April 2014 Spotlight – The Whidbey Institute

Clean water and healthy forests are deeply interdependent. At Chinook, we carefully steward both. We are honored to be the Whidbey ECO Network’s April Featured Spotlight Organization, and glad of the opportunity to share our perspective on how all of us can protect our Whidbey waters.

Two watersheds meet at Chinook, with a raindrop falling on the north side of Old Pietila Road traveling to Miller Lake, and another falling on the south side traveling to Quade Creek. We have a third wetland area just north of the Westgarden, where we practice organic gardening methods to provide food for our programs, chef,  staff, and  community Good Cheer Food Bank. Our natural gardening methods, which include vermiculture, mulching, and raised beds, have minimal impact on the watershed and help prevent topsoil loss.

We take our stewardship of this 100 acre forest seriously, and appreciate the positive impact of forest health on local waters. Partnerships with the Whidbey Camano Land Trust and surrounding neighbors allow us to better protect the wild spaces in our care. Our Wetland Loop Interpretive Trail provides visitors with a self-guided tour of a wetland habitat, introducing them to principles of wetland health and some of the native species that call this place home.

The Whidbey Institute’s Forest Stewardship Plan, prepared in 2006,  provides guidelines for forest and watershed protection. Most of our 100 acre forest is in a conservation easement with WCLT, to preserve water purity, protect habitat for wildlife and native plants, and provide educational opportunities.

This document states that it is our intention:

  • To serve as a sustainable habitat for diverse species of native wildlife.
  • To protect the upper watersheds of two tributaries of salmon-bearing Maxwelton Creek.
  • To provide a rich educational setting for program participants and the general public to learn the principles of forest ecology and responsible human relationship to the earth.
  • To offer a place of serenity and renewal in a natural setting for all guests of the Institute as well as for the surrounding community.

In 2014, the Whidbey ECO Network’s message is “Whidbey Waters are in Your Hands.” Our hope for our neighbors and community members is that you can join us in preserving habitat; using low-impact, low-erosion gardening techniques; leaving native wetland vegetation in place; and conserving forest tracts.

To learn more about what we’re doing at Chinook or what YOU can do to protect our watersheds, email land@whidbeyinstitute.org. We also invite you to come by to walk our Wetland Loop. Interpretive trail guides are available in our offices!

You may preview the trail guide – by clicking on the ‘Learning from the Land’ block at whidbeyinstitute.org/secrets-to-tell/

Swamp lantern photo by Scott Darby, heron photo by Marnie Jones.