Onward for the Wild

Onward for the Wild

Conservation Northwest / Apr 17, 2020 / Our Staff, Work Updates

During these challenging times, our dedicated community and hard-working staff continue to protect, connect and restore wildlands and wildlife.

By Mitch Friedman, Executive Director

From the living room of my house I send you my best wishes for your health and safety in this tumultuous time. Our thoughts are with everyone affected by this crisis, and especially the doctors, nurses and first responders on the front lines. We’ve been sharing updates on what the pandemic means for regional public lands on social media, and have information on social distancing in the outdoors in this blog.

Mitch founded Conservation Northwest (then the Greater Ecosystem Alliance) in 1989, and has been at the helm ever since.

I write to let you know that Conservation Northwest is fine, and that we have not missed a step in our work for a wild Northwest. We have not avoided all impact. One of our staff and one of our board members were directly affected by presumed cases of COVID-19, as were several friends and colleagues. Thankfully all have recovered.

Since February 25, the Conservation Northwest staff have been working from their homes. In fact, most of our conservation program staff work from their homes even under normal circumstances, embedded in rural areas collaborating with local communities for wildlife and wildlands. This has made us a degree more safe and productive through the pandemic.

Here are a few choice examples:

  • Sagelands Program Lead Jay Kehne, from his home in Omak, has been able to continue work to make a key stretch of Highway 97 safer for wildlife. He just recently took delivery of a semi-trailer full of steel structures which will soon be installed, allowing the completion of fencing to funnel wildlife under (instead of onto) the highway.
  • Wolf Program Lead Jay Shepherd, from his Chewelah home, is preparing for the onset of the season when cattle graze in the mountains. Jay is hiring extra range riders to deter wolf conflict in the hotspot of the Kettle Range. Through the Northeast Washington Wolf Cattle Collaborative, he is able to spend $320,000 that our Policy Director Paula Swedeen (from her Olympia home) helped secure for this purpose from the State Legislature.
  • Conservation Program Manager Kathleen Gobush and Conservation Associate Laurel Baum, from their Seattle-area homes, are working on new Forest Service restoration projects to improve habitat for wildlife in the Central Cascades, including informing the Snoquera and Gold Creek projects.
  • International Programs Director Joe Scott, from his Bellingham home, is working with the British Columbia government and First Nations on a pending translocation of a few grizzly bears from a healthy population to the north to augment the struggling population in the Stein-Nahatlatch area not far from the North Cascades. This is through the long-time Coast to Cascades Grizzly Bear Initiative in collaboration with Canadian partners.
  • Science and Conservation Director Dave Werntz and the rest of our Forest Field Program staff continue to track emerging threats from the Trump Administration against roadless forests and bedrock environmental laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act, while also standing up for Endangered wolverines.
  • And of course we’re using video conferencing in a variety of ways, including this online interview I gave about the wildlife crossings on I-90 east of Snoqualmie Pass. 

Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, we have the financial health to continue our work despite hard economic times. We even just executed a highly successful auction on April 2. I’m so proud of our team in its ability to swiftly convert our planned banquet into an online event, through which we may be the first group to conduct a livestream auction and paddle raise.

You’ll love the video that we premiered during the event, featuring our programs conserving a habitat corridor linking the North Cascades and the Rockies. You might also enjoy watching the short speech I broadcasted in my bathrobe over Zoom, right before the auction that raised more than $365,000 to support our work.

It’s harder to think about the future while the present is so disorienting and our lives so full of anxiety. While I can’t say when public health or the economy will return, I can say that the season of wildfire and wolf conflict is coming; and that Conservation Northwest is ready.

Irrespective of whether that future is “normal” or not, I want to make sure that in it the Northwest is wild. We plan to continue our work, to maintain our stance. I thank you for standing with us.

For the wild,

Mitch Friedman signature

Mitch Friedman
Executive Director

A trail leads onward towards Abercrombie Mountain in northeast Washington’s Columbia Highlands, a key area of our conservation work for wildlife and wildlands in the Cascades to Rockies corridor. Photo: Eric Zamora