Why I Volunteer at Jefferson Land Trust


I’m a biologist and environmental scientist with a passion for our planet. During my career, I was fortunate to work for the National Park Service, the National Forest Service, several universities, and the Navy. I finished my career as a science advisor at the Department of the Navy for marine resources and ocean policy.

Working for these organizations, with a focus on environmental science and policy, I was able to engage on significant issues such as the effect of sonar on whales and on large-scale coastal and marine spatial planning. It was rewarding work and, overall, I feel I made a difference.

The trouble is that large government organizations working alone do not have the reach or the capacity to resolve our planet’s environmental problems. Solving these substantial problems is going to take multi-layered, long-term partnering that crosses all sectors of human society. And, while I do believe that education is a path to change, it alone is not fast enough.

This is why I am so attracted to Jefferson Land Trust. It’s a small organization that has figured out how to partner across all levels of government and society. It’s working not only on a large geographic scale, but also on the largest of time scales—for perpetuity. Here, in this small nonprofit organization, I see a small staff achieving huge on-the-ground success.

When we retired, my husband, Dan, and I selected this place intentionally. We knew we wanted to be on the West Coast and, having explored the entire coastline, determined the Olympic Peninsula was where we wanted to be.

We feel fortunate to be here. Volunteering with Jefferson Land Trust means I take part in making our community stronger and ensuring that many of the reasons we chose this particular place—its open spaces and wild places, its family farms, vibrant forests and rushing rivers—continue to endure and thrive.

I volunteer for the Land Trust because I want to get my hands on the land in a meaningful way. This started with volunteering at Tuesday work parties to clear invasive weeds. Then, wanting to get more involved, I took the course necessary to become a volunteer land steward.

Since then I’ve been a co-steward, sharing monitoring responsibilities for the Duckabush Riparian Forest Preserve with Liana Johnson. We make a good team. Protected in late 2015 by the Land Trust in partnership with the Trust for Public Land, the preserve includes 140 acres of beautiful forested wildlife habitat along the Duckabush River.

It’s a magical place; however, during our first winter monitoring visit when the leaves had fallen and we could see more clearly through the trees, we noticed what we thought was a small trash dump at the bottom of a forested ravine. We reported our discovery to Carrie Clendaniel, the Land Trust’s preserve manager, and began clearing the rubbish.

We soon found that what we’d seen from the top of the ravine was just the tip of the iceberg. There were actually multiple trash sites and—with a refrigerator, bathtub, innumerable tires, and car frame parts among the trash—the problem was well beyond our abilities to resolve.

I was then able to see firsthand how, although its staff is small, the Land Trust has the ability to develop a plan, mobilize volunteers, bring in contractors when needed, and dedicate staff time to see a complex project through to completion. If you want to learn more about this endeavor, visit www.saveland.org/monumental-cleanup.

In my role on the board of directors, I’ve seen this to be true on land protection projects as well. Although the staff is small in number, they’re large in expertise, creativity, and perseverance. And their ability to partner with volunteers and organizations maximizes their resources and amplifies their outcomes.

Richard Tucker, the land trust’s executive director, is one of the most visionary and courageous executive leaders I’ve had the privilege to work with. He exemplifies gentle grace, uncanny foresight, and uncompromising dignity—traits that are essential in today’s highly polarized human environment. Richard brings decades of pertinent experience to his job, which when combined with his creativity and ability to collaborate is exactly what the Land Trust needs at this point in time to accomplish its mission: “helping the community preserve open space, working lands, and habitat forever.”

If you’re looking for somewhere to make a meaningful difference for the planet and this special place, from my experience, Jefferson Land Trust is a good bet. To learn more and get involved, visit www.saveland.org, or join me on March 28th at the Land Trust’s annual Conservation Breakfast. Get event details and RSVP at www.saveland.org/breakfast.

Jefferson Land Trust’s column relating local stories of the land appears monthly in The Leader.

Robin Fitch is the President of the Board of Directors for Jefferson Land Trust. In addition, she works as a volunteer land steward for the Duckabush Riparian Forest Preserve. In both of these roles, she shares her passion for the land and her knowledge of biology and environmental science to make a difference in our community.


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