The Methow Conservancy, in Washington State's Methow Valley
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January 2009 ENews


Thank You & Happy Holidays!

The Big Valley elk, photo by Jason Paulsen
The Big Valley elk, photo by Jason Paulsen

Winter is a season of great beauty, peacefulness and wonder.  It is also a time for sharing thanks and appreciation.  As we say goodbye to 2008 and ring in 2009, we want to wish you all a festive and joyful New Year, and send a heartfelt thank you for your support of our work!  With your trust and support, we have worked with the Methow Valley community and individual landowners to protect nearly 5800 acres with conservation easements since 1996 (including 515 acres in 2008).  This protected land includes about 19 miles of shoreline along the Methow, Twisp and Chewuch Rivers.  The protected farmland, wildlife habitat, ridgelines, and floodplains, not only give us rural, scenic views today, they also help retain our character and culture and give us possibilities for the future.  Because you care, farmable soils and local food is possible; healthy ecosystems supporting native plants and diverse wildlife are possible; wide open spaces for our grandchildren to enjoy are possible.  Thank you for helping us protect the land of the Methow Valley and for preserving possibilities!

We also want to give a special thank you to Steve Hirsch and Larry Miller for plowing our parking lot this past month!

1st Tuesday Program co-sponsored by the Loup Loup Ski Bowl:  Homegrown Ski Areas of North Central Washington – A Short Film
Tuesday, January 6th, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. at the Twisp River Pub

Loup Loup Ski Bowl 1960
Loup Loup Ski Area 1960
Nancy Warner from the Initiative for Rural Innovation & Stewardship (IRIS) will present a 25-minute film on the history of the community-supported ski areas of our region featuring historical images and dozens of interviews conducted across the region last winter.  Hear stories about Squilchuck, Leavenworth, Badger Mountain, Entiat Valley, Echo Valley, Patterson Lake, Loup Loup, and Sitzmark ski areas.  Join friends of The Loup and the Methow Conservancy for this unique look back at our regional ski history; long-time “Loupers” will share stories from skiing at the Loup; share stories yourself and enjoy food and beverages at the Twisp River Pub.

The pub will open at 6:00 p.m. for attendees who would like to purchase drinks or something from the light menu.  The event is free and open to everyone.  Questions?  Contact Mary at 996-2870 or info@methowconservancy.org.

Final Conservation Easements of 2008 Protect Active Farmland and Rich Riparian Habitat
Maggie Coon and Mark Wolf-Armstrong completed their second conservation easement on 20 acres just before Christmas.  The land, a few miles up Twisp River Road, adjoins 26.65 acres that was protected by Maggie with a conservation easement in 2003. 

The Coon Wolf-Armstrong easement, which is predominantly farmland, provides a critical link Coon/Wolf-Armstrong property on the Twisp Riverbetween the upland shrub-steppe habitats of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Methow Wildlife Area to the north and the dynamic riparian habitats of the Twisp River and the Okanogan National Forest to the south.  The property also maintains the traditional open-space, and natural and agricultural character of the lower Twisp River valley, so treasured and respected by residents and visitors alike.

The property has been a working farm during most of the past century up to the present.  The water claims on the property predate 1910.  Prior to purchase by Maggie Coon in 1977, the farm was owned by Elizabeth Kaufman who managed farm animals, including llamas, pigs, and horses.  Stan Lord owned the property in the 1950’s and 1960’s and ran a dairy farm.  Today, the pasture is irrigated by hand lines, and electric fencing is maintained around the pasture for seasonal grazing of cattle.

The new easement contains approximately 640 feet of shoreline on the Twisp River.  The stretch of the lower Twisp River that includes the Coon Wolf-Armstrong property helps maintain species protected under the Endangered Species Act including spring chinook salmon, steelhead trout, and bull trout.  Spring Chinook and steelhead utilize the river for migration, spawning, and juvenile rearing and bull trout for foraging, migration and over-wintering.

Mark and Maggie feel strongly about protecting and stewarding the land of the Methow; Mark shared these thoughts with us during the easement process.  "The Methow is a unique place.  Perhaps because of history or the nature of the place, it remains a place with intact habitat on a grand scale.  It is place where human livelihood remains within the scale of nature’s ability to provide.  Maggie and I want to do our part to ensure that the Methow’s human inhabitants remain within our niche in nature.  The niche includes traditional ways of life such as agriculture and Mason property on the Chewuch Riverranching, as well as holding true to the values inherent in this special place –  beauty, appreciation, gratitude and compassion for nature.”

We also congratulate and thank the Mason Family for protecting their 44 acres on the Chewuch River with a conservation easement.  The rich riparian habitats, productive agricultural lands, and conifer woodlands on the Mason property define the distinct open-space characteristic of the Chewuch Valley. 

The Mason property is 8 miles from Winthrop and is the last private property going up the Chewuch River watershed.  It is an in-holding in the Okanogan National Forest.

The Mason conservation easement consists primarily of irrigated farmland currently planted with alfalfa.  There is also rich riparian habitat, an upland area that contains a mounded feature known as Indian Hill, and one dwelling.  The easement also includes approximately 1920 feet of shoreline on the west bank of the Chewuch River at the Eight Mile Creek confluence.  This shoreline is a shoreline of “Statewide Significance.”  Because of the cold water input from Eight Mile Creek and the largely intact riparian habitat, this stretch of the Chewuch River supports the highest density of federally listed spring Chinook and summer steelhead spawning in the entire watershed.  This reach is regarded as one of the highest priority reaches for habitat protection and enhancement for these fish.  Other at-risk fish including Pacific lamprey, Westslope cutthroat trout, and Bull trout are found in this area as well. Mason property on the Chewuch River

A healthy black cottonwood forest on the easement property includes trees of all ages, large snags and large woody debris.  This is an important habitat element to protect because it is vital to many birds, bats and other mammals, amphibians, insects, and fish.  The wettest areas in the riparian forest support water birch, mountain alder, red cedar, and willow.  Water birch and cedar are important indicators of healthy riparian habitat.  Such diverse and healthy habitats are the reason animals such as moose, porcupine, harlequin ducks, mink, pygmy owls, river otter, Coopers and Sharp-shinned hawks, beaver, bald eagles, black bear, Great horned owls and cougars have been noted on the property.

We thank Maggie Coon and Mark Wolf-Armstrong, and the Mason Family for their thoughtful partnership with us and their commit to conservation. 

Look for more exciting Conservation Easement news in the early months of 2009!

Winter Fieldtrips & Events
It might be snowy and cold but there are still lots of great things to see and do in the great outdoors!  Join us this winter on a wildlife tracking class, a conservation easement tour, a winter botany class, or just grab free hot cider from us along a ski trail!

Saturday, Jan 17th:  Imagine Winterski tour

  • On the Saturday of Martin Luther King, Jr. Weekend we will be serving you cool facts and hot cider at several MVSTA ski trailheads from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.!  Stop by, say hello and grab a cup (even if you aren’t skiing!).  We’ll share some interesting facts about the ski trail system and conservation, too.  Did you know that 19 families along the ski trail system have voluntarily placed conservation easements on their land—permanently protecting more than 1443 acres?

  • You are also invited to take part in a free guided ski tour on conservation easements.  We will be holding a “Conservation and Trails” Ski Tour on Easements from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. We’ll leave from the Suspension Bridge trailhead for an easy ski along the Methow River.  See the winter landscape that benefits fish and wildlife in this area of rich habitat, protected land and fantastic ski trails.  Methow Conservancy Stewardship staff Steve Bondi and Eric Bard will lead the tour on classic or skate skis (classic preferred).  A MVSTA trail pass is required but no registration is needed.  Meet at the Suspension Bridge trailhead on Goat Creek Road by or before 9:00 a.m. with enough clothing and gear to handle some stopping and talking.

  • To round out the day, join community members at the Winthrop Ice Rink at 7:00 p.m. for a homegrown film festival!  We’ll show the new “Homegrown Ski Areas of North Central Washington” film, short, fun films from MVSTA events and much more. The event is free and open to the public.

"Art of Wildlife Tracking" Field Workshops will be held January 31st and February 28th, each from 9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.  Explore the winter landscape of the Methow Valley with professional wildlife tracker, Gabe Spence, on one or both of these two dates.  We'll learn the six arts of tracking wildlife, including how to identify and interpret tracks and signs. Join us and find ways to learn more about and connect with the hidden lives of the creatures that share this land with us!  This unique outdoor class costs just $30.  Registration is necessary and space is limited to 10 individuals/class.  Please call or email Mary at 996-2870 or info@methowconservancy.org to reserve your spot. 

frozen grass, photo by Mary Kiesau“Botany in Winter” Field Class, February 21st from 9:00 a.m. – Noon. Plants are surprisingly beautiful in winter when we stop to look at them, and they can actually be identified, even without leaves and flowers!  Join this fun mid-winter botanical excursion with local botanist Dana Visalli, and enjoy both the beauty and the taxonomic challenge of our native flora in the snowy season.  This fieldtrip will be conducted on skis along the Big Valley Trail, and is limited to 15 people.  Cost is $10/person.  Contact Mary at 996-2870 for more info.

Register now for the 2009 Conservation Course!
A Bird’s-Eye View of the Methow: the Ecology and Conservation of Birds
Mondays, February 9th – March 16th, 6:00 – 8:30 p.m. at the Twisp River Pub.
Using the perspective of the Methow’s birds, we will explore connections to this place we have chosen to call home.  Birds are an excellent indicator of the health of our ecosystems and can teach us a great deal about how well we are managing our environment.  We’ll learn about the conservation of birds and what each of us can do to make our surroundings Rufus hummingbord, photo by Mary Kiesau(including our backyards) healthier for birds, and ultimately ourselves.  And because many species of birds are migratory international citizens, we’ll explore migration and discover our connections to the Western and Southern Hemisphere, as well as some of the challenges birds face when they are not in Washington.

The course will be structured to provide participants with grounding in key topics in ornithology.  Participants will learn about the evolution and adaptations of birds and how they have carved a unique niche in the animal kingdom.  This information will provide the basis for understanding conservation challenges facing birds, as well as opportunities to affect bird conservation.  We’ll use the Methow’s three key habitats—riparian, shrub-steppe, and conifer forests—as the basis of our exploration of bird conservation.

The course runs from February 9th through March 16th with one class per week on Mondays from 6:00 to 8:30 p.m. at the Twisp River Pub.  Tuition is $125 for Methow Conservancy members. The tuition for non-members is $150, which includes a discounted one-year membership.  The course is filling quickly so register soon! Contact Mary at info@methowconservancy.org or 509-996-2870 if you have questions.

Click here for more detailed information on the Conservation Course including the full syllabus and registration form.

Special Presentation: “The Owl and the Woodpecker: Encounters with North America's Most Iconic Birds”
Join us at the Merc Playhouse on February 15th at 7:00 p.m. for an evening of stunning bird images with Seattle-based photographer and naturalist Paul Bannick as we celebrate the release of his new book The Owl And the Woodpecker: Encounters with North America's Most Iconic Birds.  Paul will treat us to a slideshow featuring amazing photographs from the book, which profiles all 41 of North America's owl and woodpecker species across 11 key habitats, from familiar birds like the northern flicker and great-horned owl as well as rare ones such as the ferruginous pygmy-owl, red-cockaded woodpecker and northern hawk owl.  His presentation will provide an inside look at the way owls and woodpecker define and enrich their habitat and how the life-histories of these cavity-dwellers are intertwined.  The images will be accompanied by natural history information and Paul's field stories distilled from thousands of hours in the field observing owl and woodpecker behaviors.  Paul will sell and sign books after the presentation.Yellow-bellied sapsucker, photo by Paul Bannick

The event is free and open to everyone.  The Merc will open at 6:30 p.m. for attendees who would like to purchase drinks and get seats.  For more information contact Mary at 996-2870 or info@methowconservancy.org.

Paul Bannick is an award-winning photographer, specializing in natural history imagery.An experienced naturalist and outdoor educator, Paul creates many of his images while kayaking, hiking or snowshoeing in the Pacific Northwest. His work has been featured in numerous books and magazines, including The Seattle Times' Pacific Northwest Magazine, Sunset and PhotoMedia, and he is the official photographer for "Birdnote," a popular radio show found on several National Public Radio stations.  For samples from the book:  http://www.paulbannick.com  

Horse Logging on a Conservation Easement
The nearly 5,800 acres protected by conservation easements with the Methow Conservancy are all unique and different.  Each easement not only reduces the development potential on the land, but also includes provisions that ensure that the land itself is protected. 

Some conservation easements necessarily require a hands-off approach to land management—the best thing we can do is leave it alone.  Other types of land require more active land stewardship – from restoration projects to careful annual care.  A Stewardship Plan written by staff at the Methow Conservancy typically guides land stewardship activities on our conservation easements

Forested land requires special attention and ongoing care.  For forested easements, we often include the expertise of a professional forester to draft a plan that is ultimately approved by the landowner and the Methow Conservancy. 

Forester Andre Corso, photo by Eric BardIn the upper valley, several conservation easement landowners are using property-specific forest stewardship plans to reduce wildfire risk, improve forest health, and enhance wildlife habitat.  A commercial thinning and logging operation on David and Judith Wright’s easement does not operate under your typical forestry approach.  Forester Andre Corso created the forest plan with ecology and forest health as the focus. 

Corso knows that detailed assessments, marking healthy “leave” trees beforehand, and planning out skid routes before a harvest are important to achieving forestry goals.  On this easement along Highway 20 near Mazama, Corso used frozen ground, dry weather, and horses to help limit ground disturbances and minimize damage to standing trees. Local residents, Sam Thrasher and Rico Meleski as well as a few hard working horses combined a unique set of skills to limit their impacts on the land while working to improve the health of this coniferous forest.

There are ecological and economic benefits from horse logging that make it a very practical alternative to mechanized skidding, especially in smaller forested areas with difficult access. There are three significant environmental advantages to horse logging. The first is the absence of fuel and Rico with the horse team, photo by Eric Bardoil, which means no spills and fewer emissions.  Another benefit is reduced soil compaction and erosion.  Compacted soils take longer to grow plants, hold less water, and are more prone to erosion. Third, because horse are narrower, shorter, lighter, and less powerful than a skidder or bulldozer, the trails are narrower and the landing sites significantly smaller; there is less damage to residual trees and a healthier understory is left; and more of your land can be in productive forest and less area used for logging infrastructure.  Sometimes a horse crew will be paid more per unit than a machine crew, but often the whole logging operation cost less than mechanized logging in the end because large machines are expensive to transport to a job site and generally require more cost in landing and trail maintenance, and erosion and sedimentation controls.  Also, with horse logging the money paid often stays in the local community.

When the forestry operation is done you won’t see perfect “parkland” with evenly spaced and aged trees, but rather a diverse forest with healthy leave trees, clumps of young trees, a few standing snags, some large woody debris left on the ground, and even a slash pile or two left unburned for wildlife.  Trees attacked by forest pathogens, such as pine bark beetle, will have been removed. 
The long-term forest plan often requires another treatment 10-20 years into the future.  According to Corso, with the restoration logging, “the forest stand will trend toward healthy vegetation with reduced risks of crown fire, open canopies, larger trees, reduced insect and disease levels, increased representations of ponderosa pines and reduced fuel loading.” 

Snow Amazing is our book club choice for January.Natural History Book of the Month
Back from a holiday break, we have a new natural history book for January.  This book is great read for young adults and would be particularly good to share with kids too.  Snow Amazing: Cool Facts and Warm Tales by Jane Drake and Ann Love explores the fascinating, beautiful, and sometimes dangerous world of snow. Drake and Love write about snow as a habitat, the significance of snow on the environment, snow’s impact on the people and animals who live in it, and snow stories and lore from around the world.  Enjoy!

Events
Below, you'll find announcements about events or publications (ours and those of other organizations) that we think you might find interesting.

  • December 30th:  Wings of France: Birding Journeys from the English Channel to the French Riviera presented by Randy Brook, 7pm at the Confluence Gallery. This will be a slide show and commentary about traveling in France to places that aren’t on your usual tourist circuit.  Many of the birds look almost (but not quite) like our North American species. But the restaurants and outdoor culture are a different story.  We`ll see a little of both, along with the birds.
  • January 6th 2009:  Methow Conservancy 1st Tuesday co-sponsored by the Loup Loup Ski Bowl~ "Homegrown Ski Areas of North Central Washington,” 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. at the Twisp River Pub.  See above for more info.

  • January 17th: Imagine Winter: Join us for hot cider and cool facts on the ski trail and a special   “Conservation and Trails” Easement Ski Tour, 9:00 to 11:00 a.m.  See above for more info.

  • January 31st:  "The Art of Wildlife Tracking" Field Workshop, 9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.  Explore the winter landscape of the Methow Valley with professional wildlife tracker, Gabe Spence. See our events page for more details.

    February 3rd:  Methow Conservancy 1st Tuesday “Ecology and History: Why Societies Really Succeed and Fail,” 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. at the Twisp River Pub.  History is often told as chronicle of advancing and retreating armies.  Another way to view history is through the lens of ecology: how have different societies related to air, soil, water and wildlife?  Join us as local biologist and naturalist Dana Visalli shares a lively account of how people have succeeded or failed to understand the natural world through the ages. 

  • February 9th – March 16th:  2009 Conservation Course “A Bird’s-Eye View of the Methow: the Ecology and Conservation of Birds,” Mondays, 6:00 – 8:30 p.m. at the Twisp River Pub.  More details here.

  • February 15th: The Owl and The Woodpecker: Encounters with North America's Most Iconic Birds, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. at the Merc Playhouse in Twisp.  See above for more info.  

  • February 21st:  Botany in Winter Field Class, 9:00 a.m. - Noon
    Plants are surprisingly beautiful in winter when we stop to look at them, and they can actually be identified, even without leaves and flowers!  Join this fun mid-winter botanical excursion with local botanist Dana Visalli, and enjoy both the beauty and the taxonomic challenge of our native flora in the snowy season.  This fieldtrip will be conducted on skis along the Big Valley Trail, and is limited to 15 people.  Cost is $10/person.  Contact Mary at 996-2870 for more info.

  • February 28th:  "The Art of Wildlife Tracking" Field Workshop, 9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.  Explore the winter landscape of the Methow Valley with professional wildlife tracker, Gabe Spence. See our events page for more details.

  • March 3rd:  Methow Conservancy 1st Tuesday TBA

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    315 Riverside Avenue / PO Box 71    Winthrop, WA 98862     509.996.2870