Rain Gardens and Cisterns Make for Good Neighbors

Stone Gossard is featured along with the Orca in a new campaign about grants to property owners. 

A few months ago, Stewardship Partners was awarded a grant to spread the news about incentives  for rain gardens and cisterns in King County. The challenge? To reach those unsure about rain gardens and cisterns or who would like to help the environment but also have other pressing concerns about their property such as water damage, high water bills, or landscaping. The 12,000 Rain Gardens campaign started in 2011, so Stewardship Partners figured that most people who were already primed and ready for a rain garden or a cistern had likely installed one. But what about that next layer of folks? Those for whom it can seem like a financial stretch – but are amenable to taking steps that help their property as well as Puget Sound, provided they can afford it. 

After working with Board members Cal McAllister and Samantha Neukom to identify the opportunity, Stewardship Partners gathered the talents of Merlino Media Group and Northbound to create a media plan and creative campaign to reach property owners in the King County area. Our goal? To let them know that there are grants available that can cover  $4,000 toward installing a rain garden or cistern and that by doing so, they can create a win-win. The first win is improving property: rain gardens can improve drainage, dry out basements and decrease mold, and cisterns can significantly lower summer water bills. Rain gardens can also be a beautiful way to add landscaping to your yard. The second win is that by installing a rain garden or cistern, you’re also helping your human, orca, salmon, and other wildlife neighbors that cohabitate with us here in Puget Sound. 

The creative idea came from a mix of Pacific Northwest quirky attitude with lovable, custom animations of our fauna neighbors, featuring the Orca, the Octopus, and the Salmon. In posters, print ads, and bus side ads, you see our animal neighbors installing their own rain gardens and encouraging us, their human neighbors, to do the same. Radio ads feature Stone Gossard of Pearl Jam, a rain garden and cistern owner himself, chatting with his orca, salmon, and octopus neighbors. In one radio ad he notes, “if you want to keep your basement dry and the Sound clean, cisterns and rain gardens are a beautiful way to help.”

Stone Gossard, The Neighbor

Monisa Brown, The Orca

The campaign’s goal is to reach King County residents who may be eligible for one of several grants that could cover up to 100% of the cost of installing a cistern or rain garden and to let them know the multiple benefits of doing so. With a simple click or two at www.rainchangers.org, property owners can check their eligibility and set up a visit from a local certified contractor.   

Check out RainChangers in the news at https://www.seattletimes.com/life/garden/installing-a-rain-garden-you-could-be-eligible-for-a-rebate/

View the press release at https://www.stewardshippartners.org/new-program-offers-free-rain-gardens-and-cisterns/

Summit 2021 Highlights and Call for Action

Looking back on six years of Green Infrastructure Summits, some things have changed and others have stayed the same. That first year, I had this phrase I couldn’t stop saying about how this region was poised to become the “silicon valley of green infrastructure.” I felt that we had the necessary components for an “innovation ecosystem” that could lead the world in nature-based solutions to complex, “wicked problems” like stormwater, climate change, and environmental justice if we could “connect the dots” across sectors (.com, .gov, .org, .edu)  and “bust silos.” With all those catchphrases, I’m lucky no one kicked me out of the PNW to go live in the real silicon valley! Creating a host committee that shared many of those ideas and brought so many more of their own took that initial vision and made it into something that the whole green infrastructure sector can feel proud of.  

The summit host committee is the heart of the event, and this year proved that yet again. From identifying a unifying theme to selecting speakers and sessions, right down to redefining and helping de-colonize the event name, this year’s summit host committee put on a fantastic event against the odds, in the face of multiple pandemics (e.g. COVID and Global-scale Zoom Fatigue) a societal reckoning around race and equity, a climate crisis, and a more divided society than we’ve seen in decades. Yet we all gathered. We all shared openly, even vulnerably. And we participated in difficult conversations that opened doors, and learned about collaborations that poked holes in silos and brought down barriers. We heard about agencies “failing forward” (did .govs learn that from our .com colleagues?), community needs that were put first and ultimately supported by stormwater funding. It is humbling and inspiring at the same time to see where we started and the significant progress we’ve achieved as a community and as a green infrastructure movement. There’s a long way to go before we reach our shared goals of human and natural systems in balance, the end of any one dominant culture, and an infrastructure system that grows better with age rather than deteriorating. But looking back at where we started and forward into the unknown, it’s possible to imagine all those things. And if we can imagine them, we can create them.   

If you missed this year’s summit, or if you joined us but want to revisit anything that was shared, please visit the summit webpage at: www.12000raingardens.org/summit2021. All the presentations are available to watch, and additional resources from the event can be downloaded at that webpage.  

Written by Aaron Clark, Director of Strategic Partnerships

Support Clean Water & Healthy Habitat for Generations to Come!

Today is not just any regular Tuesday, today is GiveBIG! 
GiveBIG will be a two-day online giving event from May 4-5th. 
Our goal is to raise $5,000 for our programs!

 Gifts of ANY size have an impact on our work!

Donate $25  = buy ten trees for a volunteer to plant at one of our restoration sites
Donate $100 = provide scholarship funds for a local family farm for Salmon-Safe certification
Donate $250 =  fund the planting of a rain garden at a local school or park

Today, you can take a stand for a healthy Puget Sound environment. Together we can achieve clean water, sustainable agriculture, thriving salmon and orca populations, and healthy communities, throughout our region.

Save the Date: Feast at Home Delivery

While we would love to meet in person at the farm, we believe it’s safer to have Feast on the Farm delivered to you again this year. Join us on Saturday, October 2nd, 2021, for Feast at-home delivery. A lovely curated meal brought to your doorstep from local chefs that will use sustainably grown farm-fresh produce. We will also include other local artesian goodies, music, and stories from the field. Sponsorships are available, please contact David at db@stewardshippartners.org if you’d like to get involved. 

Save the Date: GiveBig

GiveBig returns again this year with a two day giving event on May 4th-5th, 2021. We hope you will mark your calendars with a reminder to support Stewardship Partners and other causes dear to your heart during GiveBig.

Your support is critical to ensuring a healthy Puget Sound environment both now and for years to come. Together we can achieve clean water, sustainable agriculture, thriving salmon and orca populations, and healthy communities, throughout our region.

Tis the Season…for Planting

With planting season just around the corner, we are usually gearing up to mobilize hundreds of volunteers to plant thousands of different native trees and shrubs throughout the Snoqualmie Valley. This year is a little different as we are still dealing with the effects of a global pandemic. Since we still can’t gather in large groups, we would like to offer some ideas on what native trees and shrubs you can plant on your property. Here are a few recommendations from our Snoqualmie Stewardship staff regarding some of our favorite PNW plants we use in our restoration projects that you can use at home! Happy planting!

Crew Member Ashley’s recommendation: Western Red Cedar (Thuja Plicata):

Thuja Plicata is actually from the Cypress Family of the genus Arborvitae, which translates to “tree of life.”

We love to plant western red cedars because they are a signature PNW tree and are highly versatile. They can be planted in groves or singly, as well as in wetland and upland areas. The wood is resistant to decay, which made it the most valued tree to the Native Peoples. The wood was used for building structures, totem poles, canoes, tools, the branches for ropes, and bark for weaving. The trees are easily identifiable by their reddish-grey fibrous bark, oriented in vertical strips, with flat, scale like leaves resembling plaited braids.

Advantages for the garden:
The leaves are evergreen, giving your garden color all year, without dropping needles or leaves. The cones come in small fragrant clusters resembling rosettes. The bark and leaves have a famous cedar scent as well. They provide seeds and habitat for birds, small mammals enjoy the cavities of the bark, elk and deer enjoy browsing the trunk and branches. Just make sure you have plenty of room if you plant a Western red Cedar as they grow quite large.

Western Red Cedar

Director of Ecological Restoration Chris’ recommendation: Red Flowering Currant (Ribes sanguineum
 
I love this native plant and its brilliant red/pink flowers. I’m not the only one who loves them. Pollinators are highly attracted to them, and hummingbirds fancy them as well. They’re used in a lot of our riparian restoration sites along the Snoqualmie River and its tributaries. These are perfect areas for them as they thrive in disturbed sites, open spaces, and rocky slopes. I plan on planting some around my garden at home! Many Coastal Salish groups have traditionally used these plants as their berries are edible, but they lack flavor. What they lack in taste they make up in garden aesthetics when in bloom!

Written by the Snoqualmie Stewardship Staff

Red Flowering Currant

We’re Hiring!

We are hiring for the crewmember position!

Snoqualmie Stewardship Habitat Restoration Crew Member

Position Description: This temporary part-full time position (average 40 hrs. /wk.) with Stewardship Partners; a Seattle based non-profit conservation organization. Work is focused in the Snoqualmie Valley, along the Snoqualmie River and its tributaries with agricultural landowners. Interns assist in implementing habitat restoration project Best Management Practices (BMPs) which may include riparian planting, wetland enhancement, erosion control, livestock fencing, volunteer event management and partner/landowner relations. Crew Members also help with our annual Feast on the Farm fundraiser.

Position is open until filled.

Interested parties can learn more here or contact Chris LaPointe at cl@stewardshippartners.org.    

Reflections on a Collaborative Funder Relationship with The Russell Family Foundation 

In 2002 Stewardship Partners was barely 3 years old, but that year marked the beginning of a critical partnership that has brought us to where we are today. Our collaboration with The Russell Family Foundation (TRFF) began with a grant. In financial terms alone, this partnership has been foundational, totaling over $1 Million granted since 2002. But this partnership does not begin and end with the money. The collaborative problem solving and network building that we have done together has been equally important in creating a movement of community-focused stewardship across the Puget Sound region. The close of 2020 seemed like a good time to indulge in hindsight, so I sat down virtually with Holly Powers, Senior Program Officer at TRFF to pause and reflect on our collective history.

Rather than transcribe our entire, far-reaching conversation, I’ve decided to pull together observations from both the grant-maker and grantee perspectives that made this a successful relationship.

As a grant-maker, TRFF is very clear in their understanding that they only succeed when their partners succeed. I think the approach is exemplified by what Holly described as trying to be the funder who gets a call when things don’t go as planned, rather than the funder you try to avoid. As a grantee, that approach means that we are trusted to lead the work, understand the challenges, and respond effectively without being penalized for innovating or changing course when needed. Even the most well-planned projects encounter unexpected challenges. Knowing that a funder wants to know about those challenges and might help us collaboratively, means that challenges are opportunities to do better rather than failures of foresight. Taking this approach to the next level, when COVID -19 changed everything for everyone, TRFF didn’t wait for their grantees to tell them what they needed. Instead, they asked us what had changed and what did we need to weather the storm. Providing additional financial support and peer-to-peer connections with other grantees has helped many organizations continue our collective work in the face of a challenging time.

Another significant aspect of TRFF’s approach is the value they place on connecting grantees to each other. Many of our most essential partnerships came about because of TRFF’s active efforts to connect their grantees. Examples include the Habitat for Humanity homes near Tacoma that we certified Salmon-Safe and the thought-leader convening TRFF started with Sightline Institute that gave rise to our Green Infrastructure Summit of the Salish Sea. Connections like these make everything we do more impactful and effective.

As a grantee, it’s always humbling and lovely to hear from a funder why they support your work, and as partners in and supporters of our work, I want to share some of Holly’s thoughts on Stewardship Partners. I think my favorite thing was hearing that walking into the Stewardship Partners office has always felt like being invited into a living room for a cup of coffee and a conversation. That we have created a culture and a welcoming sense of community with partners feels like a significant accomplishment and one that doesn’t fit in any grant reporting metrics. TRFF also sees us as we see ourselves as a ‘small but mighty’ organization able to catalyze, respond quickly, and nimbly to emerging issues and opportunities, but not clinging to ownership at the expense of the idea. Yet, for anything involving stormwater and green infrastructure, we act as a hub, keeping the wheel rolling forward. The 12,000 Rain Garden Campaign for Puget Sound is one example. SP coordinated rain garden resource hubs and trainings across 12 counties, leading to the regional multi-sector City Habitats network and the annual Green Infrastructure Summit of the Salish Sea. Holly also described Stewardship Partners as a ‘first to listen’ partner. From our first projects, we have acknowledged our partners on the land and communities as the work leaders. We have always understood that we need to listen to them to make anything happen and move anything forward. Having that part of our values identified so clearly is so validating. But then again, it makes sense. It takes one to know one, and TRFF and Stewardship Partners both know that we only succeed when our partners succeed

I want to close by thanking Holly Powers, Fabiola Greenwalt, Linsey Sauer, Britta Franscesconi, Kathleen Simpson, and past team members Richard Woo and Scott Miller, as well as the Russell Family and the TRFF board of directors. It is an honor to partner with you all.

Written by Aaron Clark

Photo courtesy of TRFF

Tire Chemical Kills Coho Salmon

Recent research by our partners at the University of Washington and Washington State University has identified a specific chemical in tire rubber that is killing countless Coho salmon right before they spawn in streams across the region. Other species of salmon are likely affected to varying degrees. The chemical 6PPD appears to be universally used in all tires currently made. Unfortunately, we don’t have any Salmon-Safe certified tires to offer yet (though we are actively supporting that pursuit). In the meantime, the best thing we can do is to keep building rain gardens and trying to get more of them installed wherever roadway runoff gets into salmon streams (which in our region is almost anywhere there are roads and parking lots). 

To help car tires — and maybe salmon runs — last longer:

  • Drive less. Fewer miles driven equals less tire dust. Consider if you can walk, bike or bus to your destination instead of driving.
  • Keep tires properly inflated and maintained.
  • Drive less aggressively: Don’t “lay rubber” when accelerating or braking.
  • Drive small. Small cars shed about half as much tire dust per mile as large cars, according to European studies. Trucks shed several times more.

To find out more about this vital cutting edge research here is the original research article. Media coverage of this research has been done by The Seattle TimesThe New York TimesMotor TrendNW Public Broadcasting and more.

Green Infrastructure Summit of the Salish Sea

Building off of the 2020 Green Infrastructure Summit and events since, it is more apparent than ever that we can’t merely fix and put back the stuff that breaks (due to a pandemic, racial inequity, economic downturn, etc.). Instead, we need better stuff. So this year, the theme of the summit is “Evolving Green Infrastructure: adapting systems for better outcomes.” 

Up-to-date info can be found on the summit webpage. There are many details still in the offing, but below is what we know:

  •  This summit will be held virtually over the mornings of March 25th and 26th, 2021 (mark your calendars).
  • After five years of calling this event the “Puget Sound Green Infrastructure Summit” we are pleased to announce that we are renaming it the “Green Infrastructure Summit of the Salish Sea.”  This re-naming is in recognition and honor of the original Indigenous inhabitants and stewards of this land and water, the Coast Salish Peoples, who have lived in the Salish Sea basin, throughout the San Juan Islands and the North Cascades watershed, since time immemorial. This re-naming also underscores our continued commitment to identify and implement solutions that protect and enhance the Salish Sea basin, through collaboration, best practices, racial equity, and community engagement. 
  • If you have a topic or story that you would like to share, please fill out this simple online abstract submission form. Your submission does not need to include details. Many of the best summit presentations started as a simple sentence. But the deadline for submissions is January 26th (extended), so don’t delay!
  • This event will give us all a chance to connect across geographies and sectors, discuss and learn about topics as far reaching as: leadership in Snohomish, Skagit and Whatcom counties; green infrastructure across the urban-rural continuum; whole watershed systems; storytelling; maintenance; stimulus spending; climate resilience; tires; silos; racial equity; the WA environmental justice task force; youth leadership; career pathways; the state of the science and what works and what doesn’t. 
  • Financial sponsors make this event possible. If your organization would like to learn more, please email Aaron Clark.