January Enews
Photo by Jason Paulsen

January Enews

Mountain Mind by Drew Lovell
Photo by Drew Lovell

January First Tuesday: Mountain Mind - A community snowpack discussion for skiers, climbers, and backcountry travelers

Wednesday, January 8th (*Note this First Tuesday is on a Wednesday!)
7 - 8:30pm
@ the Winthrop Barn
Free and open to all! No RSVP Required.

Hear from avalanche experts from the Methow Valley and Leavenworth about how they create avalanche forecasts for the Northwest Avalanche Center (NWAC) and what they’re seeing in this season’s snowpack. Our panel:

  • Drew Lovell, local ski guide and avalanche forecaster
  • Mark Allen, local ice-climbing expert
  • Matt Primomo and Josh Hirshberg, NWAC avalanche specialists

Contact Daniel for more info or questions.

Photo by Lidija Kamansky

Special Event: Meet the Artists Reception for "The Historic Barns of the Methow Valley" Exhibit

Thursday, January 9th, 5:30 – 7pm,
Venue: Methow Arts, northeast corner of Glover Street and 2nd Avenue in Twisp

We hope you'll join us for a very special evening on Thursday, January 9th. We're excited to partner with Methow Arts to present a photographic exhibition called “The Historic Barns of the Methow Valley.”

At this special Artists Reception Event, you will see amazing photographs of historic barns from around the Valley, meet the photographers and landowners who brought these images to life, and enjoy some tasty local foods. In addition, you will hear from the Shafer Historical Museum, Methow Arts, and the Methow Conservancy about the artistic legacy of agriculture in the Methow Valley. Prints of the photographs will be on sale with proceeds benefiting the local artists and future exhibits at Methow Arts. The exhibition runs through February 5th and features the work of participants from last summer’s photography workshop, led by National Geographic Explorer Ryan T. Bell. For more information about this event contact: info@methowartsalliance.org.

Dark Sky photo Ryan Bell
Photo by Ryan T. Bell

Learn with Us!

A new year brings many new learning opportunities. Check out this interesting array of workshops, classes, and events we have upcoming!

To get all the details on these events (and more!) and for information on registering, check out our Events page here.

Raven on Rail by Mary Kiesau small
Photo by Mary Kiesau

Conservation Course 2020 Open for Registration

Topic: Snow's Biome - A Deep Dive into Winter Ecology
Dates: Monday Evenings, February 24th – March 16th, 6 – 8pm
Venue: The Winthrop Barn
Registration: Register by emailing Daniel or calling 509-996-2870. Cost: $90 for full 4-session course or $30 per class.

This winter, we’ll be focusing on how life thrives in our coldest months, by shoveling into the different roles that both biotic and abiotic processes play in the Methow’s winter ecosystem. While we are still working on securing the very best speakers for this course we have solidified four topics that will enhance your understanding of our coldest months of the year.

This year’s topics will include:

  • Humans and Winter: We may be accustomed to stomping off our ski boots outside a cozy home before snuggling in with a hot drink, but how have humans in the Methow found ways to survive and thrive during the coldest months throughout history? We have partnered with the Methow Valley Interpretive Center and the Shafer Museum to share stories of humans of the Methow Valley and their winter time activities.
  • Snow Science: This presentation will answer the questions of what is snow, how does it form, and in what ways does it shape our landscapes. It turns out that it’s not just Gregor that undergoes a metamorphosis, but snow as well.
  • Warm Blood: This session will look at how evolution has shaped the physiology of our winter time endotherms so that they are able to live through the extremes of a Methow winter and how resident species utilize the environment to meet their nutritional needs.
  • Living Snow: Join Dr. Robin Kodner, Associate Professor of biology at Western Washington University as she explores the microbiome of snow and teaches us that snow is a living thing that can tell us a lot about the health of our ecosystem. She will also touch upon her community science research through the Living Snow Project.

Class size is limited, so register soon!

Mazama barn in snow JP
Photo by Jason Paulsen

From the Ag Desk

by Alyssa Jumars, Agricultural Coordinator

During the first months of the new year, farmers and ranchers get a brief chance to catch their breath, review the successes and challenges of the farming season past, and plan for the farming season to come. If you didn’t see our article in the Methow Valley news, check it out for a look back at the highlights of the 2019 farming season.

Winter is also the time of year when we offer a handful of workshop opportunities to connect local producers to information, regional expertise, resources, and each other. We’re really excited about some of the workshops we have planned! We’re thrilled to be partnering with the Okanogan WSU Extension to provide a satellite location for the national Women in Agriculture Conference on Jan. 25th. (For details see www.womeninag.wsu.edu). On February 24th, we’ll host the Washington State Department of Agriculture’s (WSDA) Small Farm and Direct Marketing Program Director, who will give a workshop on direct marketing strategies. We’ll also be offering a succession-planning workshop on March 14th. This award-winning workshop, called “Ties to the Land,” is designed to help families plan for ownership transitions of farms, ranches, and working forestlands. Not on the calendar yet, but coming soon, we’ll be hosting a WSU soil health extension agent, to provide one-on-one consulting to farmers. Stay tuned for details, or email alyssa@methowconservancy.org.

Meadowlark trail building
Photo by Heide Andersen

Meadowlark Trail Complete!

With a few weeks to spare before the snow fell, we finished construction on a 2.5 mile hiking/walking loop in the Meadowlark Natural Area. Big thanks to our design/build contractor, the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance and our crew of volunteers who helped construct the trail with minimal impact. We're now working on signage and trailhead access so that we can officially open the pedestrian loop to the public this spring.

"We're going to need the community's help," notes Stewardship Director Heide Andersen. "We want the Natural Area to be enjoyed by people but also to remain a habitable place for wildlife. The trail will be accessible by foot only -- no bikes, motorized use or horses. And, we'll expect people to keep their dogs on leashes to minimize stress to the deer, ground-nesting birds, songbirds, and other creatures who call this special hillside home."

We were able to purchase the Meadowlark Natural Area (formerly the Heckendorn Homestead) on the hillside just outside of Winthrop in the spring of 2018 thanks to a wonderful, forward-thinking donation from Tina and Eliot Scull. In addition to protecting the hillside, important as winter range and first spring green-up for our local mule deer herd, we also recognized this Natural Area as a place to create new, free public trail access close to town. Our vision is getting closer to reality -- stay tuned for more information on a Opening Day Celebration coming soon!

Homestream Spirit Home
A home for the Spirits, photo by Jason Paulsen

"Spirit Easement" Created for Homestream Park

"It was one of those moments when you can feel the hair on the back of your neck stand up, your eyes water in a wave of emotional awakening." - Phil Davis

As Phil and Cathy Davis shared their vision for Homestream Park with Mark Miller last summer, hoping he would agree to be a part of a 'Coming Home' grand opening celebration, they learned from him of an even bigger outcome of their efforts to create a park honoring the rivers, the fish, and the native people of the Methow.

"Coming Home to us meant salmon, returning to spawn in the upper reaches of the watershed, and the Methow people, returning to their homeland to honor the salmon and the reciprocity with nature," reflected Phil Davis. Smoker Marchand's magnificent sculptures of spawning salmon and a tribal fish camp were the signatures of this coming home notion.

What Phil and Cathy didn't realize, guided by Mark's words, was that this place, Homestream Park, would also become a home for the spirits of the Methow ancestors who were removed from their homeland in the late 1800s. Phil shared, "Mark helped us understand that these spirits, who live among us, thousands of them, had equally lost their spirit homeland. But now a home had been found, and together we would build a place that forever would remain open in both the physical and spirit worlds. This realization was moving and powerful."

Shortly after the grand opening while doing some clean up at the Park, an idea came to Phil. Why not find a way to permanently acknowledge Homesteam Park as a home for the spirits. This was the spark that has resulted in the creation of what the Davises call a 'Spirit Easement'. This "Spirit Easement" has been recorded with the County (click here to see a copy) and the Davises hope it may inspire others to consider ways to reopen to the Methow People their lost Methow Homeland. If you are interested in learning more, contact us.

Four Thoughts Event 2019 by Daneil Senner
Photo by Daniel Senner

Annual Awardees Celebrated at Four Thoughts Event

We are sure grateful for the more than 200 people who joined us on December 6th at The Winthrop Barn for our annual holiday gathering. This year we tried something new with the format and the feedback has been great! We offered a free (and delicious) soup dinner and followed the meal with approximately 8 minute speeches by 4 of the Valley's thought leaders -- Mark Miller, Katharine Bill, Vic Stokes, and our very own Johnnie Duguay. Each speaker reflected on what "caring for the land" means to them. We were able to video the presentations and will soon post links to share!

That night is always one of our favorites of the year because we get the opportunity to publicly honor amazing community members who go above and beyond in their efforts to inspire people to care for the land. This year we were super excited to honor Tuck Stebbins with our Susie Stephens award for outstanding volunteer service, Nancy and Dick Gode with our Ken White Award for a lifetime of conservation work, and Cathy and Phil Davis with our You Inspire Us award for their truly amazing work on Homestream Park. You can read more about our awardees here.

Salmon in river by jp
Photo by Jason Paulsen

Add Your Voice for Salmon in the New Year!

Our friends at Trout Unlimited and conservation organizations across the State are working hard to pass new legislation in 2020 to bring Washington’s outdated suction dredge mining legislation in-line with neighboring states by prohibiting motorized suction dredge mining in streams like those in the Methow watershed identified as Critical Habitat for threatened or endangered salmon, steelhead and bull trout. This legislation had bi-partisan support in 2019, and passed in the Senate (thank you Senator Brad Hawkins) but ran out of time in the State House. Please click here and hereto learn more, and consider reaching out to your State Representatives and Senator starting on January 13th to urge their support of updated suction dredge mining rules in 2020. Thank You!

Trevin selfie small size
Photo by Trevin Leon

Nature Observations with Trevin Leon

We're excited to once again share a photo and observations from Winthrop resident Trevin Leon. Trevin has a keen eye and an infinite interest in the natural world and we love seeing what he sends to our inbox each month. This month, Trevin found himself driving with his grandmother near Carlton and this beautiful coyote stopped to give them a stare.

Coyote by Trevin Leon
Coyote by Trevin Leon

Trevin shared the following insights with us about coyotes: "The characteristics of this coyote vary from grayish brown to a yellowish gray on the upper parts. The throat and belly are white. The long tail, which can be half the body length, is bottle-shaped with a black tip. Coyotes can occasionally be seen during the daytime hours, but they are usually nocturnal. Unlike wolves, coyotes are less likely to form packs, so they usually hunt individually, in pairs or small family groups."

Icy river by JP
Photo by Jason Paulsen

2019 Fun Weather Fact…

According to weather data shared by Jim Pigott at Moccasin Lake Ranch, the greater Winthrop area received just 10.75 inches of precipitation in 2019. This is significantly less than the 38 year average recorded at Moccasin Lake Ranch of 15.03 inches. In fact, there have only been 4 years where the Moccasin Lake Ranch weather station has logged less precipitation: 2008 with 9.92 inches, 2002 with 10.13 inches, 1988 with 10.31 inches, and the very dry year of 1985 with just 7.93 inches.

January was the wettest month of 2019 with 2.10 inches of precipitation, followed by September with 1.8 inches. That’s over 3 times more rain in September than the 38-year average of just 0.5 inches. Only 2013 was wetter in September with a whopping 2.9 inches of rain!

And for all of you weather geeks out there, note that Washington State University’s AgWeatherNet has added a new weather station here in the Methow Valley off Twin Lakes Road. You can access it and all the AgWeatherNet weather and soil data here: https://weather.wsu.edu/. Thanks to WSU for all of the ways they work to help farmers, gardeners, researchers and policy makers make more informed decisions and increase their productivity through accurate data sources like the AgWeatherNet!

Alyssa reading news
Photo by Daniel Senner

January Reading List

We thought you might be interested in seeing what we’ve been reading lately. Editor’s note: These articles do not represent the beliefs or opinions of the Methow Conservancy or its staff. We offer them purely as a means of sparking discussion.

Methow Valley News – Growing Season: A Year in Methow Valley Agriculture - In case you missed it, this first-of-its-kind article written by the Methow Conservancy’s own very talented Agricultural Coordinator Alyssa Jumars is part of an ongoing series in the Methow Valley News about farming and ranching in the Methow Valley. In this edition a variety of local producers ruminate on how this past warm spring and cool summer impacted their operations. Nice work Alyssa!

Scientific American – Keep an Eye on These 2020 Conservation Issues - Since we not only left behind an old year, but an old decade as well, publications have taken their typical year-end lists and future theorizing to another level. This wide ranging list of future conservation trends for the new 2020 decade will get your imagination churning on what the next ten years will bring.

New York Times – Storm of Tumbleweeds Buries Cars, Terrifies Drivers and Astounds Police - While not as a scary as some of future conservation threats in the article above, this pile-up of tumbleweeds outside the town of Richland in Southeastern Washington on New Year’s Eve was scary enough to make national news. Tumbleweed, also known as Russian thistle, is an invasive species that is prevalent here in the Valley. So add highway safety as another good reason to pull your weeds!

High Country News – When Wildlife Safety Turns Into a Fierce Political Debate - As a fellow community in an ungulate migration corridor with an increasing amount of tourist visitation and a deer automobile collision problem, we should take note of the lessons learned by the trials and tribulations of Island Park, Idaho as they grapple with the prospect of new highway overpasses for wildlife.

Audubon Magazine – These Students are Partnering with Corvids to Replant a Forest After Fire - On Santa Cruz Island, three undergraduate students are working with the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and Cornell Lab of Ornithology to look at the viability of using Island Scrub-Jays to restore oaks to fire-damaged landscapes. Island Scrub-Jays facilitate restoration naturally by conducting a behavior called scatter hoarding in which they stash acorns in a variety locations throughout their territory. Once the birds inevitably don’t eat all of their stashes the acorns repopulate the landscape with oak stands. Here in the Valley we have a number of scatter hoarding species like the red breasted nuthatch, gray jay, and Clark’s nutcracker that could potentially be used as forest restoration collaborators.

News from Other Organizations:

  • "For the Love of Winter" Nature Drawing classes are being offered by the naturalist and artist teaching duo Mary Kiesau and Perri Howard. Two special classes on drawing animal tracks are Jan 3rd and Jan 28th (take one or both). The annual 4-class winter series dates are Fridays Jan 31st, Feb 7th, Feb 21st and Feb 28th; classes meet from 12:30pm-5:00pm. Attend individual classes for $65 or register for all four at a discounted rate of $240. See all the details and register here.
  • Methow Watershed Council: Instream Flow Films - Jan 21st, 7-9pm @ the Twisp Grange, Free, No RSVP required. The Methow Watershed Council (MWC) is pleased to host an informative presentation about instream flow. Short selected films addressing the topic of instream flow and use of available water will be shown, followed by a panel discussion among local experts on instream flows. This in an opportunity to learn about this topic of water management in the Methow Valley.

If you would like to share news from another organization, please email us by the 25th of the month.

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