2021 Paul Wiseman Conservation Education Grant Awards

Reconnecting people and place

Kitsap-based Keta Legacy Foundation, also known as Mountaineers Foundation, is pleased to announce the two winners of this year’s $15,000 Paul Wiseman grants awards: Rivershed Society of BC and Great Peninsula Conservancy.

The Foundation’s Paul Wiseman Conservation Education Grant program supports two projects each year. One grant award is for projects focused on environmental education and the other award for a restoration project. The Foundation received 10 project applications for its 2021 cycle.

Wiseman was a well-known mountaineer from Olympia who passed away in 2011 two days before his 99th birthday.

“One of the most important ways to ensure we can protect our air, land and water is by reconnecting people to the places we live and depend on,” said Renee Johnson, chair of the Foundation’s community grants committee. “The Paul Wiseman grant allows us to invest in projects that will have a lasting impact in the Salish Sea region. We are incredibly humbled at the opportunity to support these two organizations and all they’re doing to promote culturally-appropriate and inclusive approaches to conservation and education.” 

2021 Paul Wiseman Conservation Education Grant Program Awardees

Rivershed Society of BC

Foodlands Corridor Restoration Program

Rivershed’s mission is to connect, protect and restore the salmon and wildlife habitat within each of the Fraser River watershed’s 34 riversheds. The organization’s Foodlands Corridor Restoration Program is a partnership with local Indigenous communities and agricultural landholders to restore portions of the private land adjacent to the waterways along the staləw ̓/ Fraser River. The grant supports creation of a Foodlands Toolkit for organizations and stakeholders on how best to complete restoration work using a decolonized Theory of Change. It will provide community resources for conflict resolution, historical analysis of sites, and tools for approaching the land and people with honor and respect.

The program aims to create corridors of restored natural areas that reflect the diversity of values that the land represents, both from a western farming perspective and from a traditional hunting and gathering perspective.

— Justine Nelson, Executive Director, Rivershed Society of BC

This is the first known toolkit of its kind in the region to promote a health-centered restoration approach that takes into account food systems, Indigenous knowledge, and multiple landholders.

Great Peninsula Conservancy

Land Labs

GPC’s goal for the Land Labs program started earlier this year was simple: connect kids with the lands the GPC creates. Land Labs was created to provide outdoor experiences for students from historically marginalized communities or who may not have traditions of outdoor recreation. In 2021, the program was able to serve six classrooms of middle-school students from Catalyst Public Schools in Bremerton. The Foundation’s grant will allow GPC to expand the program to serve an entire grade level at Mountain View Middle School. GPC will focus on recruiting volunteer instructors who reflect the communities of students served.

Students who participate in Land Labs learn about the impacts of climate change and how to serve as a steward of local lands. The Land Labs are designed to meet Next Generation Science Standards. GPC surveyed participating students in 2021 and reported 82% of them said spending time outdoors made them more excited to learn.

GPC’s Executive Director, Nathan Daniel, has said: “This substantial grant from Keta Legacy Foundation will expand our Land Labs program, turning more of Great Peninsula Conservancy’s nature preserves into learning laboratories where local students connect with nature through hands-on community science. We are grateful for this support and look forward to collaborating with the Foundation to increase community engagement in land conservation right here in our community.”

Read more about the Foundation’s ongoing grant program, as well as projects we have funded in the past.

2021 May Newsletter

Letter from our president, Jeff Wirtz

Greetings to all our Keta Legacy Foundation, also known as Mountaineers Foundation, friends.

It’s hard to believe that June is already upon us! With businesses starting to reopen and the weather luring us outdoors, we’ve never felt more ready and excited for the projects ahead of us this summer. The rhododendrons are beginning to bloom at the Rhododendron Preserve and the salmon smolts are almost done making their way through our streams out to sea.

Our board and staff want to thank everyone who participated in the GiveBig campaign last month. We can’t say enough how much we appreciate your support for our conservation and education work.

I also want to thank Renee Johnson and the members of our grants committee who just completed a new round of community grant awards. Our community grant program is now 51 years old, and it’s remarkable to think about the hundreds of projects and partnerships that we’ve supported through that program. The first grant award was $100 in 1970 for camping education to the newly-founded Central Area Youth Association in Seattle. While the size of the grant awards have grown since then, the focus is still the same – helping nonprofits that, like us, want to inspire and connect people to healthy ecosystems. You can learn about this year’s grantees here.

Enjoy these first days of summer. Stay healthy and well.

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


Cooperation and competition keep our forest healthy

In a healthy forest ecosystem, there is cooperation and competition. Trees warn their species family about problems, share resources with them, and raise their tree offspring in a way that grows strong resilient trees. Trees also compete for resources, and some tree species, such as Western Red Cedar, are particularly effective at hoarding resources for themselves. If you’ve ever tried to grow plants around a Cedar tree, you know that Cedars can create toxic conditions for other plants, so nothing else will grow nearby.

However, trees also form relationships. In this photo you see a pair of tree friends. On the left is a Douglas Fir, and on the right is a Western Red Cedar. These two are growing so close together that they almost look like one tree with two types of bark. You can also see that the Cedar is older and larger than the Douglas Fir. When the Douglas Fir first sprouted in the roots of the Cedar tree, the Cedar chose to nurture it and raise it, rather than kill it. You can say they are tree friends. If you pay attention when you visit our Rhododendron Preserve, you will discover other tree friends and notice mature trees supporting and protecting trees of other species. There is a whole forest of interesting relationships for those who look. Forest ecosystems are communities filled with diverse and wonderful relationships.

— Katha Miller-Winder
Education Committee Chair


Suquamish Tribe partnership is helping restore crucial salmon habitat and highlight the interconnectedness of our ecosystems

In case you missed it, Jessie Darland from the Kitsap Sun made a trip to the Rhododendron Preserve recently to learn more about the restoration and salmon recovery work taking place in Hidden Valley, one of the ancestral fishing and gathering grounds of the Suquamish Tribe

In this area where Wildcat and Lost Creeks come together to form Chico Creek, Jon Oleyar, the Tribe’s fisheries biologist, is helping lead the effort to monitor the salmon smolts. Jon and his team are out daily from April through June capturing and recording the smolts leaving the creeks. They come back in the fall to count the salmon who have returned to spawn. This includes coho, which is one of the foods our endangered Southern Resident orcas depend on.

Jon’s work highlights the interconnectedness of our individual actions, the Rhododendron Preserve and the streams that run through it, and the impacts to salmon and orca. We’re grateful for this partnership with the Suquamish Tribe who have been stalwart advocates for salmon and orca recovery.

We invite you to read Jessie’s story and to visit the Rhododendron Preserve for a self-guided salmon tour of your own. Though Hidden Valley remains closed to the public while we continue restoration work there, you might catch a glimpse of the remaining departing smolts while strolling along Big Tree Trail next to Wildcat or Lost Creeks.


Summer interns are back to work

Our Rhododendron Preserve committee is proud to introduce you to our 2021 summer interns, Megan Burch, who is graduating from the Western Washington University Huxley Program on the Peninsulas next month, and Casey Blankenship, who is finishing the same program next year and returning after interning with us last summer.

Megan and Casey have already started planning fieldwork and developing data collection techniques for their summer work. Together with me and my Olympic College students, Megan and Casey are working this month to fine-tune the forest monitoring protocols that will be used to define and characterize the different forest stands at the Rhododendron Preserve. The data will be added to the ArcGIS database that the interns developed last year. This is an important tool that will help us monitor forest conditions and plan our management activities, such as invasive species removal or restorative thinning of overstocked forests. This monitoring and management work is essential as we restore certain stands to more natural, biodiverse, and functioning forests.

The intern program is part of the board’s commitment to monitoring the different forest and other ecosystems and working to preserve their ecological functions in the face of risks such as surrounding development, climate change, and past timber harvesting practices. We’re grateful for their work and the opportunity to offer a unique work experience for students pursuing careers in conservation and environmental science.

— Amy Lawrence
Preserve Committee Chair


Upcoming events and reminders

  • Have you signed up yet for the 2021 Kitsap Kids’ Directory parks & trail challenge? Keta Legacy Foundation, also known as Mountaineers Foundation, is proud to be supporting this effort to encourage families to visit all of Kitsap County’s parks and trails. Check out the details here, and start exploring!
  • Keta Legacy Foundation, also known as Mountaineers Foundation, is proud to be a leading sponsor of this year’s 2021 NW Land Camp hosted by the Washington Association of Land Trusts. This annual event brings together hundreds of land trust leaders and conservation partners. This year’s virtual Land Camp will take place every Thursday in June. If you happen to know someone attending, let them know that they can stop by our virtual booth to say hello.
  • Congrats to Directors Bree Grimm and Katha Miller-Winder for their recent literary successes.
  • Bree recently wrote a case study, titled “Chico Creek: Restoring the Place of the Chum Salmon,” which is now one of twelve chapters within the book “Removing Barriers: Restoring Salmon Habitat through Tribal Alliances,” featuring Evergreen students’ case study research, original maps, and artistic works. Bree’s case study and artwork were recently featured in Evergreen’s annual Equity Symposium, and her artwork will also be featured throughout June in the cross-disciplinary arts exhibit called “Submergence: Going Below the Surface with Orca and Salmon.”
  • When she isn’t busy volunteering for Keta Legacy Foundation, also known as Mountaineers Foundation, Director Katha Miller-Winder is an active Therapy Dog handler for Therapy Dogs International and the head of their local chapter. She recently published a book aimed at helping more people decide if therapy dog work is something that they want to pursue and showing them how to get started. The book is “Becoming a Therapy Dog Team: Guidance and Advice.” It’s available in paperback and kindle versions on Amazon.

First Round of Grants Awarded in 2021

Keta Legacy Foundation, also known as Mountaineers Foundation, announces 2021 community grant award winners
Kitsap-based Keta Legacy Foundation, also known as Mountaineers Foundation, announced its latest round of community conservation education grant funding for six projects throughout the Salish Sea region. Four of the six projects support youth education for elementary, middle or high school students, including three that focus on historically underserved youth in diverse communities. All six of the 2021 applicants received maximum grant awards of $5,000.

The Foundation’s long-running community grants program has funded hundreds of projects at conservation-focused nonprofit organizations over the past 51 years. Renee Johnson, chair of the community grants committee, said these past two years were especially crucial as nonprofits struggled to raise money and maintain operations during the pandemic.

“Protecting and connecting with healthy habitats has always been the Foundation’s focus, and the pandemic affirmed just how crucial it is for people to feel that connection to our mountains, water and land,” said Renee Johnson, chair of the community grants committee. “For many of our partners, we were one of the few lifelines they could find to keep their doors open, even if just virtually.”

“Everyone was stunned by the unfolding pandemic in 2020. It presented unprecedented challenges for organizations serving the community, particularly environmental organizations that provide in person experiential learning for the public,” said Andrea Dolan-Potter, development associate for the Port Gamble S’Klallam Foundation at Heronswood Garden, a 2020 grant recipient. “The Foundation’s support for our community education classes provided critical, flexible support that allowed us to quickly pivot and respond to these challenges. In the end, we find ourselves with an even stronger community education program, with more options and better amenities for both in person and online learning. While the impact of the pandemic overall has been hard and brutal, we are grateful for the Foundation’s support and look forward to further growth and expansion of accessible, community-based environmental learning in Kitsap and the greater Pacific Northwest.”

Johnson says the outlook for nonprofits is still challenging as in-person fundraising events or programming are just beginning to resume, but, like Heronswood, many organizations are feeling optimistic about being able to reopen their doors.

“It’s exciting to see what these organizations are planning for 2021, especially the programs that engage our young people and connect them to the outdoors,” Johnson said. “We’re so grateful to be able to support our partners and the communities they serve.”

The Foundation received 13 applications for Community Conservation Education Grants. The six projects awarded funding are:

Friends of the San Juans — $5,000
Friends of the San Juans last year developed an immersive science education pilot project for high school students using virtual reality to connect students with the local marine food web. The program allows students, many of whom come from low-income communities, to experience the virtual reality of underwater divers and field scientists to observe herring, sand lance, juvenile Chinook and more. Friends of the San Juans now wants to expand the pilot project to include additional videos and be available to schools throughout Washington state. The Foundation awarded a community grant to the pilot project last year. View an example of their virtual immersive underwater experience.

Native Fish Society — $5,000
Native Fish Society is advancing a speaker’s education series to support the conservation of wild Coastal Cutthroat Trout and their habitats in the Hood Canal. The population of Coastal Cutthroat Trout are declining at the same recreational fishing is increasing. The habitats within the Hood Canal region are being degraded due to failing septic systems, animal waste, fertilizers and other pollutants along with loss of riparian habitats. The speakers series is designed to promote education, engagement and stewardship to help improve the region’s habitat conditions for the Coastal Cutthroat Trout.

Northwest Natural Resource Group — $5,000
Northwest Natural Resource Group is partnering the Highline School District’s Waskowitz Outdoor Education Center (also known as Camp Waskowitz) to create a new interactive curriculum on ecological forestry tied to the Center’s new forest stewardship plan and a thinning harvest occurring at the Center this spring. An estimated 2,700 students participate in Camp Waskowitz every year.

Their project includes six components: new curricular materials for middle schoolers, curricular materials for high schoolers, guidance documents for teachers and staff, a forest regeneration study with students, public display information about the forest, and a self-guided interpretive forest walk for all ages. The project will help deepen the connection to the forested hinterlands of the Salish Sea watershed felt by students from this densely urban school district where 70 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch.

South Sound Estuary Association (SSEA), dba Puget Sound Estuarium — $5,000
The Puget Sound Estuarium is seeking to expand the number of students who participate in field trips at its Inspiring Kids Preserve (IKP) on Henderson Inlet in Thurston County and Bayshore Preserve in Mason County.

The IKP site is dedicated to providing K-12 students learning opportunities regarding estuarine ecology and conservation. The Estuarium partners with Community Land Trust to provide field trips to students from Lydia Hawk Elementary School, one of the North Thurston School District’s most diverse and underserved schools, to experience a forest walk and observations of saltwater and freshwater wetland ecosystems. The grant funding will help the Estuarium offer field trips to another North Thurston school, doubling the number of students who can participate.

At the Bayshore Preserve, Oakland Bay Junior High Students participate in Bayshore Field STEM trips and learn, among other things, how to test saline levels and the impacts of saltmarsh intrusion into the upland habitat.

Student Conservation Association — $5,000
The Student Conservation Association’s Seattle Community Crews offer financially-insecure and diverse urban youth a paid opportunity to gain environmental education and workforce development skills through hands-on conservation projects at local parks and green spaces. SCA operates two to four Community Crews in the Seattle area each summer, each comprised of 5-8 high school youth and 1-2 leaders who complete four weeks of conservation service that includes building and repairing trails, cleaning shorelines, tracking and monitoring invasive species, and restoring habitats for native species. Grant funding will support SCA’s 2021 summer program.

Washington Association of Land Trusts — $,5000
The Washington Association of Land Trusts is a statewide coalition of 32 nonprofit conservation land trusts. Their annual Northwest Land Camp brings together private land conservation organizations and other natural resource professionals to promote greater support for open space protection, land conservation and environmental education. Grant funding will support the Association’s 2021 Northwest Land Camp, expected to attract nearly hundred practitioners who work in the Salish Sea Ecoregion.

More information about the Foundation’s grant program, including past recipients, is available at https://ketalegacy.org/grants/.

2021 April Newsletter

Letter from our president, Jeff Wirtz

Greetings to all our Mountaineers Foundation friends! Spring has returned, and I know that many of us have welcomed the change in season and the longer days of light. While we continue to put a pause on some of our outdoor education and work party activities, we’re still working full speed on several important efforts. A few highlights:

  • In our December newsletter, we highlighted the work of our 2020 interns who developed a new GIS tool that will help us refine our plan for managing the Preserve and supporting the Chico Creek watershed. We’ve hired two interns to continue that work this year – Casey Blankenship, who is returning from last summer, and Megan Burch, both from Western Washington University. They’ll begin working part-time this month and work through the summer to further refine our conservation-based management plan for the Rhododendron Preserve.
  • Thanks to those who contributed during our 2020 virtual Fall for Fish event! Director Amy Lawrence is working with a construction contractor to obtain a bid for a deck around Big Tree. We’ll need volunteer help with this project when the time is ready, so keep an eye out for updates.
  • Our Hidden Valley restoration work continues with the help of the Washington Conservation Corps (WCC). A WCC crew was at the Preserve for two weeks in March removing invasive species like Himalayan blackberry and English holly.
  • The Suquamish Tribe’s fisheries biologists are working in Hidden Valley daily until June to monitor the salmon smolts leaving Lost and Wildcat creeks. The biologists will return in the fall to count the number of adult salmon that return to spawn. Their work provides important indicators about the health of the watershed and its ecosystems. We’re grateful for their partnership.
  • The GiveBig campaign is coming up May 4-5! As always, we welcome your support. These funds will help our efforts this year to restore and maintain Big Tree trail, restart field trips and other environmental education programs when it’s safe to do so, and maintain our 426-acre Preserve in support of the Chico Creek watershed. As always, 100% of all donations directly support program activities. We are proud that we manage all our funds in socially responsible investments.

Finally, if you haven’t had a chance to visit the Preserve recently, I encourage you to pick a sunny afternoon to stop by and see the trillium in bloom. Last year, Director Amy Lawrence shared a virtual Trillium Walk that’s worth a watch, and our education committee chair Katha Miller-Winder shares some lovely photos below. Remember to wear your face mask and give space to other visitors!

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


It’s the little things…

This month the focus at the Preserve is on the little things. If we slow down and really notice our surroundings, there are a wealth of little things to see at the Rhododendron Preserve. Trillium are everywhere. You can see them shift from the vibrant white of blooms at their peak, then shading through the pink tinge of blooms just past their prime, to the mottled magenta of blooms before they fade away until next year. There are precious woodland violets hidden in plain sight for those who take the time to look. You can find mahonia beginning to bloom, new sword fern growth unfurling, and countless varieties of moss. And if you take the time to see it, you can marvel at the multitude of spikes protecting a devil’s club’s new growth. There are sapsucker holes in trees to notice, bleeding heart blooms to admire, and many plants waking up and showing their new growth. The little things are calling. Come and see.

— Katha Miller-Winder
Education Committee Chair


Community grant partners demonstrate innovation and persistence during the pandemic

The pandemic and related shutdown measures have been incredibly on hard on nonprofit organizations that often rely on in-person fundraising events or paid programming. Over the past 53 years, we’ve partnered with organizations on hundreds of projects, and the creativity and resilience shown by our 2020 grantees made these some of our most inspiring.

We were able to award seven grants last year to organizations that were all dedicated to making sure that their conservation and education work continued despite the shutdowns and uncertainties of COVID-19. A year later, we’ve been incredibly proud to see how some of them have demonstrated remarkable innovation and persistence.

One example is Heronswood, a botanical garden near Kingston owned by the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe. Their gardens have long been a beautiful site for events and educational programs and tours, but they had to cancel all of those during much of last year. They leaned into the virtual space, while also looking at how to get ready for safe reopening. They adopted a new daily “Show and Tell” community class that has become so popular that they’ll be continuing it through 2021. Also, they’re building new “environmental education pods” throughout their garden that will support more outdoor education for small groups, as well as improving the accessibility of several of their paths and gardens to support those with mobility support devices. It turns out that their online class formats have been so popular, Heronswood is planning to keep them as part of a new “Lunchtime Lectures” series. Online or in-person, these gardens are worth a visit!

Friends of the San Juans is another example. They took online learning to another level by developing a virtual reality experience for high school students that allowed them to see our local marine food web up close. While there’s no substitute for experiencing nature in person, Friends of the San Juans helped students get awfully close. Watch for yourself!

Washington Environmental Council hosted four events for Orca Recovery Day including two beach cleanup events. 57 volunteers participated in the events.

Puget Soundkeeper Alliance was able to engage dozens of students in its effort to create a story map about Lost Urban Creeks and support the water quality monitoring work of Springbrook Creek and the Duwamish River. Friends of the Anacortes Community Forest Lands hired a new forest educator who successfully launched several outdoor education programs that are already connecting local students to the outdoors. We’re so pleased that Pacific Shellfish Institute, RE Sources, and Washington Environmental Council all found similar success in adapting their programs quickly.

All our 2020 recipients found ways to keep their doors open and ensure that the important work of connecting people to the environment and healthy ecosystems continued. Our 2021 community grants program is proving to be just as crucial to helping our partners navigate these challenging times. Keta Legacy Foundation also known as Mountaineers Foundation prides itself on partnering with like-minded conservation organizations because just as our planet’s ecosystems are inter-related, so is our work to protect them. We’ll be announcing our 2021 grantees soon – stay tuned!

— Renee Johnson
Community Grants Committee Chair


Tree cookies made for learning, not eating

Have you ever heard of a tree cookie? It sounds like it would be a cookie in the shapes of a tree, doesn’t it? Tree cookies actually refer to a slice of tree that people can study to determine the age of the tree, how climate has impacted the growth of the tree, and which years were good (or not) for tree growth.

There’s an entire science called dendrology which relies on the study of trees and other woody plants. Looking at tree cookies is one aspect of that science. The Mountaineers Foundation was recently delighted to acquire five large tree cookies from a Western Red Cedar that fell in 2020. Once these are sanded and covered in a protective preservative, they will become part of our available education materials. Each cookie will be large enough for four or five students at a time to share. This is one of many things we’re excited to share when in-person field trips resume!

— Katha Miller-Winder
Education Committee Chair


Upcoming events and reminders

  • Get ready: the 2021 Kitsap Kids’ Directory is hosting a parks & trail challenge, inviting families to visit all of Kitsap’s parks and trails. The Foundation is proud to be supporting this effort. Check out the details here, and start exploring!
  • If you haven’t taken a look recently, peruse our Flickr site to see beautiful new images from the Preserve.
  • Remember to Give Big on May 4 & 5!