My office mate Elli attended a talk I gave recently about the work that my family and I are doing to restore a salmon run on Washington state’s Olympic Peninsula. Elli had heard a little about the Tarboo Creek project before that — enough so that, long before the presentation, her first question on Monday mornings was about what we’d done the previous weekend. My answers didn’t vary much: planted native species, cut Himalayan blackberry, built trails. A few weeks after that talk, though, she turned the tables. “Guess what we did last weekend?” she asked. I couldn’t guess. “Ripped
I had a wide-ranging conversation the other day with Barbara Bernstein of KBOO FM community radio out of metro Portland, Oregon. She's informed and involved in her local area and we talked near everything from man's history of ditching waters (and how that worked out for agriculture and houses), to the Army Corps of Engineers past and present, to progress being made, to hiking trails and trails lost to forest fires, to how Susan and I choose what specific species to plant and in what order along our re-meandered stretch of Tarboo Creek. (And beavers. Got to talk beavers.) I
This article first appeared in The Seattle Times, March 10, 2018. The most inspiring speech I’ve witnessed was a commencement address at the University of Washington. It was given by an icon of the Pacific Northwest: Bill Gates, Sr. Mr. Gates is an old head; a revered elder; someone who has, as my younger son says, seen some stuff. The theme of this speech was simple: He called on graduates to become citizens of the world. In making that call, Mr. Gates referred to what he called the public will: “when the right thing to do becomes a consensus, and
This essay initially appeared on PowellsBooks.Blog. Used here courtesy of Powell’s City of Books, Portland, Oregon. My path to writing Saving Tarboo Creek was long and meandering. Some of the first tentative steps occurred in college, when I helped with some prairie restoration projects in Minnesota. I broke into a trot when I met Susan Leopold, during a summer when we both had fellowships to work at the Aldo Leopold Memorial Reserve in Wisconsin. The Reserve is the site of the Leopold Shack, where Aldo Leopold and his family made the first-ever attempt at ecological restoration. Leopold wrote a now-classic
With the book Saving Tarboo Creek hitting the stores late January, it's been a bit of a crazy several days with radio interviews from all time zones—the interviewers have been smart and informed and these have been fun to do. We talk about the book and about land ethic, planting trees, baby salmon, how to start your own project or follow projects in your area of the world, and more. Here are a few links to recent conversations if you want to give a listen. Jefferson Exchange / NPR in Southern Oregon—Northern California. South Dakota Public Radio. Maine's Big Z.
This winter we have two big projects going at Tarboo Creek: planting and trailing. More on planting later—this year trailing took the lead. Trailing is working on trails. We have a network now, one that started 12 years ago with a walking route along a newly remeandered portion of Tarboo Creek. That trail floods after winter storms, so it’s informal: it moves around in response to the growth of trees and shrubs that we’ve planted and to changes in the creek channel. We do little to improve it—it’s made by where we walk. We have a more formal trail system,
I was out at Tarboo Creek by myself for a weekend this month while Susan was up in Canada grandmothering, and adopted a new strategy for a nature walk. When we arrive from town, nine times out of 10 the first thing we do is walk the trail along the streambank at our place, to see what has been going on the past week. My new strategy? Follow Holly’s nose, and see where it leads us. Holly—officially Hollis—is a 14-month-old puppy that we are raising for Canine Companions for Independence. She’s the fifth dog that we’ve raised for the agency,
When I checked on November 18th, our rain gauge was almost full—over 5.5” fell in a week. The coho salmon have started to run up Tarboo Creek in response to the rising waters, and in a gathering dusk tonight I stood on a one-lane bridge above the channel, watching a beautiful female coho dig a nest in a bed of gravel, just below me. It was a lovely moment, but something unusual was going on, too: she was alone. We have never, in our 13 years of work on this stream, seen a female excavating a nest without at least
The drought is over, at last. Starting in late June, we had a run of 55 days straight without rain. Then a half inch in mid-August and another half inch when I checked our gauge September 9th, but otherwise nothing much happened in the way of precipitation. For 3 ½ months, we got the same amount of rain as large swathes of the Sahara desert. But then all Hades broke loose. Early this month the weather system called the Pineapple Express delivered a line of storms that stretched from Hawaii to the Pacific Northwest, re-wetting the woods. And with the
Throughout the Puget Sound basin early this month, a thick layer of smoke blotted out the sun, and ash fell like snow. People had to brush their windshields off before attempting to drive; air quality ranged from unhealthy to hazardous. The flecks and haze were fallout from wildfires burning in central and southern British Columbia and eastern Washington; vast tracts of northern Oregon were also in flames. The province and the states are experiencing their warmest, driest summers and worst fire seasons in recorded history. The Eagle Creek fire just east of Portland even jumped one of the largest rivers