2022 January Newsletter

Letter from our president, Jeff Wirtz

Greetings to all our Foundation friends,

If January is any indicator of the year to come, 2022 is going to be extremely busy for our board and staff! We have several exciting projects underway, including one that is transforming how we manage the Rhododendron Preserve.

As you know, Kitsap County continues to grow and develop. That development, coupled with climate change, is impacting our region’s ecosystems. This requires us to think differently about how we manage our Rhododendron Preserve and ensure that the forests, meadows and streams function as they should. If you haven’t yet read our online story by board member Amy Lawrence about the interns’ work that started three years ago, we have a few highlights and links below.

Also, in December we announced the 2021 recipients for our Paul Wiseman Conservation Education Grant program. Renee Johnson, the chair of our community grants committee, noted that both recipients — the Rivershed Society of BC and Great Peninsula Conservancy — are doing inspiring work to promote culturally-appropriate and inclusive conservation and education opportunities. You can learn more about their work below, as well as more history on Paul Wiseman and how bequests like his allow us to meaningfully support like-minded organizations.

Thank you, as always, for your support and interest in our work. We appreciate you.

Stay healthy and well,

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


Signs of nature’s architects and engineers are everywhere at the Preserve

Every living thing has some impact on their environment, but there are only a very few that dramatically modify their environment to benefit themselves.

Humans, of course, are at the top of this list. People modify their environment to suit their needs. They change the contours of the land, clear land of vegetation, build new structures, and even reroute waterways to make the place they live as comfortable and convenient as possible.

But there are non-humans who similarly modify their environment to suit their needs. Beavers are an excellent example. They cut down trees and dam streams to create ponds and wetlands that are ideally suited to the needs of beavers.

Lost CreekIt’s easy to see the changes people and beavers make to their environments and to notice the effect that these changes have on the other living things that share the area with them. Human cities are generally poor places for wildlife to thrive, though some animals can be pretty determined. Coyotes and raccoons, for example, are adapting to life near people by becoming less fearful and more adept at scavenging and hunting domestic pets. Similarly, beaver ponds and wetlands modify habitat for other animals. Moose for example, like beaver wetlands. A well-established beaver-created wetland is filled with moose forage.

There’s a third environmental architect. Most people can’t name this architect. Can you? This architect can change the climate of their environment, significantly change soil composition, alter the contours of the land, and shift the course of waterways. The changes beavers and humans make are visible very quickly, but this architect works on a much slower time scale. The architect in question is a tree.

Given enough time, trees can completely transform a landscape. Trees can build up, stabilize, and change the banks of waterways. They can slowly break up rocks, delve deep for water, and through transpiration—exhaling water through leaves—they can form microclimates which affect the larger climate around them. Trees create communities, and through the mycelium network among their roots, trees can invite in other plants that fix and provide missing nutrients in the soil. Trees work to establish the growing conditions that are best for themselves, and these conditions provide habitat for many other species.

However, on their own, trees take a very long time to accomplish these things. They operate on a different time scale than humanity. People like to get things done quickly because they have shorter lifespans. Trees, in general, have much longer lives and can take longer to make the changes they want.

As the pace of climate change accelerates, tree timescales may not be workable. But when humans and trees work together to restore and reclaim a damaged environment, the difference that trees make can be accelerated. Watch this short story of a couple planting millions of trees to restore damaged land in Brazil for a great example of what people and trees working together can do.

While our Rhododendron Preserve is generally healthy and thriving, we see the signs of climate change. This is why we are working to support the trees and to help them continue to thrive and survive. As we plant new trees in Hidden Valley and in buffer parcels, we’re choosing to plant trees that are from areas near the Oregon/Washington border. They are the same species as the trees on the Preserve, but they are already accustomed to warmer temperatures. As these trees mature, they will already have the adaptations needed to thrive as the temperatures rise. And because they get to grow in the healthy climate created by the existing healthy forest, there’s a good chance they can keep the Preserve healthy and thriving for centuries to come.

— Katha Miller-Winder
Education Committee Chair


Paul Wiseman grant awards show impact of legacy giving

In December, the Foundation announced the 2021 recipients of the Paul Wiseman grant awards —  Rivershed Society of BC and Great Peninsula Conservancy. The organizations are both focused on conservation and education projects that help connect people and places in inclusive new ways.

Paul Wiseman was a well-known mountaineer from Olympia who passed away in 2011, two days before his 99th birthday. He also happened to be one of the seven founding members of the Foundation. Paul served for 34 years as an active trustee for the Foundation. At the age of 90, Paul decided he could not continue to make the Olympia-to-Seattle commute for board meetings and so, reluctantly, retired. He was immediately named our first emeritus trustee for life.

When he passed in 2011, Paul left a large portion of his estate to the Foundation for conservation education. Since conservation was one of his passions, the Foundation created the Paul Wiseman Memorial Fund Conservation Education Grant program to establish a namesake grant program that would provide grants totaling up to $30,000 each year for projects which promote environmental education and habitat restoration. The Foundation launched the grant program in 2015 and has since provided more than $250,000 in grants to eleven conservation- and education-focused organizations throughout the Salish Sea region, plus various Braided Books projects.

In addition, Paul’s gift helped the Foundation launch a new internship program that started in 2019, as well as partially fund the planning and development of the new education pavilion in Hidden Valley.

Paul is among more than 40 Foundation supporters who have entrusted the Foundation with legacy gifts that help us preserve, inspire and educate for generations to come.


Talented intern teams help the Foundation launch modern approach to managing our centuries-old forest

For more than 100 years, the stands of old growth forest and miles of salmon-spawning streams within the 466-acre Rhododendron Preserve have been carefully protected, but largely with a hands-off approach. That strategy is changing, however, as the Preserve continues to grow and change in the face of climate change and regional development.

Good forest management can improve tree health, reducing shading and overcrowding (above) and helping to create well-spaced trees and diverse understory (below).

The Preserve, which is located within the Suquamish Tribe’s usual and accustomed fishing and hunting areas, is managed by Keta Legacy Foundation, also known as Mountaineers Foundation.

Amy Lawrence is a board member for the Foundation and an Olympic College professor. Together with other board members, she has led a three-year effort to develop a forest management plan and modern digital mapping and visualization tools that will help the Foundation make decisions about things like if and where to thin the forest or plant trees, monitor streams and riparian habitat, or control invasive species.

Amy saw this as a perfect internship opportunity for some of the students that she’d been working with. She and the intern teams — which included Bree Grim, who is now a member of our board — have developed new ArcGIS maps and digital survey tools that make it possible to gather and analyze data about every section of the Preserve.

Read more about their work.


Events and reminders

In case you missed it, we purchased 40 additional acres from Ueland Tree Farm (UTF) in November. UTF and the Foundation have a long partnership that dates back to 2009. Support from the Suquamish Tribe and Foundation donors have allowed the Foundation to acquire multiple parcels from UTF that improve salmon habitat. Learn more about how this land purchase is helping protect salmon habitat.