We are never short on big plans for the Preserve, whether it’s formalizing our intern program or restoring our creeks and landscapes. With the help of volunteers, we had a great 2023!
We’ve been incredibly lucky to have strong leadership from past and future presidents and officers. At every turn, we’ve forged strong relationships with local partners, the Suquamish Tribe, schools and so many others. There has also been a lot of work done on our bookkeeping and finances to ensure we track everything that we do and the investments that we make through grants and restoration work.
We’ve also built a strong team. Many of you know Emily as our fearless coordinator. Managing a group of volunteers who have obligations that stretch their time and attention is no small feat. Since she became our coordinator, she has overseen our website upgrades, including our donation and event registration portals. She also leads the effort to make our annual Fall For Fish fundraiser a success. And, as a board, we brought on a communications contractor, first Jaime Smith then Bobbi Cussins. Both have done great work to share a positive story about the Preserve and Foundation by addressing the difficulties of unexpected litigation through the media and in our newsletter and board communications.
We can’t leave out all the restoration work in Hidden Valley. As we discussed in the “Preserve” section of this newsletter, our interns, led by Casey Blankenship, have done an amazing job mapping the Preserve. Their work determines where restoration efforts need to be focused in the many diverse habitats and landscapes that make up our Preserve. Their data collection and analysis have substantially improved our understanding of the biodiversity of our land and helped us improve the condition of Hidden Valley and other parts of the Preserve. It’s also worth noting that our former intern, Mandy Harris, has recently agreed to serve on our board.
Even through some difficult times and our busy schedules, we have made a more concerted effort to gather our board members in-person. This has given all of us a better understanding of the expertise that each of us brings to the table and allowed us to get to know each other better too.
Finally, one of the greatest successes of 2023 is the modernizing of our Community Grants program. Over the years, we have given more than $3 million in grants to local groups that share our value of protecting and preserving the lands and waters of the Salish Sea region and educating the next generation of environmental stewards. In 2023, we revisited our grants program using an additional lens: Equity. The ability for everyone to experience the outdoors, regardless of background or financial means, is now an integral part of our grant application process. Evolving as an organization means looking at hard things and then taking actions to do better. One of the last things that we’ve done is update the grants webpage to make it easier for users and to add the Norm Winn Memorial Conservation grants option for 2024.
What’s ahead? The list is too great to list here, but we look forward to sharing opportunities and progress over the next year. We look forward to working alongside you as we create a welcoming outdoor space for all.
– Jeff Wirtz, President