2022 June Newsletter

Letter from our president, Jeff Wirtz

Greetings to all our Foundation friends,

Summer is in full swing and not a moment too soon! We love the rain and the beauty that it creates, but it’s nice to have a little dry weather to welcome new and returning visitors to the Rhododendron Preserve.

As we discussed in our May newsletter, we have a lot of improvements in motion to ensure that we’re keeping the Rhododendron Preserve in great condition. At this year’s Fall for Fish annual fundraiser on Oct. 15th, we’ll celebrate the work that we’ve done to replace the bridge, remove hazards in Hidden Valley, build the pavilion, and add protective decking around Big Tree. It’s truly a labor of love that we can’t wait to share with you. Tickets are now available – we hope you can join this year’s event at Island Lake Park in Poulsbo.

I also want to alert readers that Washington Conservation Corps (WCC) member recruitment is underway for the 2022-23 program year. They are recruiting over 280 members who will serve across Washington state, including with the Foundation. Applications can be submitted here. You can read about their work at the Rhododendron Preserve here.

Last, and certainly not least, the Foundation Board is actively working to educate ourselves about diversity and inclusion to better serve our diverse communities. That’s why we’re so delighted to share a first-hand account from Vamos Outdoors Project in this newsletter about how our community grants program is helping foster inclusion in outdoor activities and create an understanding that nature is a welcoming space for everyone. We truly can’t get enough of these great stories, and we are excited to keep working to foster outdoor inclusion for all.

We hope to see you at the Fall for Fish fundraiser and hope you enjoy this newsletter. Thank you for all you do for the Foundation and our communities.

Stay healthy and well,

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

PRESERVE!

Building Blocks for Diverse Animal Habitat

The Foundation is committed to creating and preserving the diversity of the more than 400 acres of the Rhododendron Preserve. To do that, we’ll be creating animal habitat piles using dead wood and small trees thinned from overstocked stands.

What are habitat piles and why are they important?

Wildlife habitat piles are built with small trees, limbs, and boughs – often with materials that are a byproduct of forest management activities or storm-related debris. These “critter condos” provide homes for wildlife such as songbirds, voles, chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits, salamanders, frogs, lizards, and snakes. Insects like them too.

Habitat piles are important because they provide food and shelter to more than 40 percent of wildlife species in Pacific Northwest forests. Habitat piles located near streams and wetlands also benefit salmon runs by keeping sediment runoff at bay. And, bonus, these piles will erode over time, creating rich soil that supports a wide variety of forest undergrowth and offers nutrients to the trees.

That’s why we’ll be actively constructing these habitat piles at the Rhododendron Preserve. We want to ensure that birds, small animals, reptiles and yes, even bugs, have a healthy home.

Next time you visit the Rhododendron Preserve, keep a lookout for our habitat piles and think about the many animals and fish they will sustain throughout the year and beyond.

— Jeff Wirtz
President

INSPIRE!

Community Grants in Action

On June 11th, we took 11 youth from Latine and Migrant families whitewater rafting through the gorgeous canyon section of the North Fork Nooksack River. The river was running very high with all the recent snow melt and rain that we’ve had up here in Whatcom County. Driving over the bridge and seeing massive whitewater waves made my stomach flip, but the kids unloaded the van with nothing but excitement—a great start to the day.

The highly professional guides walked us through an extensive safety talk before we set out on the river. I sat across from one of the students and watched his eyes and smile grow bigger with every rapid. Every single student was engaged in paddling through the breathtaking North Fork Nooksack River canyon. We pulled over on a relatively protected river bar for lunch, where the students were treated to watermelon, charcuterie, a sandwich bar, lemonade, and brownies.

A few of the trip leaders, including myself, spent significant time educating the students on the ecological significance of the Nooksack River to the region, the five species of salmon that call the river home, some of the threats that impact the river (logging, irresponsible recreation, hydropower, flood management infrastructure, etc.), as well as some of the restoration work being done by the Nooksack Indian Tribe to alleviate these impacts (a staff member from the Nooksack Tribe joined us on the trip). The students also shared some of the Leave No Trace practices that they had learned from previous excursions and talked about how they applied them to this trip.

When we got back to the outfitter’s headquarters, after the students helped load the rafts back onto the trailer, the students celebrated one of their trip leaders who had just graduated from college and would be moving on from working with this group of students. They wrapped him in a big hug and shared a tres leches cake. I was honored to be a part of that celebration.

We then had a trip debrief where each student named their favorite part of the trip, the most challenging aspect of the trip, and what they want to improve upon. All but one student kept talking about what they’d like to do on their next whitewater rafting trip—a pretty good ratio for 11 kids trying something scary for the first time!

The participants and I want to extend an enormous “thank you” to you and the Foundation who made this trip possible. This trip was an invitation for this underserved community of Latine youth to participate in a historically white-dominated river recreation activity. We hope that it sparked a new sense of curiosity and appreciation and that these students will become great advocates for rivers.

We greatly appreciate that the Foundation shared and amplified our project on the Foundation’s website and e-newsletter.

Thank you, sincerely, for your support.

Bridget Moran, Vamos Outdoors Project

What a beautiful day they had. On behalf of the Foundation, we are so glad your trip was such a success. You are doing important work!

— Nancy Neyenhouse
Vice President

EDUCATE!

Crown Shyness

Have you ever looked up at the forest canopy? Did you notice how there are gaps between treetops where you can see the sky? Did you wonder why trees give each other space like that?

Dendrologists, the people who study trees, call it “crown shyness.” That term always sounds to me like the trees are too bashful to let their tops touch. In fact, scientists aren’t sure why some species of trees are so careful to keep their branches from touching while others do not exercise such care.

If you look up at the canopy at our Rhododendron Preserve, you’ll often see areas where the trees are giving each other space. Some scientists argue that by keeping their limbs from touching each other, the trees are protecting themselves from the damage that would occur when wind whipped the branches and leaves against each other.

Other scientists believe that maintaining space and not allowing branches from different trees to touch is a way to prevent diseases and insect infestations. When the trees don’t touch each other, it’s more difficult for larvae, insects, and diseases to move from tree to tree.

Still others contend that when the trees give each other space, light has greater penetration, and the forest can photosynthesize more efficiently. The trees are cooperating to maximize the chances of survival for each of them. I like the idea that trees are cooperating with each other so that each has the best chance to survive and thrive. Trees live in communities and cooperation is essential if a community is to flourish. More and more research is being done that reveals how trees cooperate with each other. Future research may determine that crown shyness is just one more way trees collaborate to ensure that their communities prosper.

You can learn more about crown shyness and about how trees maintain their separation in this article.

— Katha Miller-Winder
Chair of the Education Committee

MORE TO EXPLORE…

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. 15th, 2022, at Island Lake Park, 1087 NW Island Lake Road in Poulsbo. Tickets are now available.
  • Mark your calendar for Giving Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022.

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

PRESERVE!

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

INSPIRE!

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

EDUCATE!

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

MORE TO EXPLORE…

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.

2022 April Newsletter

creek on the rhododendron preserve

Letter from our president, Jeff Wirtz

Greetings to all our Foundation friends,

It’s gearing up to be a busy year in Hidden Valley! This summer, we’ll begin work on the construction of a new education pavilion in Hidden Valley. We’ll also be replacing our bridge over Wildcat Creek. We’ll share our progress on these projects along the way and look forward to welcoming old and new friends to celebrate both projects around Fall for Fish, our annual fundraising event, on Saturday, Oct. 15.

The Keta Legacy Foundation, also known as the Mountaineers Foundation, is incredibly excited to share a list of the many recipients of our community grants program. They are highlighted in the “Inspire” section of this newsletter. Congratulations to every grant recipient and all the great work that they do to conserve and preserve the valuable spaces that bring us so much joy!

A big “thank you” to everyone who participated in the annual Kitsap Great Give and the Washington GiveBIG campaigns. Your contributions make our work to preserve and share our cherished Rhododendron Preserve with visitors possible.

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

Stay healthy and well,

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

PRESERVE!

Hidden Valley Past, Present, Future

creek on the rhododendron preserveThere are a lot of exciting things happening in Hidden Valley this year! Hidden Valley is a section of our Rhododendron Preserve that’s currently closed to the public but, if everything goes as planned this year, that will change before the salmon return to spawn.

Hidden Valley is located at the confluence of Lost and Wildcat creeks. These two creeks come together and form Chico Creek, which flows into Dyes Inlet. The lush bottom land and proximity to three creeks made Hidden Valley an ideal homestead location. And that’s where our recorded history of Hidden Valley begins.

Past

Under the Homestead Act of 1862, Alfred Taylor claimed the 67¼ acres that originally made up Hidden Valley. However, in Taylor’s own words, “I’m no woodsman and the screeching of the wildcats fair drives me crazy.” So, in 1890 Taylor sold the property to John Lewis and his family. The Lewis family lived there until 1903 when Hidden Valley was sold to land speculator John McClain. A chance meeting between McClain and S. Edward Pascall on the ferry Norwood resulted in Pascall purchasing the property in 1907 and settling there with his wife and two daughters, Mary and Patience.

The Pascalls lived in Hidden Valley as subsistence farmers, growing their own food and making nearly everything that they needed. Materials that they couldn’t make themselves were packed in on their backs or brought down the hill on a trolley that ran on wooden tracks. The family was very happy in Hidden Valley. They had no near neighbors, but that didn’t mean they didn’t have visitors.

In 1909, a group of Mountaineer hikers looking for the blooming rhododendrons at Wildcat Lake took a wrong turn and found their way to Hidden Valley. The Pascalls welcomed the group and gave them permission to have their lunch in the valley. The Mountaineers on that hike made such a positive impression on the Pascalls that they invited the group to return, and a long friendship developed. The Mountaineers purchased adjoining property and eventually built what is now The Mountaineers Kitsap Cabin, which is on the Washington State Historic Register, as well as the Kitsap Forest Theater.

In 1955, Mary Pascall Remy and her sister Patience Pascall downsized their homestead and donated 40 acres to The Mountaineers for conservation, educational, and recreation purposes.

By 1968, Patience Pascall was the only surviving member of family, making it increasingly difficult for her to manage everything on her own. Harry Murray and his family moved into Hidden Valley as tenants and caretakers. It was also this year that the driveway into Hidden Valley was built, the first road ever into Hidden Valley.

When Patience Lincoln Pascall passed away in 1978, she left Hidden Valley to the Foundation, with Harry Murray having a lifetime tenancy. This meant that while the land belonged to the Foundation, Murray could live there as if the property were his own, which he did until his death in 2001.

Present

Upon the death of Harry Murray, the property became entirely that of the Foundation. Since that time, the Foundation has been clearing the valley of hazards, demolishing unsafe structures, and giving thoughtful consideration of how best to use the Pascall gift in a way that would honor the history and the environmental value of the property. The Foundation also wants to be sensitive to the fact that Hidden Valley is part of the Suquamish Tribe’s usual and accustomed lands, working alongside the Tribe to ensure thoughtful environmental stewardship and seeking their guidance on projects and restoration work.

While the Foundation has been putting the final touches on our future plans for Hidden Valley, the valley hasn’t been idle. Fisheries biologists from the Tribe use the confluence to conduct annual smolt counts on both Lost and Wildcat creeks. Being able to set up traps at the end of each of these creeks makes for an accurate count of the fish leaving the system. The Foundation has also used the space for field trips, educational events, and restoration projects. Washington Conservation Corps has been engaged regularly to remove invasive species. Girl Scouts and the Foundation Board have planted trees and native species. In addition, a lot of planning, discussion, and fundraising has taken place.

Future

Like all the Rhododendron Preserve, Hidden Valley is an incredible education resource. This year buildings will be demolished and removed, and a new education pavilion will be built. In addition, a new bridge will be constructed across Wildcat Creek.

In addition to the constructing the pavilion and bridge, we’ve hired a contractor to build a protective deck around Big Tree that will protect the roots, but also still allow visitors to touch the tree.

We are proud of the Foundation’s legacy in Hidden Valley and are excited to see all the planning, hard work and partnerships, as well as fundraising, come together.

-Katha Miller-Winder
Chair of the Education Committee

INSPIRE!

The Power of Community Grants

The Foundation is proud to be able to provide community grants to groups and programs across Washington state and beyond. These grants allow underserved communities to enjoy our great outdoors, support critical conservation efforts, and boost educational work that keep green spaces green and preserve critical areas, including our waterways, as well as inspire the next generation of conservationists.

This year, we awarded a total of nine grants to the following deserving groups:

American Rivers: American Rivers—along with their partner, the Vamos Outdoors Project—is organizing a rafting and river education trip for Latin youth on the North Fork Nooksack River in June 2022. The goal of this trip is to introduce the next generation of river stewards to the ecological gem that is the Nooksack River. With this trip, they hope to invite historically underrepresented communities to the river’s recreation community and build a stronger, more diverse team of river advocates.

Braided River: This group is using an innovative multimedia citizen action campaign to celebrate, protect, and restore Puget Sound. It began with an award-winning book published in Fall 2019, and has expanded to include live events, earned media, bus and transit signs, a library poster contest, and a multimedia traveling exhibit. The Foundation’s grant will be used to extend the tour of the multimedia exhibit around Puget Sound and provide additional partner support to venues around the Salish Sea to leverage the suite of the group’s educational resources.

Pacific Shellfish Institute: The Pacific Shellfish Institute will use its grant to expand its “Exploring Plankton!” lendable backpacks program in partnership with the Timberland Regional Library, teachers, and local School District Science Coordinators. The Institute will create two backpacks for the Library of Things Program at Timberland Regional Library and an additional backpack that will be available to classrooms and the public directly through the Institute.

Raincoast Conservation Foundation: The grant money provided by the Foundation will support the third season of Raincoast’s interactive online education program, Coastal Insights. The funding will also support the running of our Student Innovation Contest, in partnership with Take A Stand: Youth for Conservation.

RE Sources: The grant will support The Green Team Network (GTN), which is a free program for all Whatcom County K-8 students. It provides hands-on, locally relevant lessons and learning activities focused on energy efficiency, water conservation, waste reduction and recycling, and climate science and impacts. RE Sources staff support GTN members, including teachers and volunteer mentors, as they explore the sustainability of their school and then plan and implement their own student-led sustainability project.

The Student Conservation Association: The grant will fund The Student Conservation Association’s (SCA) Seattle Community Crews, which 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, building and repairing trails; cleaning shorelines; tracking and monitoring invasive species; and restoring habitats for native species.

Vashon Nature Center: Grant dollars will allow the Vashon Nature Center to participate in an on-going community science effort to estimate wildlife population sizes for black bear, cougar, black-tailed deer, Roosevelt elk, bobcat, and coyote throughout the Salish Sea. This ground-breaking non-invasive study was started by Olympic Cougar Project, which is a partnership between Panthera and four tribal nations.

Washington Association of Land Trusts: Grant funds will be used to support the Northwest Land Camp 2022 and underwrite a six-part Equitable Communications in Land Conservation workshop series. Collectively, the group’s cutting-edge environmental education events are expected to attract over 200 land conservation practitioners working in the Salish Sea Ecoregion.

Washington Environmental Council: The grant will support their public conservation education work around threats to the survival of the critically endangered Southern Resident orcas, specifically their work on Orca Month and the Give Them Space campaign. The Give Them Space campaign is a public engagement effort to reduce vessel noise and disturbance around the orcas in Puget Sound.

The Foundation is incredibly honored to support these groups this year – and many others over the years – and the good work that they do across our state and beyond. They represent the spirit and legacy of the Foundation’s work to educate, inspire and preserve.

-Renee Johnson
Chair of the Grants Committee

EDUCATE!

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

We’ve all heard about the three ‘Rs” – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. We’ve all heard that mantra over and over again. And while we all know why it’s important to recycle, there’s a lot less emphasis on the other two Rs.

Most of us have a recycling bin in our homes. We know recycling is necessary and that it matters. We’re a little less clear about why it is vital to reduce and reuse. We could learn a lot by watching nature’s example. Nature is all about reducing, reusing and recycling. Nothing in nature is ever wasted and everything serves multiple purposes.

Let’s start with “reduce.” How does nature reduce? When we talk about nature we use words like abundance, generous and plenty. While there is competition for resources in nature, plants and animals don’t take more than they need. They don’t hoard resources. A wolf pack, for example, doesn’t kill two deer when one is enough to feed the pack. “Reduce” is a reminder for people to do like nature and only use the resources we need and not amass more than we can use.

“Reuse” is what nature does best. Everything in nature has multiple uses. This pile of branches on our Rhododendron Preserve property was once tree limbs that held leaves that made food for the tree. When the leaves fall, they are reused as a blanket for the soil, holding in moisture and providing protection for insects, grubs and larvae while they sleep and grow over the winter. The leaves are also food for these small creatures and fungi. As the leaves are eaten and eroded by weather they are recycled into new soil.

It’s vital that we humans think and act more like nature. It doesn’t have to start with major life changes; it can begin with small steps. My family subscribes to the newspaper. When we are finished reading the paper, we give it to a friend who uses it to line her bird cages. When the birds are done with it, she adds the newspaper to her compost bin where it breaks down and becomes soil for the herbs she grows. Instead of simply one use then going off to the recycling center, the paper serves three purposes ending up recycled back into nature.

We encourage you to think about the small things you can do to reduce, reuse, and finally recycle.

-Katha Miller-Winder
Chair of the Education Committee

MORE TO EXPLORE…

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.

2022 March Newsletter

All the girls had a role in planting

Letter from our president, Jeff Wirtz

Greetings to all our Foundation friends,

As we head into a busy time at Keta Legacy Foundation, also known as Mountaineers Foundation, we hope that you’ll take part in the GiveBIG online event through May 4. This event provides the opportunity for you to support organizations and causes that you value. Donations to the Foundation help fund our many preservation and outdoor education efforts that continue to inspire the current and next generation of conservation-minded individuals.

We are thrilled to begin in-person visits to the Rhododendron Preserve again. We’ve been cautious since the onset of the pandemic but are excited to see the faces of new and returning visitors. If you’d like to set up a time to support work projects or bring a class or group for a learning experience, please email us.

Finally, we are gearing up to begin work on the construction of a new education pavilion in Hidden Valley this summer, a project that we hope to have completed by our fall fundraising event. We’ll also be replacing our Wildcat Creek bridge over the summer. This project is only possible with your support. We’ll keep you updated as this work and all the other activities take place over the next few months.

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

Stay healthy and well,

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

PRESERVE!

Stewardship meets technology

Meet Casey Blankenship, a Western Washington University senior enrolled in the College of the Environment on the Peninsulas program.

Some of you may already know him from his three years of work as an intern at the Rhododendron Preserve, where he has taken his passion for conservation and married it with technology to help the Foundation identify and map the many different forest types on the Preserve.

A self-proclaimed Navy brat, he went to work in the Bremerton shipyard at a young age. But, when that work wasn’t fulfilling for him, he began taking classes at Olympic College in Bremerton, where he met me, Amy Lawrence, a Foundation board member and professor of Biology and Environmental Studies at the college.

In 2019, Casey and I discussed a possible internship at the Foundation. However, he needed GIS mapping experience, which he didn’t have at the time. GIS, or geographic information systems, simply put, connects data to a map, integrating location data with all types of descriptive information.

“I wanted to do the internship, so I asked if it was possible for me to take on the internship if I started taking GIS courses,” Casey explained. My answer was a resounding “yes.”

In early 2020, after three GIS courses, Casey met with me and Jeff Wirtz, president of the Foundation, to discuss coming on board as an intern to support forest mapping for restoration work.

That’s where it all started. He interned in 2020 and returned in 2021 with a new game plan – an app that he built that served as a mobile data-collection tool that linked to information gathered on the ground with metrics in the Ecosystem Management Plan for the Preserve.

“Another intern and I had this tool on our phones that was linked to all the data we wanted to collect on the forest,” Casey said, noting that they used the app to catalogue data on 70 different forest plots on the Preserve, measuring over 1,000 trees. The goal was to determine forest stand density to identify the health of the stand and tree age and species, to create a plan to bring overcrowded or unhealthy stands back to health.

Today, Casey is training the next cohort of interns with the hope that they, too, will see and experience the rare gem that is the Rhododendron Preserve.

When asked what brought him back year after year, Casey explained that the Preserve is one-of-a-kind.

“The Preserve is just such a special place,” Casey said. “Two major watersheds connect and then feed out to Puget Sound. What makes it so special is not just the beauty and the diverse ecosystems on the Preserve, but the history of the homesteader and the confluence of the creeks and Big Tree.”

He said one of his most memorable days was a sunset walk in the Preserve when he and the other intern discovered a “beautiful, well-spaced, mature tree stand” that they had never seen before in their work on the Preserve.

“It was a magical day and it reminded me of just how special the place is,” Casey said.

He said he’ll keep coming back to make sure future interns can use the tools he developed to support the restoration work on the Preserve.

“I am incredibly grateful to have been able to work for the Foundation,” Casey said. “The freedom my bosses gave me to experiment with these GIS tools and direct my own project and learning experience led to getting hired by a small GIS company in Bellingham. I am very lucky to have worked for them and it’s that positive experience that brought me back to work on the Preserve for a third year.”

The Foundation is incredibly grateful for all of Casey’s work and expertise that help us continue to restore and preserve the beauty of the Preserve.

-Amy Lawrence
Co-chair of the Preserve Committee

INSPIRE!

Giving Native Species Breathing Room

The Washington Conservation Corps (WCC) was back in Hidden Valley for two weeks in March. It is the fourth year of having WCC crews at the Preserve. Their work to remove invasive species is incredibly important – it serves to ensure that the native species stay healthy and thrive.

This time, crews worked to remove Himalayan Blackberry as part of the ongoing restoration process for Hidden Valley. In the past, WCC crews removed English Holly and worked to rebuild steps on the Big Tree trail. They also created a map of invasive species on several parcels in 2019 to help the Foundation prioritize removal of invasive species. WCC’s work is incredibly helpful as we work to protect and restore Hidden Valley and other parts of the Preserve.

This work is made possible by donors to the Foundation. Through May 4, you can participate in Keta Legacy Foundation, also known as the Mountaineers Foundation, GiveBIG campaign to support all the ongoing preservation and maintenance work in the Hidden Valley.

-Nancy Neyenhouse
Vice President

EDUCATE!

Girl Scout Troop finds unity among the trees

One of the great joys of my work with the Foundation is being able to connect young people to the environment and foster their connection to healthy ecosystems. It’s delightful to witness the excitement and enthusiasm that Girl Scout Troop #43990 brings to the section of our Rhododendron Preserve that they are working to restore.

As part of the recent planting in Hidden Valley and on other parts of the Preserve, the girls of Troop #43990 planted 40 shore pines in the area where they have been working. This was also a chance for them to check on the trees that they planted last October. We estimate about 70% of the trees that they planted last fall are thriving. It’s wonderful to see the girls visiting their trees and greeting them like special friends.All the girls had a role in planting

There is one tree that the girls planted as a group when both the troop and the girls were smaller. The girls named this tree “unity” and each time they come to plant more trees or check on the health of their plantings, they visit the “unity” tree and we take a photo. It’s exciting to watch how the tree, the girls, and the troop are all thriving in their environments.Troop with the Unity tree

Being able to visit the Preserve and to contribute to its ongoing health, as well as work to ensure its health into the future, has a profound impact on the girls. One of the troop leaders shared the results of a recent troop brainstorming session where the girls identified all the things that they dream of doing. They then voted for those things that they would like to do most. The top three activities that the troop dreams of doing are going to Disneyland, visiting Japan, and planting more trees for the Foundation. It drives home just how much their connection to the land means to these young people. Fostering that connection is an important part of why the Foundation exists and, we hope, it continues to grow the next generation of conservationists.

-Katha Miller-Winder
Chair of the Education Committee

MORE TO EXPLORE…

Upcoming events and reminders

  • Earth Day, April 22nd.
  • The GiveBIG campaign runs through May 4th.
  • We connect students to the Preserve by providing transportation stipends to schools for field trips.
  • In 2021, we expanded the Preserve by another 40 acres.
  • We hire a Washington Conservation Corps (WCC) crew for two weeks twice a year to do vital maintenance and invasive species control at the Preserve.
  • This is our fourth year of hiring two paid interns to work on the Ecosystem Management Plan for the Preserve.
  • 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.

2022 February Newsletter

Letter from our president, Jeff Wirtz

Greetings to all our Foundation friends,

Small signs of spring are starting to emerge, and I’m feeling very hopeful that 2022 will be full of the many things we’ve been missing the past couple years. I’m especially excited that student field trip requests are starting again, and volunteer work parties will be coming back. Having a few extra hands over the summer will be helpful as we start implementing our new management plan.

The Rhododendron Preserve is a fantastic place to volunteer or learn. If you’re part of an organization that is interested in volunteering or you’re an educator looking for a unique outdoor education experience, we’d love to hear from you. Please email us and we’ll work with you to offer service projects or learning experiences that fit your specific needs.

Also, we’re getting ready for April 19th, the day that Kitsap Great Give provides the opportunity for you to give to organizations and causes that you support. If you’d like to support Keta Legacy Foundation, also known as Mountaineers Foundation, your donation will help fund our many preservation and outdoor education efforts and partnerships.

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

PRESERVE!

Take a deep breath…

We all know that going out in nature is good for us. The Japanese have a practice called Forest Bathing that is predicated on the health benefits of simply spending time in the forest away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Many studies have shown how being outside in the natural world helps children with ADHD to be more focused and relaxed. Washington’s governor and physicians have even experimented with programs to prescribe time outdoors for patients – so-called “parkscriptions.”

There’s no doubt that being outdoors is good for our mental health. Try this quick test.

If you’re reading this sitting inside with your phone or on your computer, quickly write down the first three words that come to mind that describe how you’re feeling. Now go outside and stand by a tree for sixty seconds. Then write down the first three words that you think of to describe how you feel outside.

Your indoor words indoors are more likely to include things like tired, bored, trapped, stressed out, confined, or blah. Your outdoor words are more likely to include things like happy, free, space, awake, or alive.

Being in a forest has physical health benefits as well. It’s not only the physical exercise that you get walking in a forest, but also the benefits of the very air that you’re breathing. You’ve probably noticed how much better the air smells in the forest than it does in the city. In fact, that’s one of the most frequent comments we’ve heard from students visiting our Rhododendron Preserve on field trips. “It smells so good out here.” “This is great air.” “How come forests smell so good?”

The answer is simple. Trees breathe in the carbon dioxide that humans and animals exhale, and they also breathe in and trap pollutants, virus particles, and pathogens. Trees literally clean the air and return pure clean oxygen. In hospitals when someone is struggling to breathe, doctors administer pure oxygen to help them breath and to keep the patient’s cells oxygenated. But we don’t have to wait until we’re sick and struggling to breathe to enjoy the benefits of pure oxygen. We can visit the forest where the trees have been cleaning impurities from the air and returning oxygen for us to breathe.

In these days that seem like a never-ending pandemic, we encourage you to go to visit the Preserve and take a deep breath. Doesn’t it smell great?

-Katha Miller-Winder
Chair of the Education Committee

INSPIRE!

Norman L. Winn, an extraordinary life well-lived

Norm, who passed away in January at the age of 82, was a long-time trustee for the Mountaineers Foundation. He was a mentor to many of us presently serving on the Foundation Board and to many of those since retired from the Board.

He was an important voice on the Board of Trustees, passionate about conservation and the Foundation’s role in supporting environmental organizations that worked throughout the Pacific Northwest. He was instrumental in helping transfer the Rhododendron Preserve property to the Foundation. As a member of the Grants Committee, his expansive knowledge helped steer the committee toward important granting opportunities.

Norm is very much missed by us. We welcome you to read about his extraordinary life in this Seattle Times story or this touching obituary.

-Nancy Neyenhouse
Vice President

EDUCATE!

Scat, scat, where’s it at?

Poop, doodoo, caca, doody, feces, four-letter word, scat; whatever you call it, most of us don’t like to think about it. We flush it away, scoop it, bag it, or wrap it in a disposable diaper and throw it away. But to wildlife biologists and enthusiasts, scat is an incredible source of information.

The shape, consistency, and size of the scat can tell you what kind of animal was there. Where an animal deposits scat can indicate where they feel safe and have paused to rest or to mark their territory. The presence of scat also identifies an area to which the animal will likely return. If you’re planning to mount a wildlife camera, look for scat.

Scat can also tell you what the animal is eating. Biologists will study scat from an animal population over the course of a year or more to learn how the animal’s diet changes with the seasons and where the animal has traveled recently. A more detailed analysis of the scat reveals clues about the animal’s health and can even provide a DNA sample for that specific animal.

The next time that you see some scat on the trail, see what clues you can piece together. But be careful not to inhale any of it, and only pick apart scat or pellets with a stick or disposable gloves! Some diseases may be contracted by inhaling dust-borne particles. It’s best to stay upwind.

Here’s some more scat-sleuthing advice from Nebraska Extension in Lancaster.

When you break apart the scat, take note of hulls of seeds, skins of berries and bits of leaves. This suggests the animal is an herbivore. Small bones, fur and feathers appear in the scat of carnivores. Insect wings and other insect body parts tells you the animal feeds on insects. Some animals — like coyotes — will eat both plants and animals, so you may find scat with the fur from rabbits and the seeds of mulberry fruit.

Think like a biologist and see what clues you can observe in scat.

-Katha Miller-Winder
Chair of the Education Committee

MORE TO EXPLORE…

Upcoming events and reminders

  • April 19th: Give to the Foundation during Kitap Great Give!
  • Photo: Salish Sea Orcas and Center for Whale Research
    Welcome, baby J59! In case you missed it, last week we received the good news of the birth of a new calf in the endangered J Pod. The actions that we take to provide cool, clean waters for salmon here at home have profound impacts throughout the Salish Sea region. It’s one way we can help ensure a sustainable food chain for our southern resident orcas as they struggle to survive the increasing challenges related to climate change and regional development.