May nature’s wonders never cease

October 30, 2019

Katie Voelke, Executive Director, North Coast Land Conservancy

 

My first job on the Oregon Coast was tagging Chinook salmon on the Nehalem River. I would stand in the middle of the cold river at night while the fish were running upstream, catch them, and mark them before letting them continue swimming up the river. It was cold, slimy work, usually in the rain. It was great! When I first went to work for North Coast Land Conservancy, I was mostly outdoors as well. I got to know every inch of the newly acquired Circle Creek property while creating the stewardship plan shortly after its purchase. I would walk through boot-sucking swamps, across cow pile-littered pasture, over Circle Creek on an ancient fallen cedar trunk following ruts worn from decades of elk using the same bridge. What a gift it has been to get to know our wonderful conserved spaces so intimately over the past 30 years! Watching a hummingbird weave a nest from spider webs and moss in the forest along the Skipanon River. Witnessing salmon spawning in the gravels of Boneyard Creek. Paddling by a seal in Sand Lake estuary or a beaver swimming in Blind Slough off the Columbia River.

The list of nature’s wonders witnessed goes on and on. Recalling these memories reminds me of why I write these letters to you each year. And it reminds me of why you respond with a gift of support. Because we share the same goal: to ensure that nature’s wonders never cease.

These days I don’t get outside nearly enough for my taste. So it was with great pleasure that I headed up to Boneyard Ridge on a sunny Friday in October with our entire board of directors to get a look at the property where we planned to do a major forest restoration project more than a year in the planning. Up atop Tillamook Head we oohed and aahed; there’s nothing like getting out on our land to see where it fits into the broader landscape and understand the big picture.

That is, until our stewardship truck broke down. I mean, it’s old and has been limping along for some time, but the transmission had been fine; losing reverse gear right at that moment was a surprise. There we were, stuck at the end of a gravel road way up on Tillamook Head with a busted truck.

So what did our board members do? What else? They got to work! In this case, pushing a quarter-ton truck uphill far enough that our stewardship director, Melissa Reich, could turn it around and get it pointed back downhill. And then we continued with our day, moving forward.

It’s the perfect example of what you and all our wonderful supporters do: whatever it takes!

The cool thing is that we can even undertake a restoration project like this. We couldn’t have done it ten years ago. But as we have grown—as our staff and land base have grown—so has our expertise and capacity. Melissa is becoming a go-to stewardship authority among land trusts in the Northwest, on the leading edge of this pioneering work: turning timber farms back into resilient and diverse forests.

That learning—acquiring the know-how to make complex land transactions and to parlay the latest scientific research into effectively caring for the land and its wildlife—doesn’t just happen. We owe it all to your support.

From the top of Boneyard Ridge that day, I gazed down at the floodplain and forest at Circle Creek. It led me to reflect on how far we—all of us—have advanced conservation in the North Coast. Fifteen years ago NCLC created Circle Creek Habitat Reserve. It was the first purchase that required us to raise more than a million dollars and commit to completing hundreds of acres of restoration. Since then we’ve planted more than 70,000 trees on that property alone. That’s more than roughly 11,000 tons of carbon mitigated, which translates to about 500,000 round trips by car between Portland and the coast! That is the impact growing forests make. It’s a striking example of why our conservation work matters, not just locally but globally.

Today NCLC is working to purchase 3,500 acres of forest for conservation to create what we’re calling the Rainforest Reserve. This is a $10 million investment with a priceless global return. Not to mention the wonders it achieves for salmon, wildlife, and water. This is the work we need to all be doing right now, and we are doing it, together! I feel so proud to be helping change the future with you. Thank you for being a part of this critical time for Oregon and for conservation. We are making a difference.

Our ability to take on a challenge of this magnitude demonstrates to me that North Coast Land Conservancy has come of age. And that’s all because of your support. Thank you for giving to NCLC in the past, and thank you for giving again this season.

Trees that were planted at Circle Creek when I first started 15 years ago now tower over my head. Although the work we are doing is for the long term, it is also protecting and improving the environment today and having a direct impact on us right now! It reminds me of what I’ve heard my parents say about their years raising kids: “It just went by so fast.”

Kids, trees, organizations: we can grow so much and so fast in 15 years. I am as stunned by the growth of those trees as I am by the growth of my own children (also threatening to tower over me any day). And by the growth of NCLC. I used to know every one of our supporters by name and face. Now as I sign these letters to you, I wonder who some of you are. What has motivated you to support coastal conservation? What’s your story? Thousands of people are now helping this coastal conservation story to unfold. Although I miss the intimacy of knowing each and every one of you, I still feel deeply connected to you, for our stories are now intertwined.

Being a part of conservation right now makes you part of one of the great stories of Oregon. Our trees, our salmon, our rivers, our beaches are all loved by people from around the world. Oregon is wild and wonderful, and the coast has supported human life for thousands of years. Up until a couple hundred years ago, the bounty of the coast sustained the people of the coast, and the people cared for and respected its bounty. Being a part of conservation today is to be part of a culture and a human community that cares for and respects that bounty. It brings to mind the sentiment I have heard so often and that rings so true for me: “We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”

Maybe you have been a donor for years. Maybe you’re not a donor but have been supporting us by volunteering or just paying attention to our work and sharing it with others. We need and value all kinds of support. Now, as you consider your end-of-year donations, I hope you will also consider a gift to NCLC.

 

 

Executive Director
North Coast Land Conservancy

PS: Many of our supporters have decided to make monthly donations to NCLC. We call them Sustaining Stewards. People tell us monthly donations are easy to budget for; we like them because they help to even out our cash flow. If this is something you have been considering, we can help—just call.

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