2021 May Newsletter

Letter from our president, Jeff Wirtz

Greetings to all our Keta Legacy Foundation, also known as Mountaineers Foundation, friends.

It’s hard to believe that June is already upon us! With businesses starting to reopen and the weather luring us outdoors, we’ve never felt more ready and excited for the projects ahead of us this summer. The rhododendrons are beginning to bloom at the Rhododendron Preserve and the salmon smolts are almost done making their way through our streams out to sea.

Our board and staff want to thank everyone who participated in the GiveBig campaign last month. We can’t say enough how much we appreciate your support for our conservation and education work.

I also want to thank Renee Johnson and the members of our grants committee who just completed a new round of community grant awards. Our community grant program is now 51 years old, and it’s remarkable to think about the hundreds of projects and partnerships that we’ve supported through that program. The first grant award was $100 in 1970 for camping education to the newly-founded Central Area Youth Association in Seattle. While the size of the grant awards have grown since then, the focus is still the same – helping nonprofits that, like us, want to inspire and connect people to healthy ecosystems. You can learn about this year’s grantees here.

Enjoy these first days of summer. Stay healthy and well.

— Jeff Wirtz
President, Keta Legacy Foundation
also known as Mountaineers Foundation


Cooperation and competition keep our forest healthy

In a healthy forest ecosystem, there is cooperation and competition. Trees warn their species family about problems, share resources with them, and raise their tree offspring in a way that grows strong resilient trees. Trees also compete for resources, and some tree species, such as Western Red Cedar, are particularly effective at hoarding resources for themselves. If you’ve ever tried to grow plants around a Cedar tree, you know that Cedars can create toxic conditions for other plants, so nothing else will grow nearby.

However, trees also form relationships. In this photo you see a pair of tree friends. On the left is a Douglas Fir, and on the right is a Western Red Cedar. These two are growing so close together that they almost look like one tree with two types of bark. You can also see that the Cedar is older and larger than the Douglas Fir. When the Douglas Fir first sprouted in the roots of the Cedar tree, the Cedar chose to nurture it and raise it, rather than kill it. You can say they are tree friends. If you pay attention when you visit our Rhododendron Preserve, you will discover other tree friends and notice mature trees supporting and protecting trees of other species. There is a whole forest of interesting relationships for those who look. Forest ecosystems are communities filled with diverse and wonderful relationships.

— Katha Miller-Winder
Education Committee Chair


Suquamish Tribe partnership is helping restore crucial salmon habitat and highlight the interconnectedness of our ecosystems

In case you missed it, Jessie Darland from the Kitsap Sun made a trip to the Rhododendron Preserve recently to learn more about the restoration and salmon recovery work taking place in Hidden Valley, one of the ancestral fishing and gathering grounds of the Suquamish Tribe

In this area where Wildcat and Lost Creeks come together to form Chico Creek, Jon Oleyar, the Tribe’s fisheries biologist, is helping lead the effort to monitor the salmon smolts. Jon and his team are out daily from April through June capturing and recording the smolts leaving the creeks. They come back in the fall to count the salmon who have returned to spawn. This includes coho, which is one of the foods our endangered Southern Resident orcas depend on.

Jon’s work highlights the interconnectedness of our individual actions, the Rhododendron Preserve and the streams that run through it, and the impacts to salmon and orca. We’re grateful for this partnership with the Suquamish Tribe who have been stalwart advocates for salmon and orca recovery.

We invite you to read Jessie’s story and to visit the Rhododendron Preserve for a self-guided salmon tour of your own. Though Hidden Valley remains closed to the public while we continue restoration work there, you might catch a glimpse of the remaining departing smolts while strolling along Big Tree Trail next to Wildcat or Lost Creeks.


Summer interns are back to work

Our Rhododendron Preserve committee is proud to introduce you to our 2021 summer interns, Megan Burch, who is graduating from the Western Washington University Huxley Program on the Peninsulas next month, and Casey Blankenship, who is finishing the same program next year and returning after interning with us last summer.

Megan and Casey have already started planning fieldwork and developing data collection techniques for their summer work. Together with me and my Olympic College students, Megan and Casey are working this month to fine-tune the forest monitoring protocols that will be used to define and characterize the different forest stands at the Rhododendron Preserve. The data will be added to the ArcGIS database that the interns developed last year. This is an important tool that will help us monitor forest conditions and plan our management activities, such as invasive species removal or restorative thinning of overstocked forests. This monitoring and management work is essential as we restore certain stands to more natural, biodiverse, and functioning forests.

The intern program is part of the board’s commitment to monitoring the different forest and other ecosystems and working to preserve their ecological functions in the face of risks such as surrounding development, climate change, and past timber harvesting practices. We’re grateful for their work and the opportunity to offer a unique work experience for students pursuing careers in conservation and environmental science.

— Amy Lawrence
Preserve Committee Chair


Upcoming events and reminders

  • Have you signed up yet for the 2021 Kitsap Kids’ Directory parks & trail challenge? Keta Legacy Foundation, also known as Mountaineers Foundation, is proud to be supporting this effort to encourage families to visit all of Kitsap County’s parks and trails. Check out the details here, and start exploring!
  • Keta Legacy Foundation, also known as Mountaineers Foundation, is proud to be a leading sponsor of this year’s 2021 NW Land Camp hosted by the Washington Association of Land Trusts. This annual event brings together hundreds of land trust leaders and conservation partners. This year’s virtual Land Camp will take place every Thursday in June. If you happen to know someone attending, let them know that they can stop by our virtual booth to say hello.
  • Congrats to Directors Bree Grimm and Katha Miller-Winder for their recent literary successes.
  • Bree recently wrote a case study, titled “Chico Creek: Restoring the Place of the Chum Salmon,” which is now one of twelve chapters within the book “Removing Barriers: Restoring Salmon Habitat through Tribal Alliances,” featuring Evergreen students’ case study research, original maps, and artistic works. Bree’s case study and artwork were recently featured in Evergreen’s annual Equity Symposium, and her artwork will also be featured throughout June in the cross-disciplinary arts exhibit called “Submergence: Going Below the Surface with Orca and Salmon.”
  • When she isn’t busy volunteering for Keta Legacy Foundation, also known as Mountaineers Foundation, Director Katha Miller-Winder is an active Therapy Dog handler for Therapy Dogs International and the head of their local chapter. She recently published a book aimed at helping more people decide if therapy dog work is something that they want to pursue and showing them how to get started. The book is “Becoming a Therapy Dog Team: Guidance and Advice.” It’s available in paperback and kindle versions on Amazon.