2022 May Newsletter

Letter from our president, Jeff Wirtz

Greetings to all our Foundation friends,

As we move into what should be summer, we’re experiencing an unusually cold and wet May. In fact, 3.82 inches of rain fell in the Puget Sound region—the second-largest total ever observed during the month of May. But that’s not keeping the Keta Legacy Foundation, also known as the Mountaineers Foundation, from moving forward on plans and projects that will improve the Rhododendron Preserve.

As part of the improvements, we are working on the long-term health and resiliency of the parcels we have purchased from Ueland Tree Farm over the past decade. More details are in the “Preserve” section below. As mentioned in previous emails, we are also going to begin construction on a new pavilion and bridge in Hidden Valley this summer. It should be completed by our annual Fall for Fish fundraising event on October 15th, 2022. Tickets to this event will be available in July – but be sure to mark your calendar to join us.

Finally, we are thrilled to be hosting students, parents and teachers on the Preserve and around the area to engage the next generation in land stewardship and excite them about the role that nature plays in their health and the health of their communities. It’s truly rewarding work and we could not do it without your support.

Stay healthy and well,

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


Healthy, Resilient Forestland

This month, Foundation interns and Preserve Committee members conducted a preliminary site visit at the Preserve with the local USDA National Resources Conservation Service (NCRS) representative. The Foundation recently applied for and was accepted into two of USDA’s NRCS programs, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). Both of these programs provide free technical assistance and cost sharing for land stewardship projects to landowners like the Foundation.

Forest health and resiliency are topics that we hear a lot about: We know that forests that are managed responsibly and with great care are more wildfire resistant and resilient, store more carbon, and foster the growth and abundance of lush underbrush that sustains healthy wildlife habitat. Healthy forests are also critical to clean water and healthy salmon runs.

1200 trees per acre
300 trees per acre

The Foundation aims to be transparent in its stewardship and the need for managed thinning on the newer parcels. The parcels that we plan on thinning currently have ~1200 trees per acre (top photo), while healthy old growth forest parcels typically have ~300 trees per acre (bottom photo). Other projects that we plan to do with USDA’s help include creating habitat piles and tree snags for wildlife, installing bird boxes, and planting native trees and shrubs. Project criteria include locations that are easily accessed by crews and areas that the Foundation would like to showcase to the public as restoration success stories. The next step is for USDA to put together an estimate to show how much they can cost share on the projects. Also, the NRCS contract can be renewed every five years.

Visitors and volunteers can see with their own eyes the difference between a well-spaced tree stand and one that needs management tools to become more resilient and healthier over the long term. Our interns created a report showing pictures of the areas needing to be thinned and contrasted them with areas in the old growth parcels along the trail to Big Tree to illustrate the difference that actively managed forestland can make when it comes to healthy tree stands and abundant underbrush.

We welcome partners and conservation enthusiasts to learn more about managed thinning and its benefits to supporting healthy, resilient landscapes that are more fire resistant, store more carbon, support salmon runs and provide animal habitat.

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


Animal Dining Rooms

Everyone has an image of what a dining room looks like. They expect it to be a room with table and chairs where people eat meals. The details and décor vary, but the general concept is universal. People don’t think to look for dining rooms in the woods. If you pay attention, though, there are dining rooms all over the forest.

Look at the base of evergreen trees and you might find that squirrels have been dining above. The squirrel has been sitting on a branch in his tree dining room and eating fir cones. In this photo. it’s easy to see where the squirrel’s dining room was since the green cone pieces show up clearly. In most cases, however, the bits of cone are from brown ripe cones.

But it isn’t just squirrels that dine in the forest. If you pay close attention, you might notice torn up logs. Bears, raccoons, and coyotes are known to tear up rotting logs to get at the grubs and bugs inside. As the picture illustrates, they are very messy eaters.

Sapsucker birds are much neater eaters. If you look closely at the trees at the Preserve and elsewhere in the woods, you may notice neat holes in some tree trunks. These holes are where sapsuckers have been dining.

All the dining rooms shown here were found along the Big Tree Trail in our Rhododendron Preserve. It’s a reminder that everywhere you look, animals and nature are showing us their unique dining habits in their dining rooms all through the forest.

We hope this inspires you to come for a visit and see the many animal dining rooms throughout the Preserve.

-Katha Miller-Winder
Chair of the Education Committee


Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

A group of first graders joined the Foundation at Chico Salmon Park on June 3. This county property was chosen because of the current hazards in Hidden Valley, plus the absence of any toilet facilities would prove to be too much for the youngsters (and the adults). It’s another reason Foundation leaders are excited for the work and upgrades that will be done this summer and fall to improve the Preserve for generations to come.

In all, 31 kids participated in the field trip, as well as many engaged and enthusiastic teachers and chaperones. We did a watershed web activity with the entire group. Each participant had a laminated card with an image and label on the front with a statement about it on the back. Beginning with the salmon, each participant would read the card while holding a thread then pass the spool to another participant. Pretty soon everyone in the circle was connected by the thread.

Once everyone was connected, we talked about how what happens to one part of the watershed can affect other parts of the watershed. For example, clear cutting trees has a large impact on the participant with the tree card, as well as other parts of the watershed. The person with the tree card then took a step forward or back from the circle. Everyone could feel how it impacted the part of the watershed they represented as the thread became looser or tighter. They could also recognize how too much stress on the watershed could actually snap the thread, seriously damaging the watershed.

Outings like this illustrate how incredibly important it is that the Foundation foster the next generation of conservationists and lovers of nature. As part of this work, the Foundation provided transportation assistance funds to cover the cost of the bus for the field trip. This is something that the Foundation will continue to offer to ensure that every child has access to nature and the learning opportunities it provides.

-Katha Miller-Winder
Chair of the Education Committee


Upcoming events and reminders

  • A new pavilion and bridge in Hidden Valley will be constructed this summer with a completion date of mid-October. This project has taken 5+ years of planning, fundraising, and many board volunteer hours to get where it is today.
  • Save the date: Fall for Fish annual fundraising event, Oct. 15, 2022.
  • Mark your calendar for Giving Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022.