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2011 Conservation Advances

A beautiful waterfall near Bald Mountain in the Heart of the Cascades project.
Photo © John Marshall


Restoration, partnerships, acquisitions and groundbreaking science are hallmarks of the Conservancy’s work, and the common element is always people. Our success is due entirely to the generous support of people like you!

From the Washington Coast, to Puget Sound, to East Cascades Forests and Washington’s Sagelands, here are highlights of how your support helped people and nature thrive in Washington in 2011.  

Washington Coast

Major acquisition on Washington Coast Lays Groundwork to Bring Back Salmon

In February, the Conservancy purchased 3,088 acres in a corridor along the Clearwater River from Rayonier Timber. For generations, these forests were managed for timber. Now, this land will be managed for salmon habitat, enabling local cultures and the economy to thrive. This is not a rapid fix. Your continued support will enable us to restore the forest so that it resembles more and more its former magnificence – and provides all the habitats needed by wildlife. This is active conservation that will provide jobs for generations and demonstrate how the same can be done in other vital salmon rivers.
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Ellsworth Creek Preserve and Willapa Wildlife Refuge Restoration Underway 

The Conservancy completed more than 409 acres of restoration thinning on the Ellsworth Creek Preserve and the neighboring Willapa National Wildlife Refuge. Volunteers planted trees on more than 10 acres. Together, the Conservancy's 7,600 acre preserve and the refuge provide more than 15,000 acres of forested habitat that benefits the marbled murrelet, a threatened seabird that nests on large branches in old-growth forests. The Conservancy and the Refuge are collaborating to implement common forest management goals and share strategies and results.
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Puget Sound  

Navy Will Help Dabob Bay Conservation

Dabob Bay is one of the most pristine, least developed and most ecologically important estuaries in Hood Canal and Puget Sound, and the Conservancy has been working here for more than 25 years. Conservation in Dabob Bay took a big step forward as the U.S. Navy joined in efforts to protect this special place. The Navy and The Nature Conservancy entered into a five-year agreement that benefits the environment and protects the Navy’s underwater research range on Dabob Bay. The agreement provides $3 million for the Navy and the Conservancy to work in partnership and acquire interests in land around local Navy installations to protect underwater ranges. The Dabob Bay range is the Navy’s premier location in the United States for research, development and testing of underwater systems.
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Fisher Slough Creates Wetlands for Salmon, Floodwater Storage for Farmers

Fisher Slough is a rest stop for juvenile Chinook salmon coming down the highway of the Skagit River on their way to Puget Sound. Sixty acres of new wetlands, created by a restoration project largely funded by the federal Recovery Act, will give them a place to grow bigger and stronger before venturing out into Puget Sound. At the same time, the project has improved diking and drainage infrastructure for local farmers and created a holding space for floodwaters, protecting the local community. A generous private donation kickstarted this project, enabling the Conservancy to attract more than $5 million in federal funding.
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LEAF Students Connect to Nature

Three high school students from New York City spent a month with the Conservancy here in Washington. In July they said goodbye to their families in New York and flew to Mount Vernon, in the heart of the Skagit River Valley, for the adventure of a lifetime. The girls handed over their cell phones, moved into dormitory apartments and adopted a full-time work schedule out in the field with Conservancy scientists. They learned about the salmon life cycle and monitoring for invasive species, and did a lot of hands-on restoration. This was a pilot year for Washington to participate in the LEAF program – Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future, which provides paid internships and exposure to conservation careers for minority students. In 2012, we’re planning to have Washington state LEAF interns working in the field.
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Eastern Forests  

10,000 Acres of Forest Protected

The Nature Conservancy, working with partners, completed a four-year project to protect public access and wildlife habitat on more than 10,000 acres of forest in the heart of the Cascade Mountains, about 20 miles southeast of Ellensburg. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Conservancy worked together to acquire the land from Plum Creek and transfer it to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, where it will be managed for long-term forest health. The land is also part of a larger landscape, the Tapash Sustainable Forest Collaborative, where WDFW, the Forest Service, the Conservancy, RMEF, the state Department of Natural Resources, the Yakama Nation and other public land managers are working together to restore forest resilience. The Heart of the Cascades project is the second in a series of projects to make it possible to restore the millions of acres of East Cascades forests, from Oregon to Canada.
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Groundbreaking Science Shows Where the Wild Things Go

Mountain goats, mule deer, sage grouse and black bears can’t recognize park boundaries or wildlife areas. They roam far and wide across Washington in search of food, water and mates, relying on interconnected corridors of undeveloped land to survive. The Nature Conservancy helped lead a multi-agency analysis to understand which corridors are most important for wildlife. Conservancy ecologist Brad McRae created a technique that borrows from engineering models that predict electricity flows through circuits. He creates maps that pinpoint obstacles—roads, mountain peaks, subdivisions — impeding the movement of species.   The maps make it possible to see why populations of mountain lions, for example, are becoming isolated by new construction and freeways. This work will be used toprioritize conservation projects that best link up wild lands. Watch our website and your Great Places e-Newsletter in February to learn more about this groundbreaking work.  


Conservancy Expands Volunteer Program to Urban Parks

So many people like you want to volunteer for nature, and now we have more close-to-home opportunities. In 2011, the Conservancy expanded our Washington volunteer program to work with partners at King County Parks and Seattle Parks to provide urban conservation opportunities for those who live in the Puget Sound area. And volunteer work continues at our preserves as well. Volunteers range in age from eight to 80 and contribute their time and talents in a wide range of capacities. Conservancy scientists use volunteers to help with research projects such as monitoring the effects of climate change or studying lichen at Ellsworth Creek preserve. Stewardship staff relied heavily on volunteers in 2011 to complete planting projects, including 4,000 native grasses and more than 2,000 trees as part of the Conservancy’s restoration efforts at preserves around the state.  All told this past year, non-trustee volunteers donated more than 8,000 hours to the Washington program—valued at $170,880  in labor and equal to four full-time employees.
Check out our volunteer program

Conservation Around the World 

Indigenous Leaders Share Ideas from Australia, Africa and Washington

The Nature Conservancy has long depended on partnerships with local people to conserve some of the most threatened ecosystems. Support from donors like you helps make this possible in Washington and around the world. To learn new ideas for working with communities, the Washington chapter of the Conservancy hosted some special guests. We welcomed Tom Lalampaa, a member of the Samburu tribe and conservationist from Northern Kenya, and Joe Morrison, conservation leader in Northern Australia, whose heritage is Dagoman and Torres Strait. These guests met with Washington tribal leaders, including Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission chair Billy Frank Jr. and Nature Conservancy board member Paul Ward of the Yakama Nation for a powerhouse panel discussion on how conservation organizations and indigenous people can partner, and the challenges and opportunities it presents. The discussion hit on topics such as human rights, trust and communication and the economic benefits of conservation. One theme came up again and again: The urgent need for people to come together for nature.
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Picnic for the Planet  

Seattle Celebrated Earth Day in a Big Way

Healthy nature equals healthy food – it’s a connection everyone can relate to. The Nature Conservancy celebrated Earth Day with a Picnic for the Planet – more than 60 picnics took place worldwide in 2011. One of the biggest was right here in Washington, where the Conservancy partnered with Seattle’s Pike Place Market to rejoice in our connections with local food and fun. Look for even more fun in 2012!
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