Keri PravitzI came to The Friends thirteen months ago, and have spent these last months deeply inspired by the dedication and hard work of our friends, volunteers, and supporters – people just like you. Thank you. As I am closing up my time at The Friends to pursue a new professional opportunity, I find myself reflecting on what an amazing year 2013 was and how excited I am for where The Friends is headed in 2014 and beyond. In 2013, my role was to build the board, diversify funding, and shore up operations. The board has grown to eight members (pending a vote at April 2 board meeting), new grants and fee for service contracts were established, and operationally and programmatically, The Friends has made great strides and is impacting watershed health and salmon recovery efforts every day.

And while The Friends has lots to celebrate in terms of what has already been done, I find myself focusing on the how and who in the equation. As an organization, we have intentionally focused on how we worked and in doing so, became a better partner, expanded our presence and collaborations, engaged more of the general public, and became a better “friend” to the conservation community, which has had tremendous impact on our goals. In terms of the who, our board members, staff and volunteers have worked tirelessly to shape this organization as it moves forward – and what an amazing crew they are. I have been constantly in awe of the wonderful people I’ve had the opportunity to work with and feel that it is through this team that The Friends is actualizing our mission of “engaging people to enhance and sustain watersheds through restoration, education, and stewardship” on a daily basis. So while I’m leaving the team as a staff, I look forward to staying involved as a volunteer board member and continuing to support the organization and mission, simply from a different seat.

A continued friend of The Friends,

Keri Pravitz
Executive Director

P.S. The Friends’ board of directors is committed to hiring our next executive director in the near future. For more information on the job posting, please visit our website. Feel free to share this posting.

Erin with ShovelBy Erin Martin, Volunteer Habitat Restoration Intern

I am studying Environment and Community at Antioch University Seattle, and believe that creating strong and resilient communities will lead us to better environmental stewardship. I am so grateful for the time I spent with Friends of the Cedar River Watershed, because I saw the construction of these communities before my very eyes.

My favorite moment in a restoration event is a couple hours in: all the introductions and presentations are made, the work has begun, and people are starting to relax and really have fun. As I make my rounds, checking how well trees are planted, I mostly enjoy hearing the conversations amongst volunteers. Often, there are strangers that are sharing how they got into environmental restoration. Others are already friends but they’re sharing something new together. People discover things they have in common, make plans to volunteer together again, and become friends. Connections are being made, and that’s where the change lies.

Living in a densely populated area, like around Seattle, it’s easy to see that we have lost many of our connections to each other and the Earth. It’s rare to know your neighbors, and few of us know how to identify the plants and animals in our yards. This lack of connection leads to isolation and environmental degradation. As we stop caring for each other, we stop caring for the earth, and we stop caring for ourselves.

IntroductionsYet interning with The Friends and helping lead volunteer events gave me hope that we can change this vicious cycle. Communities are coming together around common causes, removing invasive weeds and replacing them with natives. We are restoring native habitats as well as restoring human connection. These connections make us more resilient and better able to handle the change that the future will bring.

Collaborating with diverse groups of people allows us to be more creative and solve more problems. I have seen volunteers stand around a difficult weed, discussing options for successfully removing it. Rather than intrude with my experience, it brings me more joy to see them generate ideas. Sometimes people develop solutions that I never would have thought of!

Two Volunteer Leads: Michelle and ErinThe community building that occurs at restoration events is usually transitory, with micro-communities forming for a few hours and then breaking up. This is still incredibly important, because lots of ideas can be exchanged during those hours. But some neighborhoods are hosting regular events, allowing them to continually explore and build on what community means to them. Environmental restoration has become a vehicle for neighbors to know each other and learn the plants in their yards.

We are in an exciting time of transition. Communities are becoming empowered by environmental stewardship, and it’s opening the door for further exploration into the exciting world of community-based life. We can move away from an obsession with fancy stuff and technology that is harmful to the environment, and focus on healthy, happy relationships that actually benefit the Earth.

Thank you to all the volunteers that came out to events and gave me hope for the future, you’re doing beautiful work.

Rebecca’s Farewell

Four years ago I joined the staff of The Friends as their first dedicated Outreach Manager because after many years working as an environmental advocate I had lost touch with the elemental reasons I did the work. The experience has forever altered my sense of community and grounded me in my home watershed.

left to right: Keri Pravitz, Rebecca Sayre, Amy Kaeser

The Friends manages to accomplish the tangible and the transformative at the same time. By working with community partners we were able to grow the annual number of restoration events and expand our geographic area, increasing our tangible impact but, most importantly to my mind, the breadth of people who understand the power they have in their own hands to care for our local environment.

When a person is given the chance to experience the joy of planting a tree or to see wildlife thrive, it changes you. I’ll never forget the conversations that took place along the river banks, streamsides, and lakesides with landowners and neighbors thankful for our help removing invasive plants that they had been battling for years.

Last July I moved back into the advocacy realm with hopes that I laid a good foundation for my successor to take the organization to the next level. There is much to do and I have no doubt there are many ready to roll up your sleeves and pitch in. Thanks to each of you who participate in The Friends’s programs. I look forward to hearing of your continued impact for years to come. Don’t be surprised if I join you from time to time!

Cheers, Rebecca

By Tyson Greer, Board vice president, Friends of the Cedar River Watershed

Some things are predictable, like taxes and tides.

Like the tides, the salmon are cyclical: each October, the Sockeye, Chinook, and Coho salmon finish their long journey home—from the ocean, through the Chittenden Locks, through Lake Washington—and plunge up the Cedar River to spawn; so their offspring can begin the cycle again. Each October, I look forward to returning to the Cedar to see the salmon again.

Salmon at the Renton Library

 

I like all five stations where our Salmon Journey Volunteer Naturalists set up their weekend stations, but last Saturday, my husband and I took our friends Bill & Lois to the Renton Library site. (Find directions to all Salmon Journey’s Volunteer Naturalist sites here.)

 

 

 

 

Kids captivated by river

 

Visitors to bridge at the Renton Library leaned over the rail like spectators at a horse race. Below, the bright red sockeyes were jockeying for position next to the females ready to spawn.

 

 

They jostled in the shade on the left side of the bank, where the current was a little slower. Occasionally, one would break the surface with a splash and a swack of a shiny tail.

Naturalist points out fishSockeye jumping

Our highly trained Volunteer Naturalists were on hand to chat about salmon and the Cedar River. We talked with Melanie and Nola, both of whom were veterans of the program. (You can tell how long the naturalists have been with the Salmon Journey program by the number of fish pins on their hats—one pin for each year of service.) Nola and Melanie were Naturalist talking to visitorsincredibly knowledgeable about the history of the waterways, of the uniquely protected watershed owned by citizens that supplies our drinking water, and the cycles of and challenges to our salmon populations—we learn something new every year.

One of the things I love—besides seeing the crowds of returning salmon—are the crowds of people, many sporting the pink polarized “sunglasses” that the Volunteer Naturalists loan to visitors so they can really see the salmon through the (unexpectedly) sparkling sun-lit water. It’s great to see parents bring their kids, and I hope they return every year.

Learning what lives in thr riverLearning about the watershed

As of June and July this year, only 178,422 sockeye had made their way through the Locks—that’s about half of the 350,000 needed to open the sockeye sports fishing season for this year (source: WDFD). Cedar River Chinook and Puget Sound Steelhead are listed as threatened species.

It is my hope that with the good work our Volunteer Naturalists do in helping people understand more about the beauty of the cycle and what each of us can do as individuals to ensure the clean water so vital to the return and survival of the salmon; we can turn the tide.

Naturalist talking to visitorsSockeye in the water

Special thanks to those who make this Salmon Journey program possible: our Volunteer Naturalists;  our sponsors (King County Flood Control District, City of Renton, Lake Washington Cedar Sammamish Watershed, Seattle Aquarium, Seattle Public Utilities, and the US Army Corps of Engineers); and the people who come out on the river to welcome the salmon home.

“It’s hard when the alarm goes off at 7:30am to get up and prepare to go outside, but I’ve become a volunteer addict. When you do something good, where the people are friendly, it just makes you feel so good to be a part of that story.”

Join Us at an Upcoming Event!

Confessions of a Volunteer Addict

I had the opportunity to chat with one of our fantastic volunteers a few weeks ago while winding our way up to a reforestation site on Taylor Mountain.  Pedro Checkos explained how he feels he is making a difference by planting trees.  How do you plan to make a difference this year? Can we count on you to make a difference by volunteering or donating to support FCRW today?

For the Love of Planting

For the Love of Planting

Thanks to 1,580 volunteers and supporters like Pedro, we planted 10,340 native plants in the ground and nearly 30 acres were restored in 2012. Pedro explains what brings him back to this restoration work time and again.  “I volunteer with FCRW to connect to nature, to feel useful. I find that planting trees is peaceful”.   Upon further reflection, he added, “It’s hard when the alarm goes off at 7:30am to get up and prepare to go outside, but I’ve become a volunteer addict. When you do something good, where the people are friendly, it just makes you feel so good to be a part of that story”.

Pedro believes that a good volunteer experience can spur societal change one person at a time. Volunteering at FCRW Habitat Restoration events every Saturday for the last few months has provided him the opportunity to put his values into action. Working 60+ hours per week at a local start-up, he struggled with perpetual cabin fever and was looking for an opportunity to both get outside and care for the environment. The right opportunity arose when he met our own, Amy Kaeser, who suggested he join us to plant trees one Saturday in mid-October.

Victorious Volunteers on the Cedar River!

Victorious Volunteers on the Cedar River!

Pedro will soon be leaving us, heading back to his native France.  We will miss his energy, kindness, and enthusiasm for our work and the community that it builds.  He hopes to continue working on environmental issues when settled back in Europe and is certain that no matter where he ends up, he wants to find that balance of real fun and good deed that he has experienced working with FCRW throughout the Cedar River / Lake Washington watershed.

Thanks for all you have done for the watershed, Pedro!

Rebecca, Amy, Keri and the rest of the FCRW team

Help us continue the momentum Pedro and his fellow volunteers have started. Be a part of the story, volunteer or donate to FCRW today!

Originally posted on Sustainable Renton:

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Join board members and other community members for a breakfast potluck, sharing of research findings,and then a caravan to tour the Tacoma Food Co-Op.

Saturday, April 6th at 9:30am. Sustainable Renton offices at 970 Harrington Ave NE.

You can RSVP at the Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/169682573186207/

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As part of my outreach surrounding Friends of the Cedar River Watershed’s (FCRW) new partnership with Seattle Parks and Recreation, I recently got the opportunity to talk with one of  the Green Seattle Partnership‘s volunteer Forest Stewards, David Sohlstrom.   I learned about the great work that David, and Forest Stewards like him, are doing to restore Seattle’s urban green spaces. ~Rebecca Sayre, Outreach Manager, FCRW

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“We need density and green spaces especially where there are opportunities to provide access for both the public and residents. This effort is gaining momentum.”

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David and some helpers

David Sohlstrom loves the outdoors. He is happiest on a bike, mountain, trail, or in as kayak.  In 2010, this appreciation for the natural world took a turn towards his own backyard; specifically a 1.6 acre swath of previously overgrown land located between the backside of his condominium complex, Othello Station North, and Seattle’s John C. Little Park, in south Seattle’s New Holly neighborhood.  The condo complex was constructed in 2006 with plans to put in ornamental landscaping for the residents.  Instead, due to reasons not quite clear to David, this planting was never started and the disturbed area was soon overcome with blackberry and ivy, providing neither a place for people or any sense of habitat. In short, the site became a tangled and prickly jungle of invasive plants.  It was mess.

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It takes a team to make this vision a reality

David, however, saw opportunity. Here was potential for native plants, pathways, butterfly and hummingbird gardens; a place where neighborhood children could explore.  But, how was he going to get this work done? At first he started to tackle the challenge on his own; dedicating many full weekends to pulling enormous clumps of ivy off trees and attempting to unearth mammoth blackberry roots.  He soon realized that, although there was an appeal to being a modern-day Johnny Appleseed, working to revegetate an area in need of help, that this task required  a broader community investment.  Also, he needed to be able to commit to the project and still have a life–his wife, although supportive of his dedication, was beginning to miss him.

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Michael arrives with more plants

Help came in 2011 when David connected with Vinh Nguyen, a Forest Steward with the Green Seattle Partnership at nearby Lewis Park.  With the guidance of Vinh and support of Forterra’s  Joanna Nelson, David began to shape the project. He was able to acquire a small Neighborhood Community Building Grant through collaborating with the New Holly community.  Additionally, the Green Seattle Partnership was able to provide tools–complete with a secure tool box, plants, and guidance from City of Seattle Ecologist, Michael Yadrick.

As we wrapped up our interview, I asked David what had been accomplished to-date and what his vision is for the overall project. It’s an impressive achievement and goal.  David estimates that people have given over 1100 volunteer hours and over 850 native plants have been planted.  As for the big picture, it is all about continuity.  “I want this site to be part of a contiguous green space that stretches from NE to SW Seattle. I am primarily interested in restoring what little undeveloped land is left in our city in order for these urban forests to become self-sustaining, and provide habitat for birds, insects, and other critters native to the Pacific Northwest.” I thought that sounded pretty good, but David had more to say. ” There is an adjacent section of green belt that I hope will also be restored and one day become a continuation of the urban forest at John C. Little Park.”

Volunteers working on a small part of a larger city

Volunteers working on a small part of a larger city

David sees this restoration as “staking claim,” on a critical piece of green space in an area that is dealing with increasing density.“We need density and green spaces especially where there are opportunities to provide access for both the public and residents. This effort is gaining momentum.”  This project was recently chosen to be a part of Green Seattle Days and interest in the effort continues to grow.

Restorations take place every other Saturday and Sunday from 9am to 1 pm from March to November Contact David at djsohl@comcast.net to learn how you can get involved.

It seems that David’s love of the greater outdoors has translated well to a viable vision of nature in the core of our city. We are inspired by the work accomplished at John C. Little Park.  and look forward to collaborating  with Seattle’s Forest Stewards.

**Through January 31st, donate to Friends of the Cedar River Watershed and 100% of your gift will go towards planting trees!**

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