Conservation Currents | Stewarding Washington’s Lands and Waters With The Mountaineers

In this piece from Mountaineer magazine, read about the thriving practice of stewardship at The Mountaineers, giving back to Washington's lands and waters.
Conor Marshall Conor Marshall
Advocacy & Engagement Manager
June 18, 2024
Conservation Currents | Stewarding Washington’s Lands and Waters With The Mountaineers
Olympia Mountaineers removing a broken sign at Collins Campground on the Olympic National Forest this spring. Photo courtesy of Meg Hunt.

Growing up in Seattle, I wasn't fully aware of the human-caused impacts on our environment, nor did I understand our responsibility to give back to our shared home until an elementary school field trip taught me about the impact our stormwater systems have on local salmon populations. Picking up trash with my classmates and spray-painting stencils of salmon near storm drains around our local watershed remains imprinted in my mind, reminding me of the interconnectedness of nature and our charge to steward it.

Mountaineers programs and activities rely on healthy landscapes. Our community takes action to help protect these places through advocacy and hands-on stewardship activities. At its core, stewardship is the protection of the natural environment through conservation. Stewardship includes acts of giving back to our lands and waters through activities like trail work or habitat restoration. As we explore, learn about, and conserve the lands and waters of the Pacific Northwest - from Seward Park to the Olympic National Forest and beyond - it’s important to stop, connect, and reflect on how we can protect and restore the places we love so they continue to thrive for future generations.

To get you ready to begin - or continue - your stewardship journey, let’s celebrate the thriving practice of stewardship at The Mountaineers by highlighting some recent work by branch stewardship leaders to organize a community of stewards to give back to Washington’s lands and waters.

cc_2022-06-14_11 Giving Trail Survey code to a trail biker (1).jpgGinger Sarver (Olympia Branch) facilitating the Olympic National Forest trail user survey in 2022. Photo by Kathy Fox.

Stewardship at The Mountaineers

Stewardship brings Mountaineers together from across branches and activities for the shared purpose of caring for our natural places. These places include public lands and waterways managed by a government agency, or a private or nonprofit organization like a land trust. According to The Mountaineers new organization-wide Stewardship Standards, the primary purpose of a stewardship activity is to care for our public lands, waters, and other outdoor spaces. This could include, but is not limited to, trail work, habitat restoration, trash removal, historic lookout maintenance, and care of Mountaineers facilities.

Land managers working at all levels of government to conserve and protect natural resources regularly face lean budgets and a chronic lack of staff resources. They rely on nonprofit, volunteer-driven stewardship efforts to maintain and restore our public lands and enhance the recreation opportunities they provide. The Mountaineers frequently teams up with outside organizations to restore and maintain trails, pick up trash, and remove invasive species, helping ensure healthy landscapes.

Mountaineers have participated in stewardship activities for decades, but growing impacts from a changing climate and soaring visitation make it more important than ever for recreationists to take a break from their typical adventures and give back to our lands and waters through a different type of outdoor trip. Volunteers across all Mountaineers branches make it possible for our community to give back by creating year-round stewardship opportunities. We’re excited to highlight two of the popular recreation corridors where The Mountaineers and our partners have focused stewardship efforts so far this year.

Stewardship spotlight: Olympic National Forest

One shining example of Mountaineers stewardship is our Olympia Branch Conservation & Stewardship (C&S) Committee’s ongoing partnership with Olympic National Forest. In summer 2022, Olympia stewards led trailhead outreach for the Forest’s trail user survey, which solicited feedback from recreationists to help shape more sustainable recreation management on the Olympic Peninsula. As a result of the C&S Committee’s commitment to promoting the survey, The Mountaineers received a coveted recognition of Citizenship Stewardship and Partnership as a Group in the U.S. Forest Service Region 6. (Region 6 covers national forest lands throughout Oregon and Washington.) With many groups working to steward and conserve the Northwest's national forests, The Mountaineers is honored to receive this type of recognition.

This year, the Olympia C&S Committee is expanding their work from the last three years to support the clean-up of winter debris from campgrounds across Olympic’s Hood Canal district and beyond. In April, the branch cleaned five campgrounds throughout the forest: Big Creek, Collins, Hamma Hamma, Lena Creek, and Brown Creek. “We are aware of the Forest Service’s limited resources and are collaborating with them on the cleaning of campgrounds in our area of the Olympics,” says Meg Hunt, the committee’s campground coordinator. “These opportunities give us a chance to get more Mountaineers involved in stewardship work and give back to the lands where we recreate.”

cc-Teneriffe Falls TH - MSG_02 (2). Photo courtesy of Deloa Dalby..jpgFoothills Branch volunteers participating in trail work at the Tenerife Falls Trailhead in partnership with the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust. Photo courtesy of Deloa Dalby.

Stewardship spotlight: Mountains to Sound Greenway

Our Foothills Branch Conservation Committee regularly partners with the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust to provide stewardship opportunities throughout the Greenway that focus on trail work, invasive plant removal, and salmon habitat restoration. This spring, the Foothills Conservation Committee teamed up with the Greenway Trust for several stewardship trail work events at popular state and federal recreation areas throughout the Mountains to Sound Greenway. One of the focal areas for this important work was the Middle Fork connector trail, which parallels the Middle Fork Snoqualmie River. Mountaineers helped create a new picnic area along the river and improved the trail surface. “I love connecting Mountaineers with opportunities to care for the lands and waters throughout the Snoqualmie River Valley - a place that continues to provide me with a special connection to the outdoors,” says Foothills Conservation Committee Chair, Deloa Dalby. “As our partnership with the Greenway Trust continues to grow, we look forward to offering more of these opportunities.”

Start your stewardship journey

Every individual act of stewardship makes a difference - whether you’re caring for our landscapes on your own or as a part of a group activity. You don’t have to be in the backcountry to make an impact. State and local parks close to home offer great opportunities to connect newer outdoor enthusiasts to stewardship. You might be surprised how the practice of stewardship can deepen your connection to a place, and I have a hunch you’ll head home feeling good about your contribution to Washington’s lands and waters.

This summer, take a few hours away from hiking, backpacking, and climbing and earn your Mountaineers Stewardship Credit badge by participating in one full-day (six hours) or multiple half-day stewardship activities with The Mountaineers or an outside organization. Our stewardship opportunities webpage is the best place to start your stewardship journey with The Mountaineers and many outside stewardship organizations working throughout western Washington.

Looking for deeper involvement in stewardship through The Mountaineers? Branches can designate committee(s) as eligible to organize stewardship activities. Stewardship leaders must demonstrate the basic competency required to lead these activities and be approved by a branch committee to do so, as outlined in The Mountaineers Stewardship Standards. Reach out to your branch leadership to start organizing a stewardship activity.

As more Mountaineers incorporate stewardship in their time outdoors, we can help ensure our outdoor spaces and the transformative recreation experiences they provide endure for future generations. Thanks for adventuring with purpose with us in all seasons!

This article originally appeared in our summer 2024 issue of Mountaineer magazine. To view the original article in magazine form and read more stories from our publication, visit our magazine archive.

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