations by leaving a comment below! Or let me know if you'd like me to contact you with more ideas.  Because it's important!

Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons! In between blog posts, visit Pacific NW Seasons on FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram for more Northwest photos and outdoors news.


Lainey Piland said...

Thank you for this post, Jill! We all love pursuing outdoor adventure in our great PNW nature, but so few people take the time to volunteer. And that's a shame, because volunteering is rewarding, enriching, and FUN! And there's plenty of work to be done.

Conservation districts have great volunteer opportunities as well. I've volunteered with both the King and Snohomish County Conservation Districts (planting native plants at restoration sites) and the King County Native Plant Salvage Program ("rescuing" native trees and plants from forested sites about to be developed into office buildings or housing subdivisions). These programs will start being active again now that we're getting into fall and prime planting season.

I haven't volunteered with them yet, but I'm on the email list for the Coastal Volunteer Partnership at Padilla Bay (Skagit County), and they have a huge range of volunteer opportunities that sound super cool, including citizen science gigs.

If I could spend my time doing this type of volunteer work instead of *working* I'd do it in a heartbeat!

jill said...

Hi Lainey! Thanks for jumping in and offering more suggestions. I love what you write about on your blog, and your classes and such to continue to educate yourself and others about our natural places. I did some of that salvage work in years past for a few sites that turned into developments out beyond Redmond. In fact, have some sword ferns growing in my yard from one of those events. Happy trails and hope to see you on the trail this fall!

Rabbits' Guy said...

Great post - so many outdoor volunteer opportunities get you to places you could never go to otherwise! @Lainey - I am one of those Coastal Volunteer Partnership at Padilla Bay volunteers - yes - lot's of valuable opportunities and they publicize other group opportunities too - Conservation District, Land Trust, etc.

jill said...

@Rabbit's Guy, thanks for the comment, and good on you for being one of the volunteers at Padilla Bay. I love it up there, drive through several times a year on my way kayaking, etc. Hope to make it up this fall. cheers.