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June 10 2010

Get to Know: Conservation Northwest

For over twenty years, Conservation Northwest has protected hundreds of thousands of acres of wild lands and wildlife habitat across Washington State. Get to know more about this amazing group and how they are working in collaboration to protect the Columbia Highlands in northeastern Washington State.
Get to Know: Conservation Northwest

Photo by Eric Zamora.

True Wild Land

Deep in the northeastern corner of Washington State, there is magic. This is where the mighty Columbia pushes down into the lower 48, where the Western Rockies meet highland ranches, where grizzlies refuse to stop at the border and make their home in one of the richest wildlife habitats in the state. This special place is called the Columbia Highlands, hundreds of thousands of acres of upper Columbia River wilderness featuring open parklands, forests, rolling grassy slopes, granite ridges, and quiet canyons.

But less than 1% of all protected wilderness in Washington State is found in northeastern Washington, even though thousands of acres of wild, roadless forest in the Columbia Highlands qualify for wilderness designation.

Conservation Northwest is working to change this. For over twenty years, Conservation Northwest has protected hundreds of thousands of acres of wild lands and wildlife habitat across Washington State, connecting the Washington Coast to the BC Rockies. They have four offices (Bellingham, Seattle, Republic, and Spokane) and twenty staff members. Conservation Northwest works in partnership with other conservation groups, tribes, and government and business leaders to ensure the protection of some of our most majestic, diverse lands and wildlife habitat. You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again—once these lands and their residents are gone, they’re gone forever—and Conservation Northwest works to engage the community in their protection.

The Columbia Highlands Initiative

The Columbia Highlands Initiative includes a plan from a collaborative forestry coalition that has been working together for solutions since 2003. The coalition includes timber mill owners, conservationists, government workers, contract loggers and many others working in collaboration to protect wilderness for wildlife, recreation, and future generations; for the restoration of damaged forests; and for responsible logging practices that support the timber market and work to protect communities from wildfire.

This collaborative model has gained national attention: Conservation Northwest Executive Director Mitch Friedman had an opportunity last summer to talk with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack about restoring ecological conservation to our national forests. “The Colville National Forest in Washington is a terrific example of the sort of collaborative effort that allows for appropriate forest management while providing timber supply to local mills,” said Vilsack.

Online and Offline Organizing

People are taking action to protect the Columbia Highlands. With one of the best wildlife habitats left in the Northwest, it’s home to wolves, lynx, bighorn sheep, moose, mountain caribou, grizzly bear, elk, and wolverine as well as diversity of dry to wet flora including ponderosa, sagebrush, maple, fern, and cedar.  The Columbia Highlands remains one of the best areas in the state for hiking, camping, and hunting, and after decades of land-use disagreement, the collaborative solution from diverse parties is resonating within the community.

To engage citizens in the cause, Conservation Northwest is using a number of online civic engagement tools and strategies including online action alerts, letter-writing campaigns, a Columbia Highlands Facebook fan page of its own, videos, and a feature length film for their eastern Washington audience. Conservation Northwest has an active Twitter following, and the staff tweets from important public meetings to keep the community updated. Groundwire is currently working with Conservation Northwest to install Simple Social for Facebook, which allows supporters to share actions taken on behalf of the Columbia Highlands with their own personal Facebook newsfeed (e.g., “Hey, I just sent a letter to my legislator, you can too.”)

Up next is a multimedia extravaganza featuring a Ken-Burns-style slide show and a Google Earth tour showing how the Highlands are equally important to Eastside and Westside wildlife populations. Because all things are connected, they really truly are, especially in our fragile little ecosystem.

Early this year, our CRM/database consultant Matthew Scholtz worked with Conservation Northwest to implement a new Salesforce.com database, and worked with their staff to update leadership ladders within the database that help Conservation Northwest staff identify and tap citizens most likely to take action, do trail work parties, write letters, call representatives, build their supporter base, and more.

Get to know the Columbia Highlands up close and personal through this very cool 2010 Columbia Highlands Hike Series (still six summer hikes left!).


Click here to take action and protect this amazing part of Washington State.

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