Nonprofit Highlight: Stewardship Partners
Stewardship Partners is a nonprofit organization that preserves the natural landscapes of Washington State by working with private landowners. These landowners are stewards of the environment and have intimate knowledge of the land. The ideology of this organization consists of putting energy into working alongside the landowners rather than pointing fingers. They accomplish this by giving the stewards access to knowledge, resources, and incentives to become partners rather than adversaries.
12,000 Rain gardens
Stewardship partners has teamed up with Washington State University in a campaign to plant 12,000 rain gardens in the Seattle area. Rain gardens are advantageous for the environment by reducing pollution, preventing flooding, increasing real estate value, establishing beautiful low- maintenance landscapes, and even saving money for the community. Aaron Clark, director of strategic partnerships, stated “Stormwater is the least sexy of all environmental problems, yet it is the biggest threat today. It is exciting that we make a positive environmental impact with a simple, pretty garden.” Just 12,000 rain gardens have the potential to soak up 160 million gallons (yes, million!) of polluted runoff to preserve water purity. The project began in 2008 as homeowners started using rainwater to create rain gardens. These landscapes can also create habitat for birds and butterflies, prevent flooding inside and outside of homes, recharge groundwater supplies, and prevent erosion in creeks and streams. In 2011, Stewardship Partners teamed up with WSU to combine resources for building and educating the community about the invaluable benefits of rain gardens. This effort turns the Seattle landscape back to an area filled with trees and empowers everyone with the tools to create a positive impact.
The decline of water quality in the Washington area has led to a decrease in the salmon population. Runoff, fertilizers, pesticides, and excessive irrigation damage the water and the fish. Additionally, without vegetation along the banks, the river is not suitable for the wildlife. In 2004, the organization brought the “Salmon Safe” label to Washington State to encourage farmers to protect water and wildlife. This initiative was started by the Oregon- based Pacific Rivers Council in 1997, which works with many groups including Steward Partnerships. 100 farms and vineyards have been planted and each one has a significant impact on the local ecosystem. In order to be given the Salmon Safe label, farmers and landowners must fulfill specific criteria concerning water use, erosion control, chemical practices, and animal management. This includes occasional visits to ensure these requirements are being upheld. This program protects the ecosystem and creates a market for packaged fish with the salmon safe eco label. 80,000 acres of land have been given the Salmon Safe label in areas from Northern California to British Columbia. The label has been granted to companies such as breweries, urban and high density developments in cities, college campuses and golf courses. This serves to reward those companies that protect habitats.
With this program, the organization takes the stewardship ethic to the urban landscape. City landowners who participate in green infrastructure can be rewarded with the salmon safe label. Businesses cannot protect the environment alone, so working with Stewardship partners makes the effort easier. These companies have their own bottom lines and ends to meet and by working with the organization they can have a positive impact on the environment. This program has been getting a lot of attention and is continuing to grow and expand. Chris Bayley, co- founder of Stewardship Partners, explained that he is excited about the future of this program, which includes “increased collaboration with people who don’t normally work together in the city.”
Snoqualmie Stewardship Program
This program is used to restore the habitat in the Snoqualmie Valley while maintaining economic viability. This includes hands on restoration, educational activities and community participation. Since 2002, 13 miles of habitat have been restored. The goal of the program is to establish a prosperous valley incorporating the economy, the environment, and the people. Efforts include:
habitat restoration projects such as planting trees, restoring wetlands and protecting farmland
connecting landowners with resources to promote individual environmental awareness
education about sustainable and innovative approaches to protect the environment
organizing fieldwork and facilitating strategic watershed planning and salmon recovery efforts
Snoqualmie Stewardship created the “Adopt a Buffer” program to protect the environment and the wildlife. This initiative connects local businesses, groups, and individuals with local farmers and landowners to restore the local habitats by creating buffers along the river. Planting trees along the river provides shade, controls erosion, and even absorbs air pollution to actively fight climate change. This program is beneficial for businesses, farmers, community members, and the fish.
FEAST ON THE FARM
This annual dinner celebrates the land and the restoration efforts of the Stewardship partners and landowners in the area. The dinner demonstrates how farmers grow healthy food, protect the environment and thrive economically. The last feast attracted around 200 people and is expected to be even bigger coming this July.
Stewardship Partners, along with their landowners, works as a cohesive unite to advance environmental awareness and protect the unique landscape of the area. There is room for everyone to get involved in environmental awareness and there can be great accomplishments if people put aside their differences and work together.
Aaron Clark explained “Environment is unifying, we have lost our way and a coming together is starting to happen. We all stand to benefit from a healthy place to live.”
Learn more about Stewardship Partners and get involved at http://www.stewardshippartners.org/.