The Mountaineers Foundation was founded in 1968 by a small group of conservation-minded leaders who wanted to educate people on the values provided by the mountains, forests, and waters of the Pacific Northwest. These visionaries recognized the need to preserve the natural beauty and ecological integrity for future generations.
For more than 50 years, our volunteer-led Foundation has combined an unwavering dedication to restoring and preserving the vibrant ecosystems of the Pacific Northwest with our desire to connect people of all ages to the outdoors.
The Foundation puts our mission into action through four unique programs that have remained steadfast for decades.
We proudly steward, preserve and restore the beautiful 466-acre Rhododendron Preserve, an incredible treasure in the heart of Kitsap County. The Preserve is home to an important watershed that supports salmon and other fish, and is also home to an 11-foot wide Douglas fir affectionately known as Big Tree.
Education to inspire conservation
The Preserve isn’t just a pretty place – it’s a place of profound learning too. The Foundation works with local schools and community members to provide engaging education experiences for learners of all ages.
The best way to ensure you can protect the land is to own it. The Foundation has purchased 256 acres over the past decades to increase conservation efforts at the Preserve, and helped other organizations purchase and preserve thousands of acres of land throughout the Salish Sea region.
Community grants and partnerships
Community is everything to the Foundation. Since 1970, the Foundation has supported hundreds of conservation-focused non-profit organizations through our competitive grant program, amplifying our mission.
We operate with an all-volunteer board and have a rich history of working with amazing and generous donors. Together, we celebrated our 50-year milestone as a registered 501 (c)(3) organization in 2018.
That same year we added Keta Legacy Foundation to our name, though our focus and programs remain unchanged. This name embodies our core values of conservation and connection using a metaphor from salmon life cycles. Keta is the Latin name for chum salmon (Oncorhynchus keta), which need healthy ecosystems from the mountains, through forests and streams, and throughout the marine environment. These natural systems also support communities of people with a vested interest in the health and wellbeing of all the residents of our region – people and wildlife. That’s why this simple word – keta – captures what we have done as an independent organization since 1968.
Our numerous longtime supporters continue to know us as the Mountaineers Foundation, which has been our legal name since 1968 and remains so today. We are proud of the legacy we built over 50 years as the Mountaineers Foundation, the many supporters who have supported us under that banner, and the work we will continue to do under these names.
While the Foundation sometimes partners with The Mountaineers, a recreation-focused alpine club, and has even contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to support some conservation programs of their organization over the past few decades, we have always been separate and independent from one another. Today, more than ever, we remain deeply committed to conservation for everyone, including people fortunate enough to enjoy the mountains and waters of the Salish Sea region.
IRS Form 990
Jeff Wirtz, President
Jeff Wirtz began his first term on the Foundation Board in early 2017, after several years of helping to survey the Rhododendron Preserve. He is an environmental scientist at a local consulting firm. In his free time, Jeff can usually be found performing restoration work at the Preserve or climbing in the Cascades or the Olympics.
Scott Eby, Treasurer
Scott Eby spent most of his childhood car camping and trout fishing with his parents in eastern Washington. That early experience, followed by participation in Boy Scouts and the Mountaineers, instilled a life-long love of the outdoors. Scott has a great appreciation for what we have to lose if we do not take care of the outdoor environment. Serving on the Foundation Board allows Scott to give back to the land in a tangible way that he was unable to do before.
Mindy Roberts, Secretary
Mindy Roberts has served several terms on the Foundation’s Board, primarily focusing on the long-term health of the Rhododendron Preserve. She conducted research on the forests around Lost and Wildcat Creeks as part of her environmental engineering dissertation from UW. Mindy currently leads the Puget Sound program at the Washington Conservation Action.
Jesse Adams began serving as a board member in 2022. He earned his BS in Natural Resources Conservation Planning from the University of Idaho. Jesse’s professional expertise lies in riparian restoration and noxious weed removal. As a 2021 recipient of Kitsap County’s Earth Day Award, the values of the KETA Legacy Foundation are Jesse’s values.
Linda Anderson-Carnahan joined the Mountaineers Foundation Board of Directors in 2016 and is currently the Co-Chair of the Preserve Committee. She is also a member of the Kitsap Branch of the Mountaineers and is the Chair of the Branch’s Climbing Committee.
Linda holds a Bachelor of Science degree with a double major in chemistry and biophysical environmental studies from Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin. She also holds a Master of Science degree in Public Health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where her thesis research focused on characterization of the byproducts of drinking water disinfection by ozonation.
She began her career in environmental science, policy and management in Atlanta in 1984 after working at the Centers for Disease Control. Over the last 33 years, Linda’s experience includes both staff and management positions in the areas of air and water quality, toxicity and risk assessment, pollution prevention, strategic planning, grants management, and the Puget Sound, Superfund and Brownfields programs.
Linda and her husband David live in Bremerton. Her interests include cycling, backpacking, sea kayaking, cross-country skiing, and mountaineering.
Jim Gates first volunteered at the Rhododendron Preserve in 2012, helping clean up Hidden Valley and removing invasive plants. He was immediately captivated by the old growth forest and the natural beauty of Lost and Wildcat Creeks. He sees the Preserve as an invaluable resource to the community, and was honored to accept an invitation to join the Foundation Board in early 2016. A construction project superintendent, Jim brings 30 years of construction skills to the restoration of Hidden Valley’s natural beauty.
He is a member of the Mountaineers, and volunteers with their intermediate climbing committee, in addition to teaching new and less experienced climbing students to safely climb; with a focus of rock and glacier alpinism.
Jim’s hobbies include reading, sports, running and alpinism. He is a lifelong resident of Washington and currently lives in Tacoma.
Rick Gillatt was raised on a 40 acre farm in Arizona. He currently resides on Bainbridge Island with his wife and two daughters. His education includes Kent School, a Bachelor’s in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology with an emphasis in Marine Sciences from University of Arizona, and Sea Education Association, Woods Hole/Boston University.
Rick’s career in ecology and biology has included work experience in plankton research, teaching, water chemistry, aquaculture research, marine animal care, seabird rehabilitation, and cattle farming. He has worked for New York Ocean Science Laboratory, Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corporation, and The Seattle Aquarium, to name just a few.
In addition to being a member of the Mountaineers Foundation Board, Rick serves on the Education, and Grants committees. He is also a wildlife care steward/educator with raptors at regional events and schools for the West Sound Wildlife Shelter, and conducts seasonal educational salmon programs at the Mountaineers Foundation Rhododendron Preserve.
Bree Grim grew up on the Kitsap Peninsula playing in the woods and watching salmon spawn in Clear Creek near her family home. She served as an intern for Keta Legacy Foundation in 2020, working to develop a conservation-based management plan and GIS mapping tool for the Rhododendron Preserve, and joined the Foundation’s Board of Directors in 2021.
Bree holds a B.A. from the Evergreen State College with an emphasis in environmental justice and conservation studies. As an undergraduate, she published a case study in the book Removing Barriers: Restoring Salmon Watersheds through Tribal Alliances (Grossman & McCarty, 2021), examining collaborative restoration efforts within the Chico Creek watershed, Suquamish history of the Chico-Erlands Point area, and connections to Native treaty rights.
Bree currently works for Advancement and the Foundation at the Evergreen State College. Her professional background includes work in real estate, title and escrow. She is excited to bring her passions for non-profit development, Indigenous-centered conservation, and inclusive environmental education to continue Keta Legacy Foundation’s mission. Bree is a self-professed plant nerd and spends her free time exploring the trails and beaches near her home on Harstine Island.
Renee Johnson is a Salmon and Ecosystem Recovery Planner. She coordinates West Sound Partners for Ecosystem Recovery, bringing together diverse partners from cities, counties, tribes, non-profits, and businesses to develop and implement salmon recovery strategies and to develop science-based priorities and actions to Recover Puget Sound.
Before working as a planner, Renee served as an Environmental Health Specialist in the Water Pollution Identification and Correction program at Kitsap Public Health District. There she protected public health and natural resources by sampling the water in Kitsap’s streams and at the shorelines. She worked to track pollution to and correct it at the source, keeping it out of streams, shellfish beds, and swimming beaches.
She also spent seven years with WSU Kitsap County Extension. There she managed the Water Stewardship Programs, which include Salmon Docents, Stream Stewards, Beach Naturalists, Native Plant Advisors, and Shore Friendly Ambassadors. She proudly coordinated Salmon Tours where residents come to see salmon spawning and learn about the species that have sustained the people of this region since time immemorial.
Amy Lawrence is a Kitsap County native and began serving as a Board member in 2018. She earned her BS in Environmental Studies from WSU and a MS from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia. Amy has experience in environmental permitting work with local consulting firms and now is a professor of Biology and Environmental Studies at Olympic College in Bremerton. Amy also volunteers with local environmental groups such as the Chico Salmon Park Stewardship Group and the Clear Creek Task Force. Amy loves connecting her students with our beautiful outdoor spaces – especially the Rhododendron Preserve – where she and her students can be found documenting vegetation and wildlife several times her year.
Katha Miller-Winder grew up in eastern Washington, where she learned that all the interesting things are outside. As an adult, this has translated into a passion for outdoor education, both encouraging kids to learn about the environment and encouraging educators to use the natural environment to inspire learning. “It’s a lot more fun to learn about circumference measuring actual trees than boring circles on a page.” In Mountaineers Foundation, she’s found a place that allows her to channel her passion.
Amy Smalley is a graduate from Western Washington University’s College of the
Environment. Following her love of outdoors and a curiosity for the process
behind environmental protections and regulations, she earned a bachelor’s
degree in Environmental Policy with a minor in Environmental Science.
Amy currently works for Washington State University Kitsap Extension as the
Water Stewardship Program Coordinator. Amy coordinates the Streams Stewards,
Salmon Docents, and Beach Naturalists Programs, as well as the annual Kitsap
Salmon Tours event.
Amy is passionate about community outreach and education. She feels that
understanding, and respecting, our human connections with our environment and
valuable ecosystems is an important aspect in protecting those ecosystems for
generations to come. Amy lives in Port Orchard with her husband and three
children. In her free time, she enjoys gardening and adventuring with her family.
Connor Upchurch grew up beneath the mixed-hardwood canopy of the North Carolina Piedmont. The forest – and wild spaces altogether, have never ceased to nurture and enthrall. Connor has lived in WA since 2015. Serving on the KLF board is one of many ways he seeks to reciprocate “nature’s” nurture.
– You see, for us, the forest was a game. But for Connor Wakefield Upchurch, the forest was life. * adapted from Sandlot
Chris Waldbillig is a lifelong Bremerton resident, attending Bremerton High School, Olympic College, and now lives near Kitsap Lake, just outside of the Chico Creek Watershed. He works for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife as a Restoration Coordinator and works Statewide with Regional Fisheries Enhancement Groups strengthening them and their missions to restore, educate, and to provide outreach to communities about salmon and recovery efforts. Additionally, he works on the Washington Coast with Marine Resource Councils and community members on a range of marine policy topics and European Green Crab control efforts.
Prior to this position, Chris worked closely with partners in Kitsap, Mason, Clallam, Jefferson and Pierce Counties on Salmon Recovery and growth management issues in the Protection/Regulatory arm of the Habitat Program at WDFW. Chris led a team of biologists that assisted property owners with regulatory permitting, project designs, reviewing growth management plans and implementing salmon recovery plans.
Chris and his wife Jenny raise three kids and spend lots of time outside educating them in the woods and on the water and a little recreating too. Family hikes to Big Tree and helping the Suquamish Tribe with monitoring the smolt trap are fun and educational family activities. The environmental education and stewardship of and at the preserve are important parts why Chris enjoys being a board member with foundation.
Emily Mottino, Program Services Coordinator
Emily Mottino is a native Washingtonian who was born and raised in Seattle. She worked in the nonprofit event field for five years until marrying a Naval Officer, moving to Japan and starting a family. She is now back in the Pacific Northwest and excited to be working with the Foundation.
Emily holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Humboldt State University and a Master’s degree in Sport Management from The University of California, Long Beach.