In April we celebrate the Earth. It is Whidbey Earth & Ocean Month, Native Plant Appreciation Month, Stewardship Week, and the 50th Earth Day! Celebrate with us this year by taking stewardship actions at your home, in your neighborhood, or in our shared spaces (practicing proper social distancing).
Together we can help Whidbey Island's land, water, wildlife, and people be healthier and more connected.
Together we can help Whidbey Island's land, water, wildlife, and people be healthier and more connected.
What do we mean by stewardship? Stewardship first means recognizing that our planet is an interactive community of plants, animals, soil, and water, and that the actions we take in our homes and yards affect the natural world around us. Then we can take actions that benefit us all. We are here to help with suggestions for stewardship activities that you can do this year despite the COVID-19 quarantine.
Please stay safe and follow safe social distancing practices when you're out in public spaces.
Don't travel long distances for hikes. Maintain at least 6 feet of distance between yourself and runners, beachgoers, etc. If there are already 10 cars at a trail head, choose a different time to use that trail. More outdoor guidance at:
U.S. National Park Service
National Recreation and Park Association
Get to Know the Outdoors
"we take care of what we love, and we cannot love something unless we know about it." Robert Pelant, Pacific Rim Institute
Find a place in nature that you love, and go there often. Observe it in different seasons, times of day, and moods. This practice is sometimes called a Sit Spot. It's a way to find where you fit in with nature. You may have a spot in mind, or you may need to do some (COVID19 safe) adventuring to find it. Check out Pacific Rim Institute's native prairie remnant, walk in one of Whidbey Camano Land Trust's protected properties, or explore your immediate neighborhood.
Make a map of your yard, including structures, plants, bare ground, water movement, wildlife.
Go on a guided tour of Oak Harbor's Garry Oak Trees, put on by the Oak Harbor Garry Oak Society. Two of the locations have pollinator gardens!
Learn our native plants
Participate in Washington Native Plant Appreciation Month by learning to ID some of our region's native plants.
Native plants are species that originated or evolved in the soils, topography, and climate of western Washington, rather than being introduced to the landscape by humans.
Native plants are an important resource for our island. They are used by wildlife, pollinators, and birds for food and habitat. Native pollinators are 40% more likely to choose a native plant's blooms to pollinate. Native plants help with soil erosion and water quality, and require less maintenance from home gardeners. Learn more here.
If you're new to identifying plants, start with these cards of common native plants you'll find in this area. You can even print these cards and take them with you on an outing.
Download the Picture This! app, which identifies plants for you based on a picture you upload from your phone. It's easy and fun if you have a smart phone.
Check out WICD's Instagram account @nativeplants_everywhere for posts about the plants and wildlife that you can see right now when you're out in nature.
Give your Soil Some Attention
"the soil is the great connector of our lives, the source and destination of all" -- Wendell Berry.
There are more organisms in one spoonful of healthy soil than there are people on Earth. Get familiar with this vast ecosystem under our feet. Go out in your yard and dig up some of your property's soil. Is it full of life? To answer that, you may have to do a little studying:
Natural Resource Conservation Service's Science of Soil Health videos on YouTube, and Healthy Soil for Life website.
Learn to test your soil's texture and composition.
Read up on WICD's soil resources here.
View South Whidbey Tilth's soil resource poster, developed by Paula & Janet Richards, here.
South Whidbey Tilth is all about growing healthy food by building rich soil, full of mycorrhiza fungi and other living organisms without chemical fertilizers — also known as regenerative agriculture. The word “tilth” means the quality of cultivated soil. South Whidbey Tilth has a farmer's market, community garden plots, and many educational opportunities for home gardeners.
Create native pollinator habitat
If the entire community dedicates a piece of their yard to pollinator habitat, it will improve the health and livelihood of our pollinators.
Native pollinators are a vital part of our ecosystem. They are bumblebees, solitary bees, miner bees, hoverflies, butterflies, ants, beetles, and many other creatures. Native pollinators need food, water, shelter, and places to raise their young - known collectively as habitat. Development of our human landscapes has placed incredible pressure on native pollinators and we need to create more habitat for them everywhere we can.
The native bees in our area make their nests in the ground, old bird nests, the canes of blackberry and salmonberry, or hollows of trees. Many prefer to venture only about 500 yards from their nest to find food. Creating pollinator habitat on your property means providing flowering plants throughout the seasons, or providing natural areas where they can nest or hibernate in the winter.
Check out our natural habitat factsheet for more details on creating pollinator habitat, and visit here to take our Pollinator Pal Pledge.
Plant a pollinator garden in your yard. Instructions here and plant suggestions here.
Build a nesting area for native pollinators with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust here.
Pick up Trash
Keep litter out of the ocean, beautify your neighborhood, and enjoy the outdoors all at the same time.
The U.S. generates over 270 million tons of waste each year, and that's just the waste that makes it into the system. Our oceans are a major receptacle of waste, especially plastic waste, that doesn't make it to the recycle center or landfill.
Choose a day, grab a bag, and go on a trash pick up adventure! This is a great activity to do with kids, so make it a family outing if you can.
Battle Noxious Weeds
Learn to identify and remove noxious weeds to protect our natural island landscapes.
Noxious weeds are undesirable, non-native plants that can be highly destructive, extremely competitive, and even toxic to livestock and pets. They can out-compete our native plants, both on land and in water, and turn whole areas into fields of weeds. Some common noxious weeds include Scotchbroom, Canadian Thistle, and Poison Hemlock.
Learning to identify noxious weeds is the first step in containing them. Check out this field guide for common noxious weeds, or email us for a paper copy.
Another great resource for noxious weed education is Seth Luginbill at the Island County Noxious Weed Board.
Support local agriculture
Food resilience begins at home.
Whidbey Island is lucky to have a vibrant small farm community, producing everything from vegetables and meat to flowers, cheese, and honey. Our agricultural community is a vital resource for our food security, and in order to keep it secure we need to support our local farms. That means buying from local producers, protecting farmland from development, and encouraging restaurants and other businesses to buy local as well.
Take a field trip to a local farmstand, or consider purchasing a CSA (weekly vegetable box) from a small farm. Goosefoot has a list of island CSAs and farmstands here.
Support our awesome island restaurants by ordering take-out one day this week. Local restaurants and small businesses are more likely to buy from local farmers and producers. A list of some restaurant offerings is available from Slow Food Whidbey here and from Whidbey Island Grown here.
Keep Our Waters Clean
"All the water that ever was, is right now." -- National Geographic
Each of our properties is a tiny watershed - the rainwater that falls drains directly into the ocean. Protecting our fresh water supplies and improving the health of the ocean that surrounds us are both benefits of stewardship actions we can take at home.
Take an inventory of your property through the eyes of a raindrop. Where are your impervious surfaces (areas that don't absorb water, such as roofs and driveways)? How does water move through your property? What's happening on the land that drains into your well, if you have one? Answering these questions will help you determine the ways that you can improve water stewardship on your land.
Install a rain barrel on your gutters to slow storm water run-off and to use for watering your garden in late spring and early summer. Instructions for installing a rain barrel can be found here.
Plan and build a rain garden, a beautiful space that will absorb water from your impervious surfaces (like gutters) and slowly release it into the soil.
This year's Stewardship Week theme is: Where Would We Bee Without Pollinators?
Check out these activities to learn about and help pollinators.
Stewardship Week Poster Contest!
Learn about Pollinators in this National Geographic Video
Plant a Native Pollinator Garden here.
Plant a Native Pollinator Nesting Habitat with Bumblebee Conservation Project here.
Become a Pollinator Pal! Take the Pollinator Pal Pledge here.
Go on this guided Garry Oak Tour and visit two community pollinator gardens!
Earn a Rain Garden
Take WICD's water conservation challenge! Here's how it works:
Our Partners Share What Stewardship Means to Them:
"[Stewardship means] how we live every day. We take care of that which we love, and we cannot love something unless we know about it. Learn about how the real world works, and strive to find one or two ways you can live as a steward by being more in harmony with the natural order and function of things." Robert Pelant, Pacific Rim Institute.
"We are all intricately connected, from tiny plankton to forage fish, salmon, orcas, tall firs and cedars, mountains, rivers and the ocean. It is time to reflect, to reconnect, and to respond as better caretakers of our planet." Susan Berta, Orca Network.
"Stewardship for the Land Trust doesn't just mean protecting these treasured lands and waters of Whidbey and Camano but improving the islands for the current and future generations. Sometimes that can look like weeding while other times it looks like creating a well built trail. It's engaging our community members in this important work so we all of us can enjoy these natural places and their benefits, not only now, but in the future." Taylor Schmuki, Whidbey Camano Land Trust.
"Stewardship of Garry oak trees means taking care of the mature Garry oak trees surrounding us, planting hundreds of new oaks, and educating people in all age groups about the rich benefits that Garry oak ecosystems bring to our Island environment. I really appreciate the important work our group has done to promote Garry oak conservation, which is leaving a living legacy for Whidbey Islanders." Laura Renninger, Oak Harbor Garry Oak Society.
"The sustainable agriculture organization South Whidbey Tilth is all about growing healthy food by building rich soil, full of mycorrhiza fungi and other living organisms without chemical fertilizers — also known as regenerative agriculture. The word “tilth” means the quality of cultivated soil. Rich soil is like a carbon sink. In a complex biological process plants pull carbon out of the air and put it into the soil. Plant roots put out exudates that feed the organisms in the soil and our crops in a remarkable symbiotic process. Every gardener and farmer is doing a lot to change global warming when they mulch, plant cover crops and compost yard and food waste. Not only does rich soil sequester carbon, but it holds moisture like a sponge preventing desertification and waste." Susan Prescott, South Whidbey Tilth.
"To me, stewardship is the acknowledgement of our connection with the natural world and our responsibility to care for it. Our actions have impact, and we can choose to make positive ones. Stewardship doesn’t have to be a daunting task, but a series of small acts that begins from an appreciation that our health, wellbeing, and everyday comforts depend on a healthy, diverse ecosystem that we can help nurture. " Anna Toledo, Island County Marine Resource Committee
"Stewardship can come in many forms, cleanup efforts, restoration, low impact lifestyles and countless other activities, but ultimately it has one goal. To respect and care for something in order to share it with the generations to come. It is a gift, passed down from our ancestors and given into our care. What do we do with this gift in the short time that it passes into our hands? Do you leave it better than you found it, or make a mess of it in the name of convenience? Make a small change, then another, until you feel that glimmer of pride that grows when you see your efforts making a difference. Seek to educate yourself and others so that they may also take part in stewarding this beautiful place we call home. If you are overwhelmed with the amount of work, take a breath and realize that every action, no matter the size will make a difference. The changes we need will come from thousands upon thousands of individuals pulling together with a steward’s heart to bring about change. Our goal at Sound Water Stewards is to equip and bring together those people. Because together we are making a difference. We work together to tackle big projects, support each other’s efforts and celebrate the victories." Allie Hudec, Sound Water Stewards.