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.

2022 January Newsletter

Letter from our president, Jeff Wirtz

Greetings to all our Foundation friends,

If January is any indicator of the year to come, 2022 is going to be extremely busy for our board and staff! We have several exciting projects underway, including one that is transforming how we manage the Rhododendron Preserve.

As you know, Kitsap County continues to grow and develop. That development, coupled with climate change, is impacting our region’s ecosystems. This requires us to think differently about how we manage our Rhododendron Preserve and ensure that the forests, meadows and streams function as they should. If you haven’t yet read our online story by board member Amy Lawrence about the interns’ work that started three years ago, we have a few highlights and links below.

Also, in December we announced the 2021 recipients for our Paul Wiseman Conservation Education Grant program. Renee Johnson, the chair of our community grants committee, noted that both recipients — the Rivershed Society of BC and Great Peninsula Conservancy — are doing inspiring work to promote culturally-appropriate and inclusive conservation and education opportunities. You can learn more about their work below, as well as more history on Paul Wiseman and how bequests like his allow us to meaningfully support like-minded organizations.

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!

Signs of nature’s architects and engineers are everywhere at the Preserve

Every living thing has some impact on their environment, but there are only a very few that dramatically modify their environment to benefit themselves.

Humans, of course, are at the top of this list. People modify their environment to suit their needs. They change the contours of the land, clear land of vegetation, build new structures, and even reroute waterways to make the place they live as comfortable and convenient as possible.

But there are non-humans who similarly modify their environment to suit their needs. Beavers are an excellent example. They cut down trees and dam streams to create ponds and wetlands that are ideally suited to the needs of beavers.

Lost CreekIt’s easy to see the changes people and beavers make to their environments and to notice the effect that these changes have on the other living things that share the area with them. Human cities are generally poor places for wildlife to thrive, though some animals can be pretty determined. Coyotes and raccoons, for example, are adapting to life near people by becoming less fearful and more adept at scavenging and hunting domestic pets. Similarly, beaver ponds and wetlands modify habitat for other animals. Moose for example, like beaver wetlands. A well-established beaver-created wetland is filled with moose forage.

There’s a third environmental architect. Most people can’t name this architect. Can you? This architect can change the climate of their environment, significantly change soil composition, alter the contours of the land, and shift the course of waterways. The changes beavers and humans make are visible very quickly, but this architect works on a much slower time scale. The architect in question is a tree.

Given enough time, trees can completely transform a landscape. Trees can build up, stabilize, and change the banks of waterways. They can slowly break up rocks, delve deep for water, and through transpiration—exhaling water through leaves—they can form microclimates which affect the larger climate around them. Trees create communities, and through the mycelium network among their roots, trees can invite in other plants that fix and provide missing nutrients in the soil. Trees work to establish the growing conditions that are best for themselves, and these conditions provide habitat for many other species.

However, on their own, trees take a very long time to accomplish these things. They operate on a different time scale than humanity. People like to get things done quickly because they have shorter lifespans. Trees, in general, have much longer lives and can take longer to make the changes they want.

As the pace of climate change accelerates, tree timescales may not be workable. But when humans and trees work together to restore and reclaim a damaged environment, the difference that trees make can be accelerated. Watch this short story of a couple planting millions of trees to restore damaged land in Brazil for a great example of what people and trees working together can do.

While our Rhododendron Preserve is generally healthy and thriving, we see the signs of climate change. This is why we are working to support the trees and to help them continue to thrive and survive. As we plant new trees in Hidden Valley and in buffer parcels, we’re choosing to plant trees that are from areas near the Oregon/Washington border. They are the same species as the trees on the Preserve, but they are already accustomed to warmer temperatures. As these trees mature, they will already have the adaptations needed to thrive as the temperatures rise. And because they get to grow in the healthy climate created by the existing healthy forest, there’s a good chance they can keep the Preserve healthy and thriving for centuries to come.

— Katha Miller-Winder
Education Committee Chair

INSPIRE!

Paul Wiseman grant awards show impact of legacy giving

In December, the Foundation announced the 2021 recipients of the Paul Wiseman grant awards —  Rivershed Society of BC and Great Peninsula Conservancy. The organizations are both focused on conservation and education projects that help connect people and places in inclusive new ways.

Paul Wiseman was a well-known mountaineer from Olympia who passed away in 2011, two days before his 99th birthday. He also happened to be one of the seven founding members of the Foundation. Paul served for 34 years as an active trustee for the Foundation. At the age of 90, Paul decided he could not continue to make the Olympia-to-Seattle commute for board meetings and so, reluctantly, retired. He was immediately named our first emeritus trustee for life.

When he passed in 2011, Paul left a large portion of his estate to the Foundation for conservation education. Since conservation was one of his passions, the Foundation created the Paul Wiseman Memorial Fund Conservation Education Grant program to establish a namesake grant program that would provide grants totaling up to $30,000 each year for projects which promote environmental education and habitat restoration. The Foundation launched the grant program in 2015 and has since provided more than $250,000 in grants to eleven conservation- and education-focused organizations throughout the Salish Sea region, plus various Braided Books projects.

In addition, Paul’s gift helped the Foundation launch a new internship program that started in 2019, as well as partially fund the planning and development of the new education pavilion in Hidden Valley.

Paul is among more than 40 Foundation supporters who have entrusted the Foundation with legacy gifts that help us preserve, inspire and educate for generations to come.

EDUCATE!

Talented intern teams help the Foundation launch modern approach to managing our centuries-old forest

For more than 100 years, the stands of old growth forest and miles of salmon-spawning streams within the 466-acre Rhododendron Preserve have been carefully protected, but largely with a hands-off approach. That strategy is changing, however, as the Preserve continues to grow and change in the face of climate change and regional development.

Good forest management can improve tree health, reducing shading and overcrowding (above) and helping to create well-spaced trees and diverse understory (below).

The Preserve, which is located within the Suquamish Tribe’s usual and accustomed fishing and hunting areas, is managed by Keta Legacy Foundation, also known as Mountaineers Foundation.

Amy Lawrence is a board member for the Foundation and an Olympic College professor. Together with other board members, she has led a three-year effort to develop a forest management plan and modern digital mapping and visualization tools that will help the Foundation make decisions about things like if and where to thin the forest or plant trees, monitor streams and riparian habitat, or control invasive species.

Amy saw this as a perfect internship opportunity for some of the students that she’d been working with. She and the intern teams — which included Bree Grim, who is now a member of our board — have developed new ArcGIS maps and digital survey tools that make it possible to gather and analyze data about every section of the Preserve.

Read more about their work.

MORE TO EXPLORE

Events and reminders

In case you missed it, we purchased 40 additional acres from Ueland Tree Farm (UTF) in November. UTF and the Foundation have a long partnership that dates back to 2009. Support from the Suquamish Tribe and Foundation donors have allowed the Foundation to acquire multiple parcels from UTF that improve salmon habitat. Learn more about how this land purchase is helping protect salmon habitat.

Managing a Centuries-Old Forest

For more than 100 years, the stands of old growth forest and miles of salmon-spawning streams within the 466-acre Rhododendron Preserve have been carefully protected, but largely with a hands-off approach. That strategy is changing, however, as the Preserve continues to grow and change in the face of climate change and regional development.

The Preserve, which is located within the Suquamish Tribe’s usual and accustomed fishing and hunting areas, is managed by the Keta Legacy Foundation, also known as Mountaineers Foundation. Amy Lawrence is a board member for the Foundation and an Olympic College professor. Together with other board members, she has led a three-year effort to develop a forest management plan and modern digital mapping and visualization tools that will help the Foundation make decisions about things like if and where to thin the forest or plant trees, monitor streams and riparian habitat, or control invasive species.

“The interconnectedness of our natural systems is indisputable. The Kitsap area continues to grow and develop, putting additional strain on our streams and buffer areas at the same time climate change is coming to bear,” Amy said. “We have an obligation to make sure the forests, meadows and streams in the Preserve are healthy and can support the biodiversity of the Salish Sea region. As we’ve acquired new land, we’ve needed to modernize how we monitor and respond to the changing maturity, health and biodiversity throughout the Preserve.”

We have an obligation to make sure the forests, meadows and streams in the Preserve are healthy and can support the biodiversity of the Salish Sea region. As we’ve acquired new land, we’ve needed to modernize how we monitor and respond to the changing maturity, health and biodiversity throughout the Preserve.

Amy Lawrence

Amy saw this as a perfect internship opportunity for some of the students that she’d been working with. In 2019, Holly Walter, an intern from Western Washington University (WWU), helped with the initial compilation of data about the Preserve and started building the base layers for a new geographic information system (GIS) tool.

In the summer of 2020, two new interns – Bree Grim from Evergreen State College and Casey Blankenship from WWU – took on the next phases of work. Bree and Casey completed an in-depth review of the recommended management strategies from earlier studies and management planning efforts to start developing a new conservation-based master management plan. The new plan would link management efforts to specific conservation goals and threats and look beyond the boundaries of the Preserve to include the greater Chico Creek watershed.

Bree and Casey also started refining the map Holly had built by heading into the Preserve to “ground truth” each section. This involved hiking into each of the Preserve’s 32 stands to confirm or update information about how easy the stand is to access, the forest stand characteristics such as average tree diameter and height, the presence or degree of invasive species, and more.

In addition, Bree and Casey developed state-of-the-art Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) images and data to map the ground and canopy of the Preserve. They compiled historical timber plot data from former plantation sites originally owned by Ueland Tree Farm. The data and images make it easier to determine the density, age and competition levels for those sites. They were also able to use drone imagery to create 2D and 3D image files that make it possible to gather information about the hardest-to-reach parts of the Preserve. All the forest survey work is supported by use of an app that allows interns, students, board members, and others to easily collect and upload forest data into the GIS database using standardized protocols.

During the summer 2021 intern season, Casey continued working on the project with Megan Burch, also from WWU. This month they completed a detailed ArcGIS forest stand access map and submitted an updated management plan for review by the Foundation’s board – which happens to now include former intern Bree.

This forest stand in the southern part of the Preserve was once previously disturbed, but is now approaching maturity, with well-spaced trees and diverse understory.
This stand is typical of some of the Preserve’s newly-acquired parcels. Trees are dropping their lower branches as they use their energy to grow taller to avoid being shaded out. This results in very little vegetation on the ground and poor tree health because of the extreme shading and overcrowding.

Amy says that the board plans to hire two new interns this coming summer to complete more survey work that will complete baseline data needs for all forest stands and collect more information for the GIS database. She and her students are also using some of the new monitoring protocols at nearby, recently-thinned forests in the same watershed. The Foundation will be able to examine trends from that data as they consider management strategies in the Preserve. They also plan to consult with the Natural Resource Conservation Service to help oversee restorative thinning of the Preserve’s more recently-acquired parcels.

“This work has helped us see our forests through a different perspective. It’s not just the height and diameter of the trees,” Amy said. “In the short term, these new tools will help us prioritize our restoration work. Over the long term, it helps us think about things like where we might acquire more land for improved buffers. As we add other elements such as salmon and water quality, we’ll have an even deeper understanding of how well this ecosystem is working.”

Key findings and recommendations in new management plan

The resulting 2020-2023 management plan will identify the major threats and proposed management measures for several wildlife species, trees, habitats and plants. Logging or timber harvesting, invasive species, and regional development are among the top threats cited in the plan. Proposed management measures could include managing invasive species, thinning certain stands, and more regular monitoring.

It will note which wildlife species are vulnerable or imperiled including chum, coho and sockeye salmon. While Lost Creek and Wildcat Creek are in excellent health, the draft plan notes that invasive species, as well as logging and development outside of the Preserve, pose ongoing threats to riparian areas. Future property acquisitions might include properties or conservation easements along Wildcat Lake or its tributaries, and the plan will recommend additional buffers in riparian zones where thinning occurs.
The plan will also detail four ecozones in the Preserve with specific conservation goals for each type of ecozone. The draft plan notes that the general health of the Preserve’s mature forest stands is excellent, with little management needed beyond monitoring for invasive species and added attention to Big Tree, creek valleys and hazard trees.

The draft plan notes that the unique attributes and significance of the Hidden Valley homestead site. The grassy meadow area supports a rich variety of wildlife, which could be impacted by planting trees. The Foundation has considered restoring the site to create a more favorable habitat for salmon, and the plan recommends additional study to understand the impact of any active restoration work and determine the site’s highest ecological use. The Foundation is currently in the process of removing derelict buildings from the site and building a new educational pavilion for visitors.

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 October Newsletter

Girl Scout Troop 43990 have adopted the Wymer parcel of the Rhododendron Preserve

Letter from our president, Jeff Wirtz

Greetings to all our Foundation friends,

I’m thrilled to share that our Rhododendron Preserve is now 40 acres larger thanks to a new land purchase from our friends at Ueland Tree Farm! This is our latest purchase from Ueland Tree Farm, totaling more than 140 acres of valuable forest land that provides a healthy buffer for the habitat and salmon runs within the Preserve. We’re fortunate to share land within the Chico Creek watershed with a landowner that is just as dedicated to protecting salmon as we are, and who entrusts us to be good stewards of this land.

A big thank you to everyone who joined us at our Fall for Fish fundraiser on Oct. 23rd. Your contributions make our work possible, and your participation in our events makes our work feel more like fun. This year’s event provided attendees a special opportunity to hike into Hidden Valley, see the preservation work underway, and learn how this work supports salmon recovery throughout the Salish Sea region. After canceling all our main events last year due to COVID, it was really fantastic to see folks in person again. One of our Foundation directors, Katha Miller-Winder, shares a few highlights from the day in our newsletter below.

We’re fortunate to share land within the Chico Creek watershed with a landowner that is just as dedicated to protecting salmon as we are, and who entrusts us to be good stewards of this land.

If you weren’t able to attend, but are still interested in contributing to the Foundation, we’d be grateful for your support. Never has our work to protect salmon been more urgent or important. You can allow the Foundation to use your donation wherever it’s needed most, or you can direct your donation specifically to our community grants program, our conservation education program, or the Rhododendron Preserve. Every dollar donated directly supports program activities, and we’re proud to manage all our funds in a fossil-fuel free social investment fund.

As a bonus, our online donation page features downloadable gift tags, so you can contribute on behalf of a loved one or give the gift of an outdoor experience at the Preserve!

Thanks again to everyone who has contributed time, money, and goodwill to Keta Legacy Foundation, also known as Mountaineers Foundation. We appreciate your partnership more than you know.

Stay healthy and well,

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

PRESERVE!

Fall for Fish event provided sneak peek at preservation work in Hidden Valley

Rain didn’t keep away an enthusiastic group of the Foundation’s friends and benefactors from gathering together for this year’s Fall for Fish event. Every year, this event offers a chance for us to celebrate our organization’s successes and preview upcoming plans. This year was especially fun because attendees had a chance to veer off our well-loved Big Tree path for a sneak peek at the preservation work underway in the Hidden Valley area of the Preserve.

Entering Hidden Valley from the bridgeAfter assembling in the dry creek meadow section for short video introductions and remarks from Foundation directors, attendees hiked down to the current bridge over Wildcat Creek. This bridge will be replaced with a more structurally sound bridge located on the edge of Hidden Valley. At the bridge, Director Amy Lawrence brilliantly described the flora and fauna of the Preserve and the importance of the Preserve to salmon and the Salish Sea region.

From the bridge, attendees moved into the Hidden Valley section of the Preserve. This space is closed to the public while we work on restoration. Entering Hidden Valley, attendees walked past the site for the new bridge, the location for the new education pavilion, and past dangerous, decrepit buildings that will be removed. Permitting and planning are underway, and demolition and construction will begin in 2022.

After the tour attendees gathered in the heart of Hidden Valley to learn from Suquamish Tribe Fisheries biologist Jon Oleyar about salmon and efforts to enhance salmon runs. If you missed the Kitsap Sun’s story earlier this year about the Suquamish Tribe’s work in the Preserve, it’s worth a read.

Hidden Valley is an original homestead site in Kitsap County occupied until 2011. As such there has been significant human impact. Yet, standing in the valley, everywhere you look you see nature reclaiming the space, both as a result of our assistance and as a natural result of environmental systems at work.

At one point, standing in the valley in lull between rain squalls, attendees were treated to the sight of a bald eagle flying overhead. This time of year, eagles are among a host of species gathering by the water for a salmon feast. Salmon hadn’t quite made it to Hidden Valley yet but were gathering in deeper water spots waiting for the rains that will fill the creek and create the right conditions for spawning.

Standing at the bridge on the Big Tree trail or in the middle of Hidden Valley it’s easy to see what the Foundation is fighting to preserve. Being there and watching a bald eagle fly overhead is inspiring. And the wonder of being educated by experts can’t be overstated. It was a magical day.

There’s still time to donate and help the Foundation continue to Preserve, Inspire, and Educate.

— Katha Miller-Winder
Education Committee Chair

INSPIRE!

Girl Scouts bring new life back to the Preserve

Our vision at the Foundation is people connecting with and protecting healthy ecosystems. Girl Scout Troop #43990 represents a true success in achieving our vision.

Girl Scout Troop 43990 have adopted the Wymer parcel of the Rhododendron PreserveThis troop of girls and their families have adopted the Wymer parcel of the Rhododendron Preserve. This parcel is one of the buffer pieces that was most heavily impacted by human activities.

Despite years of volunteers trying to plant trees and clear scotch broom, a common but invasive plant, the Wymer parcel remained stubbornly covered with scotch broom and only a few scattered trees. This intrepid group of girls and their wonderful families wanted to help and adopted this parcel five years ago. Their goal is to restore it to healthy woodlands. They’ve worked hard on the parcel. While the girls planted new trees, their families worked tirelessly to cut, dig, and pull the invasive scotch broom. Removing the scotch broom gave the trees more space and light and the trees we had planted in the past began to thrive creating healthier conditions for the trees the girls planted.

In October 2021, two Girl Scouts visit a tree they planted in the spring of 2019.
Girl Scouts planted a small tree in 2019, and you can see two of those girls standing next to that same tree this year. Both the girls and the tree have grown quite a bit!

The Girl Scout families’ efforts to remove the scotch broom have already made a big difference, and these efforts were extended by work from the South Kitsap High School Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. As the oldest saplings grow taller, they’re starting to shade out the scotch broom which makes it harder for shrub to survive and have created better conditions for new plantings.

The COVID-19 pandemic prevented the girls from visiting the Preserve for nearly two years. When they visited again to plant more trees they were thrilled and delighted to see how much things had grown and improved. They are very connected to this piece of the Preserve and delighted to have a hand in restoring it to healthy conditions. It’s inspiring to see the excitement and sense of ownership the Girl Scouts and their families have about this place. Watching the girls planting trees and their families removing invasive species we’re able to see our vision in action. You can find more photos from our day with the Girl Scouts and their families on our Facebook page.

EDUCATE!

Beaver dams – friend or foe to salmon?

True or false? One way to help salmon pass through streams and rivers is to break through beaver dams to open up a passage.

True or false: It hurt salmon if you break through beaver dams for them.On the face of it this seems like a no-brainer. Dams block the flow of water and create a barrier to salmon, so knocking a hole in the dam would help them. Right?
Think again. People tend to take a simplistic view of systems and only focus on a single aspect, but nature takes a macro view of how all the pieces work together. People see salmon stacking up behind a beaver dam and think the dam is an impediment to salmon getting upstream to spawn. But look again. What you see is nature stacking salmon up behind a beaver dam because there isn’t yet enough water in the creek to provide the right conditions for salmon to successfully spawn.

When a creek system has enough water to create successful spawning conditions, the water will deal with the beaver dam. The water will either blast a channel through the dam that allows fish to swim through the dam, or the water will overflow the dam and create a hurdle for salmon to leap over. In the latter case, the salmon crashing onto the dam as they try to hurtle it will actually pack the dam tighter in that area which improves conditions even more for the next salmon.

When humans knock holes into beaver dams, it actually harms salmon. The sudden rush of the dammed water gives salmon the false impression there is a substantial amount of water upstream and encourages them to advance when they should wait. These salmon arrive at their spawning grounds and spawn, but in water that is too shallow. When the torrential rains come and the creeks swell, the rushing water scours out the redds (the depressions female salmon make in the gravel to safely deposit their eggs) and washes away the eggs. When salmon wait until the creeks are swollen with water, they select more stable areas to build their redds and the eggs are more likely to stay put.

Be a salmon friend and let nature do what it does best. Leave beaver dams to nature and don’t disturb, damage, or destroy them. The natural system knows how to deal with beaver dams and it doesn’t require our help.

— Katha Miller-Winder
Education Committee Chair

MORE TO EXPLORE

Upcoming events and reminders

  • They’re coming… and this time in person! If you missed the Kitsap Salmon Tours kickoff on November 6th, don’t worry. You still have time to see the salmon returning to the Preserve throughout November. Check out this beautiful video and photos from the kickoff event on our Facebook page.
  • Scavenger hunts, forest bingo, video adventures and more! If you haven’t had a chance to peruse our new Education Resources page, now is a great time to find a fun indoor or outdoor learning adventure for the young and young at heart.