Dear Friends,

As snow falls in the Okanogan Highlands, blanketing each twig and branch in a fluffy coat, we are looking back at a year that has been anything but usual. From filing a Clean Water Act citizens suit to reimagining the ways that we do most of our work, it’s been quite a year. Perhaps more than ever we are thankful for the inspiration, resourcefulness, and steadfast support of our board, our members, and our community far and wide to be able to work to protect and restore the highlands and provide a window into the natural world as we navigate life in a pandemic.

Your support at this time is critical to hold the companies responsible.

OHA’s Clean Water Act suit is intended to enforce limits imposed by the mine’s discharge permit that require the waters near the mine to be almost as clean as they were before mining. The lawsuit is still in early stages, but it has already been met with legal resistance from the mining companies, through motions to dismiss and a baseless counterclaim against OHA. Despite the companies’ delay tactics, distractions, and attempts to intimidate OHA, the data and the law are clear. The companies are in flagrant violation of their permit, and we are working to hold them accountable for their pollution. 

As always, OHA will use scientific analysis of the data to support our efforts. We are building our team of technical experts, and your support will enable us to hire them to dive deep into the data, create careful analyses, and present their findings to the court while facing the company’s team of attorneys.  

Please consider expanded support to hire the experts needed to bolster this legal effort.

COVID has demanded, and continues to demand, creativity and flexibility in all of our lives. OHA’s efforts to engage the community in the natural world are no exception. After taking stock of the situation and assessing priorities this spring and summer, we are excited to be stretching into new forums to engage the public in the wonders of the Okanogan Highlands. We are creating videos and podcasts, writing stories, learning together about highland wildlife through our social media platforms, and conducting maintenance on local trails. We are also developing new projects such as: our Community Art Project that will install artworks reflective of the Okanogan Highlands’ biological diversity, and our Lost Lake Preserve Wetland Boardwalk that will enable visitors to appreciate the wetland in a low-impact way.

With your support OHA will build creative ways to help people connect with nature.

Our efforts to improve highland habitats is ongoing. We continue to be inspired by the positive changes  happening at the Triple Creek restoration site, as our plantings flourish, the streambed gets closer to the floodplain, and the habitat becomes a healthier wetland. This spring the stream overflowed its banks in part of the project area, showing connectivity for the first time since we started our work there!

Your donations enable OHA to continue our restoration work in the long term.

Life in the COVID era is a grand experiment, but OHA’s commitment to our mission is unwavering. We are taking action to prevent environmental degradation on Buckhorn. We are fostering the conservation of natural resources throughout the highlands. We are engaging our community with nature in the hopes that people will work to protect the precious earth on which we all depend. 

As we look forward to 2021, we are filled with optimism that has come with the prospect of a new administration in the White House. We are filled with hope of the time when we will be able to gather again, safely, with friends and family. We are filled with determination as OHA mounts a legal effort to ensure that our area is not left with the toxic remnants of here-today-gone-tomorrow mining companies. OHA is steadfast in our efforts to protect our environment and build our community.

In the spirit of optimism, hope, and determination, please give generously. We can’t do this work without you.

Onward!

Jen Weddle and Sarah Kliegman, co-Executive Directors

P.S. OHA is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Your contribution may be tax deductible. A provision in the 2020 CARES Act enables taxpayers who take the standard deduction to claim a charitable deduction of up to $300 ($600 if married) for cash donations made in 2020. Other benefits apply for those who itemize charitable donations.

Click Here to Donate Online

Meet Jack, Nature Detective: Jack is inquisitive, skeptical, creative, quirky, determined, and a friend to ALL critters. His observations of subtle clues and brilliant reasoning make him, quite possibly, one of the world’s most talented nature detectives. Like most of us, Jack’s understanding of the world comes from his own life experiences. He is five years old, and his investigative skills are top notch. If you were to stop by his house you might find our Nature Detective in the midst of an experiential study of squirrel movement, or determining the optimal shelter and food stores for his new pet grasshopper, named Grasshopper. Today, we will share a mystery that Jack uncovered in the Okanogan Highlands. What clues can you uncover in the story?

Jack, Nature Detective. Illustration by Diana Weddle.

One day in October, Jack, the Nature Detective, is out on a hike in the Okanogan Highlands with his family. The needles of the Western Larch are lighting up the flank of Bonaparte Mountain with yellow, bright against the dark green of the other conifers. The afternoon is warm and Jack’s whole family is enjoying the way the sunbeams filter down through the forest canopy. 

Suddenly, Jack detects something. His eyes open wide and he whispers, “Who’s out there? Mom? Is someone watching us?” Everyone stops and looks around, no one is there, just the quiet forest. But the whole family kind of feels like there is something there, so they come to a full stop and really look around. There is a fallen tree, leaning steeply against its neighbor. The trees are tall in this place – and big around. Some have broken off way up in the air. But no one sees any sign of eyes watching them.

Jack’s mom says, “Don’t worry, Jack. Sometimes when you are outside, it really feels like something is watching you. Maybe animals are watching. The creatures that live in these woods are specially adapted to be camouflaged in this habitat. The shapes of their bodies and their colors blend right into the shapes and colors of the forest. They stay very still, so our eyes just slide right past them without even seeing them. Their camouflage keeps them safe.” Just a little way farther on, Jack stops again, staring at a splotch of white on the ground, and, looking closer, he notices small gray lumps that look a bit furry, and a little bit…bony. What is this? Does it have something to do with that creepy feeling of being watched? 

This is a nature mystery and, fortunately, the Nature Detective is on the job. He pulls out his sample jars, some forceps, and a hand lens, and collects the gray lumps for analysis at home.

Back at home, Jack dons his lab coat, goggles, and protective gloves and examines the gray lumps. He uses the forceps to pull out a pile of tiny bones. He painstakingly counts the bones and declares that this is undoubtedly the droppings of a hungry rodent eater. 

Look for our podcast logo!

He considers his clues: forest habitat with big trees, snags, and leaning trees, a creature that eats rodents and lives in the Okanogan Highlands. He remembers that feeling of being watched. Jack’s hypothesis is that this nature mystery is likely an owl, but it could be a coyote, weasel, or snake, and he is not quite willing to dismiss the possibility that it could be a baby velociraptor or a saber tooth tiger. Do you think Jack’s owl hypothesis is correct? What other evidence would you need to verify Jack’s forest find? To learn more, check out the new podcast, Highland Wonders, produced by Okanogan Highlands Alliance. The first episode, Great Gray Owls: The Phantom of the North, features Matt Marsh, wildlife biologist with the US Forest Service in Tonasket. You can find the podcast at any of the following apps: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Breaker, RadioPublic, Pocket Cast, Google Podcasts.

Stay tuned! Jack will continue to solve nature mysteries on topics related to upcoming episodes of the Highland Wonders Podcast. Episodes will be released throughout the winter, and accompanying mysteries will be posted on OHA’s website.

We hope you will join us for the last indoor event of the season! We will screen The Beaver Believers, by Sarah Koenigsberg. This feature documentary has been widely recognized for the story it weaves of the engineering feats of North America’s largest rodent and the people who are devoted to them. It is a hopeful story of resilience in the face of climate change, and it even features some familiar Okanogan County faces! We will also be featuring an update on OHA’s Triple Creek Restoration project. There we are working to imitate the work of the beaver.

Everywhere you look in the Okanogan Highlands you can see evidence of the movement of glaciers. The trick is knowing what to look for! On March 6, CWU geography professor Karl Lillquist used local landscapes and landforms to demonstrate how glaciers and other factors shaped our region during the last glaciation in our area, 12,000-18,000 years ago.

Okanogan Highlands Alliance (OHA) and Okanogan Land Trust (OLT) are excited to be co-hosting three-part series of educational events focused on geology. OHA hosted the first event on Friday, March 6th, when Dr. Karl Lillquist returned to Tonasket for the Highland Wonders presentation. OLT will host the second event at some point in the future, but it has been postponed to protect public health. When we are able to resume public events, Bruce Bjornstad will present as part of the OkaKnowledgy lecture series in Okanogan. The third event, also led by Dr. Lillquist, will take participants on a field trip in the Highlands, hopefully this summer! All three events will highlight the fascinating geological processes shaping our hills and valleys. The indoor events are free and open to all; the field trip will require pre-registration with priority given to OHA and OLT members. Anyone can become a member!

Karl Lillquist
Karl Lillquist shares about the Geology of the Okanogan Highlands during an OHA Highland Wonders tour.

Friday, March 6, Community Cultural Center of Tonasket:
Dr. Lillquist led the audience in “explor[ing] the origins and evolution of landscapes and landforms in the Okanogan Highlands.” He described how the Okanogan Highlands landscape has been sculpted over time by glaciers and other forces. Specifically, he explained how “The Okanogan Highlands, [which is] characterized by rolling uplands, punctuated by a diverse array of valleys…has been shaped by various tectonic, weathering, landslide, stream, glacier, and wind-related processes.“

Dr. Lillquist is a professor in the Geography Department at Central Washington University, and has vast experience exploring and teaching about the geology of our state. His area of expertise is geomorphology, a field focusing on landforms and how they originated. Throughout our three-part series, we hope that you will join us in looking at the Highlands landscape through geologic time — you might never look at our highland hills and valleys the same way again!

Highland Wonders events feature the natural history of the Okanogan Highlands and surrounding areas. OHA offers educational programming on the first Friday of the month from November through April. The presentations, which start at 6:30 pm, are free to the public (donations are welcome), and clock hours are available for educators. The events take place at the Tonasket Community Cultural Center, and dinner is available before the presentations. (meat and vegetarian options available, $10 a plate).

For more info, or to become a member of OHA, visit our support webpage, or contact jen@okanoganhighlands.org (509-429-4399). For more info about OLT, visit: okanoganlandtrust.org.

Chew on this

January 31st at the Merc Playhouse, 7pm

101 S. Glover St, Twisp, WA

An Edu-tainment event about People and Beavers Rebuilding Watershed Resilience …Naturally!

METHOW BEAVER PROJECT & OKANOGAN HIGHLANDS ALLIANCE
are pleased to invite you to join special guests Julie Vanderwal, Ken Bevis, Sandy Vaughn & Sarah Koenigsberg for an evening of music, engagement, joy & learning about people & beavers teaming up for watershed restoration!

For more info www.methowbeaverproject.org
General Admission – Suggested Donation $10

Chew on this

with Jim Hepler

February 7, 2020

On February 7, 2020, Jim Hepler, of the Beers Laboratory at WSU’s Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center, joined us to share his extensive knowledge (and humor) of native stink bugs and their life history. He gave an enlightening overview of the diversity of stink bugs found in eastern Washington, and expounded on the challenges and rewards, and all that is known and unknown about these creatures. Jim’s palpable interest was contagious, sparking the curiosity of our local community.

Fun facts:
-Stink bugs can drill through nut husks to feast on the nutrient-rich innards
-Pesticides are futile in fighting stink bugs since they are constantly on the move into and out of orchards
-Stink bugs have very specific relationships with other insects who will lay their eggs inside stink bug eggs or drill through adults’ exoskeletons to feast
-Stink bugs are very capable of killing themselves with their own noxious fumes!

Rough stink bug
Rough stink bug (Brochymena species) Photo by Jen Weddle

Highland Wonders presentations feature the natural history of the Okanogan Highlands and surrounding areas. OHA provides these presentations on the first Friday of the month from November through April. These presentations, which start at 6:30 pm, are free to the public (donations are welcome), and clock hours are available for educators. The events take place at the Tonasket Community Cultural Center, and dinner is available before the presentations.

Consperse stink bug
Consperse stink bug (Euschistus conspersus) on a bitterbrush plant (Purshia tridentata, a favored host). Photo by Jim Hepler.

We are excited to share our 10th year of educational programs with an exciting lineup of topics and speakers! We hope to see you this winter – the first Friday of November, January, February, March and April. New this season: continuing education clock hours are available to educators!

Dinner benefitting the CCC starts at 5:15 pm – $9 for adults; Presentation starts at 6:30 pm – free to all

and what we are doing locally to restore them

Beaver Creek in autumn

On Friday, November 1, John Crandall shared “Why Floodplains Matter and what we are doing locally to restore them,” with a crowd of 70 at the Community Cultural Center of Tonasket. For decades, floodplains and wetlands were viewed as “wasted” space and they have been diked, filled, drained, mined, and otherwise altered to make room for increased human activity. These activities disconnect floodplains from adjacent streams, degrading habitat and leaving wildlife, fish, and water to deteriorate. Why do these floodplains matter — what services do they provide, not only for fish and wildlife, but for humans too? What can we do to bring them back into a healthy condition? John Crandall returned to the Highland Wonders series to help answer these questions and to share about a variety of projects happening in Okanogan County that are aimed at restoring floodplain processes and making our aquatic ecosystems healthier — from the quality and quantity of our water to the abundance of our fish and wildlife.

John shared videos and photos depicting the ways that floodplains interact with their waterways, and how spring flooding depends on the shape and structure of the surrounding landscape. Floodplains are crucial to the lifecycle of many fish, who time the hatching of their young to coincide with spring floods because of the protection, food, and downstream push that floodplains and high water provide to young fish. In many areas, human activity (such as road building) has disrupted or changed the structure of the floodplains, reducing their size and cutting fish off from their traditional rearing grounds and/or travel corridors. Projects throughout Okanogan County are working to restore floodplain functionality, to reconnect streams and rivers with their floodplains and provide ways for fish to access flooded areas.

The Board of Directors of Okanogan Highlands Alliance (OHA) is happy to announce their decision to hire Jennifer (Jen) Weddle and Sarah Kliegman, as Co-Directors to lead the community-based nonprofit.  Jen, a former member of the OHA Board of Directors, has a BA in Biology-Environmental Studies and teaches at the Outreach Program at Tonasket School District. Sarah, who volunteered with OHA from an early age and grew up in the Okanogan Highlands, recently returned to the Okanogan after working as a chemistry professor at the Claremont Colleges. Sharing the position will enable each of them to balance work and family life while providing OHA with a unique blend of experience and expertise.

“We are happy to welcome such highly qualified professionals to lead OHA into the future,” stated George Thornton, OHA’s Board President. “Their complementary skills and experience will be a great asset to the organization.”

After more than 25 years of service, David Kliegman, OHA’s founding ED, notified the Board in January that he would like to retire. Since that time, the Board has been working on transition planning.

“It has been an honor to serve as the spearhead for this community effort to use science and the law to stop the open-pit mine that was proposed on Buckhorn Mountain and to begin OHA’s successful restoration and education programs,” stated the retiring ED. “I will continue to track the mine’s efforts to clean up the pollution but look forward to spending more time with my family and carving wood.

In 2007, OHA settled its appeal of the underground mine in hopes that increased cooperation would evolve into greater protection of the environment, but the company’s efforts have fallen short of what is needed to stem the flow of pollutants from the site.

“Since the mining company has been unable to control the pollution from their mine, the new directors will have our work cut out for us,” states Sarah Kliegman, OHA’s new Co-Director. “We will continue the effort to try to get [the WA Department of] Ecology to hold the mine accountable for its pollution.”

“We look forward to further developing OHA’s robust restoration and public education programs which repair damaged wetlands and bring experts in natural history to share the wonders in Tonasket and the Highlands,” states Jennifer Weddle, OHA’s other new Co-Director. “OHA’s leadership will help to improve and better understand the ecology of the Okanogan Highlands.”

The Okanogan Highlands Alliance is a non-profit organization that works to educate the public about watershed issues, including the environmental threats of large-scale mining. For more information go to okanoganhighlands.org

(TEST) Nature’s Engineers: How Beavers Restore Habitat

Beavers possess remarkable engineering skills, which they combine with unparalleled work ethic to the benefit of streams and wetlands. On January 7th, 2011, this event focused on how beavers create the stream conditions and wetlands needed by an array of other plants and animals. In the process, beavers are sub-irrigating by raising the water table and increasing groundwater recharge in the Okanogan Highlands, making more water available for everybody during the low flows of late summer. Guest speakers who work with beavers in the field shared from their experiences and answered questions about these curious creatures. OHA also shared some exciting updates about the work of beavers on two of our restoration sites.

HTML Embed (more size flexibility)

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2: The Land’s Council

YouTube Embed (no YouTube logo, one size)

Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: The Land’s Council
Part 3: Methow Beaver Project
Part 4: Okanogan Highlands Alliance
  • 1
  • 2
© Okanogan Highlands Alliance 2019. All Rights Reserved.
Go Back