2021 October Newsletter

Letter from our president, Jeff Wirtz

Greetings to all our Foundation friends,

I’m thrilled to share that our Rhododendron Preserve is now 40 acres larger thanks to a new land purchase from our friends at Ueland Tree Farm! This is our latest purchase from Ueland Tree Farm, totaling more than 140 acres of valuable forest land that provides a healthy buffer for the habitat and salmon runs within the Preserve. We’re fortunate to share land within the Chico Creek watershed with a landowner that is just as dedicated to protecting salmon as we are, and who entrusts us to be good stewards of this land.

A big thank you to everyone who joined us at our Fall for Fish fundraiser on Oct. 23rd. Your contributions make our work possible, and your participation in our events makes our work feel more like fun. This year’s event provided attendees a special opportunity to hike into Hidden Valley, see the preservation work underway, and learn how this work supports salmon recovery throughout the Salish Sea region. After canceling all our main events last year due to COVID, it was really fantastic to see folks in person again. One of our Foundation directors, Katha Miller-Winder, shares a few highlights from the day in our newsletter below.

We’re fortunate to share land within the Chico Creek watershed with a landowner that is just as dedicated to protecting salmon as we are, and who entrusts us to be good stewards of this land.

If you weren’t able to attend, but are still interested in contributing to the Foundation, we’d be grateful for your support. Never has our work to protect salmon been more urgent or important. You can allow the Foundation to use your donation wherever it’s needed most, or you can direct your donation specifically to our community grants program, our conservation education program, or the Rhododendron Preserve. Every dollar donated directly supports program activities, and we’re proud to manage all our funds in a fossil-fuel free social investment fund.

As a bonus, our online donation page features downloadable gift tags, so you can contribute on behalf of a loved one or give the gift of an outdoor experience at the Preserve!

Thanks again to everyone who has contributed time, money, and goodwill to Keta Legacy Foundation, also known as Mountaineers Foundation. We appreciate your partnership more than you know.

Stay healthy and well,

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


Fall for Fish event provided sneak peek at preservation work in Hidden Valley

Rain didn’t keep away an enthusiastic group of the Foundation’s friends and benefactors from gathering together for this year’s Fall for Fish event. Every year, this event offers a chance for us to celebrate our organization’s successes and preview upcoming plans. This year was especially fun because attendees had a chance to veer off our well-loved Big Tree path for a sneak peek at the preservation work underway in the Hidden Valley area of the Preserve.

Entering Hidden Valley from the bridgeAfter assembling in the dry creek meadow section for short video introductions and remarks from Foundation directors, attendees hiked down to the current bridge over Wildcat Creek. This bridge will be replaced with a more structurally sound bridge located on the edge of Hidden Valley. At the bridge, Director Amy Lawrence brilliantly described the flora and fauna of the Preserve and the importance of the Preserve to salmon and the Salish Sea region.

From the bridge, attendees moved into the Hidden Valley section of the Preserve. This space is closed to the public while we work on restoration. Entering Hidden Valley, attendees walked past the site for the new bridge, the location for the new education pavilion, and past dangerous, decrepit buildings that will be removed. Permitting and planning are underway, and demolition and construction will begin in 2022.

After the tour attendees gathered in the heart of Hidden Valley to learn from Suquamish Tribe Fisheries biologist Jon Oleyar about salmon and efforts to enhance salmon runs. If you missed the Kitsap Sun’s story earlier this year about the Suquamish Tribe’s work in the Preserve, it’s worth a read.

Hidden Valley is an original homestead site in Kitsap County occupied until 2011. As such there has been significant human impact. Yet, standing in the valley, everywhere you look you see nature reclaiming the space, both as a result of our assistance and as a natural result of environmental systems at work.

At one point, standing in the valley in lull between rain squalls, attendees were treated to the sight of a bald eagle flying overhead. This time of year, eagles are among a host of species gathering by the water for a salmon feast. Salmon hadn’t quite made it to Hidden Valley yet but were gathering in deeper water spots waiting for the rains that will fill the creek and create the right conditions for spawning.

Standing at the bridge on the Big Tree trail or in the middle of Hidden Valley it’s easy to see what the Foundation is fighting to preserve. Being there and watching a bald eagle fly overhead is inspiring. And the wonder of being educated by experts can’t be overstated. It was a magical day.

There’s still time to donate and help the Foundation continue to Preserve, Inspire, and Educate.

— Katha Miller-Winder
Education Committee Chair


Girl Scouts bring new life back to the Preserve

Our vision at the Foundation is people connecting with and protecting healthy ecosystems. Girl Scout Troop #43990 represents a true success in achieving our vision.

Girl Scout Troop 43990 have adopted the Wymer parcel of the Rhododendron PreserveThis troop of girls and their families have adopted the Wymer parcel of the Rhododendron Preserve. This parcel is one of the buffer pieces that was most heavily impacted by human activities.

Despite years of volunteers trying to plant trees and clear scotch broom, a common but invasive plant, the Wymer parcel remained stubbornly covered with scotch broom and only a few scattered trees. This intrepid group of girls and their wonderful families wanted to help and adopted this parcel five years ago. Their goal is to restore it to healthy woodlands. They’ve worked hard on the parcel. While the girls planted new trees, their families worked tirelessly to cut, dig, and pull the invasive scotch broom. Removing the scotch broom gave the trees more space and light and the trees we had planted in the past began to thrive creating healthier conditions for the trees the girls planted.

In October 2021, two Girl Scouts visit a tree they planted in the spring of 2019.
Girl Scouts planted a small tree in 2019, and you can see two of those girls standing next to that same tree this year. Both the girls and the tree have grown quite a bit!

The Girl Scout families’ efforts to remove the scotch broom have already made a big difference, and these efforts were extended by work from the South Kitsap High School Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. As the oldest saplings grow taller, they’re starting to shade out the scotch broom which makes it harder for shrub to survive and have created better conditions for new plantings.

The COVID-19 pandemic prevented the girls from visiting the Preserve for nearly two years. When they visited again to plant more trees they were thrilled and delighted to see how much things had grown and improved. They are very connected to this piece of the Preserve and delighted to have a hand in restoring it to healthy conditions. It’s inspiring to see the excitement and sense of ownership the Girl Scouts and their families have about this place. Watching the girls planting trees and their families removing invasive species we’re able to see our vision in action. You can find more photos from our day with the Girl Scouts and their families on our Facebook page.


Beaver dams – friend or foe to salmon?

True or false? One way to help salmon pass through streams and rivers is to break through beaver dams to open up a passage.

True or false: It hurt salmon if you break through beaver dams for them.On the face of it this seems like a no-brainer. Dams block the flow of water and create a barrier to salmon, so knocking a hole in the dam would help them. Right?
Think again. People tend to take a simplistic view of systems and only focus on a single aspect, but nature takes a macro view of how all the pieces work together. People see salmon stacking up behind a beaver dam and think the dam is an impediment to salmon getting upstream to spawn. But look again. What you see is nature stacking salmon up behind a beaver dam because there isn’t yet enough water in the creek to provide the right conditions for salmon to successfully spawn.

When a creek system has enough water to create successful spawning conditions, the water will deal with the beaver dam. The water will either blast a channel through the dam that allows fish to swim through the dam, or the water will overflow the dam and create a hurdle for salmon to leap over. In the latter case, the salmon crashing onto the dam as they try to hurtle it will actually pack the dam tighter in that area which improves conditions even more for the next salmon.

When humans knock holes into beaver dams, it actually harms salmon. The sudden rush of the dammed water gives salmon the false impression there is a substantial amount of water upstream and encourages them to advance when they should wait. These salmon arrive at their spawning grounds and spawn, but in water that is too shallow. When the torrential rains come and the creeks swell, the rushing water scours out the redds (the depressions female salmon make in the gravel to safely deposit their eggs) and washes away the eggs. When salmon wait until the creeks are swollen with water, they select more stable areas to build their redds and the eggs are more likely to stay put.

Be a salmon friend and let nature do what it does best. Leave beaver dams to nature and don’t disturb, damage, or destroy them. The natural system knows how to deal with beaver dams and it doesn’t require our help.

— Katha Miller-Winder
Education Committee Chair


Upcoming events and reminders

  • They’re coming… and this time in person! If you missed the Kitsap Salmon Tours kickoff on November 6th, don’t worry. You still have time to see the salmon returning to the Preserve throughout November. Check out this beautiful video and photos from the kickoff event on our Facebook page.
  • Scavenger hunts, forest bingo, video adventures and more! If you haven’t had a chance to peruse our new Education Resources page, now is a great time to find a fun indoor or outdoor learning adventure for the young and young at heart.