Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Winter is Here!

This is my absolute favorite time of year. Why? Snow, of course!

I think snow is fantastic. I love being in the snow and being outside during the winter months. I enjoy sledding, skiing (downhill, Nordic, and now backcountry), snowboarding, etc. I love it. Then there are the sports that I want to try and haven’t experienced yet, like snowmobiling and ice fishing!

We are lucky to live in an area that has such an abundance of outdoor recreational activities available. The outdoors during winter can also be especially dangerous though, for those who adventure unprepared. The good news is that there are a multitude of ways to get more information about snow data that can help predict weather and climate.

I’m personally a total data geek, and I wanted to talk about some of the ways scientists can use data to measure different outcomes. The information can be utilized for a few different pursuits ranging from water resource management to backcountry skiing. This valuable information can inform and empower a variety of stakeholders ranging from mayors to private landowners to city planners. It’s called SNOTEL (Snowpack Telemetry)! The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has designed two delightful infographics that highlight parts of the program. 

Another way to predict weather can be from studying a climatic pheomena called ENSO (El Niño-Southern Oscillation.) Now, I am not a climate scientist so I do encourage you to check out
for more information. 

The video below explains the process of predictions and 
some of the limitations that exist when trying to predict seasonal forecasting.  
I can say, though, that the Earth is experiencing a weak La Niña this year. The video below explains more about the predictions for Winter 2016-17.

If video isn’t your thing, here is an image outlining the GENERAL trend that weather might show this year across the globe.


If you notice, even in a weak La Niña year, the Northwestern United States does tend to receive an increased amount of cool, wet weather. This has led some to believe that there may be increased snowfall in the NW associated with La Niña. I certainly hope so!

Cheers to a solid snowpack this winter, and Happy Holidays!

~ Ava

Works Cited

Dewitt, Dave. Predicting El Niño and La Niña Events. Online video clip. YouTube. October 7, 2016. https://youtu.be/BAFUG4bRRd0

ENSO Blog. Science and Information for a Climate-Smart Nation. https://www.climate.gov/news-features/department/enso-blog.

Gratz, Joel. “Whats a Snotel Site and How Does it Work?” http://www.onthesnow.com/news/a/584877/what-s-a-snotel-site-and-how-s-it-work-

Halpert, Mike. NOAA Climate Prediction Center’s 2016-17 winter outlook. Online video clip. YouTube. October 20, 2016. https://youtu.be/KF8YwYUcB_E

L’Heureux, Michelle. What is the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) in a nutshell?” May 5th, 2014. https://www.climate.gov/news-features/blogs/enso/what-el-ni%C3%B1o%E2%80%93southern-oscillation-enso-nutshell

Miller, Spencer. “Measuring the Value of Snow. March 14th, 2014. http://blogs.usda.gov/2014/03/14/measuring-the-value-of-snow/

NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information. “La Niña Outlook, Impacts for Winter 2016-17.” https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/news/la-nina-outlook-impacts-winter-2016-17

NRCS National Water and Climate Center. “SNOTEL Data Collection Network Fact Sheet.” http://www.wcc.nrcs.usda.gov/factpub/sntlfct1.html

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Little Chumstick Creek Community Tire Clean-Up Day

In the summer of 2016, a property was foreclosed adjacent to Little Chumstick Creek.  During the clean-up process, a non-local contractor avoided dumping fees by disposing of 300-350 tires directly into Little Chumstick Creek.  After several months of frustrated neighbors working with the bank that owns the offending property, and pressuring the responsible contractor to remedy the problem, the neighborhood had little success.  During the recent implementation of a Cascadia Conservation District stream restoration project on adjoining property, the neighbors reached out to see if the CD could assist with removal and disposal of the tires.
Tires illegally dumped in creek

Volunteers hauling tires out of creek
AmeriCorps member Ava is keeping track of signing in volunteers
Little Chumstick Creek is a tributary of Chumstick Creek, which has been identified as critical steelhead and salmon habitat in the Wenatchee River Watershed. Streams were re-opened to fish passage in 2012 after 13 fish barriers were removed and replaced with cast concrete bridges.  Following the barrier removal, endangered steelhead and spring chinook have increased use of the creek which offers protection to juveniles during high water events in the Wenatchee River, and cold water for spawning during peak summer temperatures.

Most of this ~15 mile watershed has been utilized for agriculture throughout the 20th century, which has resulted in severally degraded habitat throughout much of the watershed.  Cascadia Conservation District has partnered with Washington Department of Ecology to make stream restoration a priority in the Chumstick watershed, and this project area represents an excellent example of an area in need of restoration and clean-up to improve habitat as well as water quality and quantity.
Semi-trailer used to haul tires away from site

The district hosts 1-2 volunteer clean up days in each of the Chelan County Watersheds each year. Our efforts are directed towards building relationships within the community we serve, as well as local by-in to continue implementing restoration projects in the area. 

Crew after helping to remove tires from the creek

On Saturday, December 3rd, Cascadia hosted the tire clean-up day. To make the clean-up possible, Chelan County Solid Waste donated use of a 28 foot semi-trailer to haul out tires and pay for the cost of disposal. We had about 18 volunteers attend the event and were able to remove about 350 tires in only two hours! We look forward to continue making progress in habitat restoration throughout Chelan County. 

Monday, November 14, 2016

Clean Water Campaign

This year, our Picture Chelan County Photo Contest received 75 entries from 19 photographers. The winning photographs are featured in our 2017 stewardship calendar. You can purchase yours today for $10 at our office!

One of the goals of the contest is to spread awareness about our clean water campaign. Chelan County still has many water bodies that do not meet water quality standards. You can always access an updated water quality factsheet for the Wenatchee River and its tributaries at http://cascadiacd.org/landowner-assistance_239.html.

Clean water is essential to healthy habitats for animals, as well as for clean drinking water sources.
There are ways for you to help! Below are just a few of the changes you can make to create a better future for yourself, your family, your community, and your environment. 

In Your Home

Use low or no phosphorus detergents and soaps. One pound of phosphorus can grow 700 pounds of algae. Too much algae reduces the amount of oxygen available for fish and aquatic life.  

Conserve water! Use it wisely. There is the same amount of water on earth for all 7.5 billion of us. Only 1% of all of the water is fresh, liquid water that we (humans) can use for drinking, cooking, and many other uses.  

Properly maintain your septic system. Without regular maintenance, septic systems can fail or overflow. Spills or leaks from a septic tank can cause raw sewage to pollute drinking water supplies and nearby rivers and streams. For more information and a list of qualified service providers, contact the Chelan-Douglas Health District at (509)886-6450 or visit www.cdhd.wa.gov. Visit the USDA Rural Development website http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/Home.html for information on septic system repair programs.

In Your Yard

Many of us use fertilizers, weed killers and pesticides to keep our lawns green and our gardens productive. When we treat yard care as an all-out war, the ‘arsenal’ of modern chemicals can take a toll on beneficial insects, wildlife and fish, not to mention children and pets. When storm water flows over our yards and gardens it takes pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers with it all the way to rivers, lakes and streams. These chemicals poison wildlife and absorb oxygen from the water. By using natural alternatives, such as compost, in place of chemical fertilizers and limiting pesticide use to judicious, targeted applications, you can have a beautiful backyard without causing collateral damage.

Keep Invasives at Bay. Noxious, or invasive, plant species can outcompete native plants. They can destroy native plant and animal habitat, damage recreational opportunities and clog waterways. Controlling noxious weeds is good stewardship and it’s the law. To learn more, consult the Chelan County Noxious Weed Board (http://www.co.chelan.wa.us/noxious-weed), the Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board (www.nwcb.wa.gov), or the Nature Conservancy (www.invasive.org/gist/esadocs.html). Our native plant workshop will be a free informational event on February 11th, 2017. If you are interested in purchasing native plants, check out our native plant sale going on through March 1st, 2017: http://cascadiacd.org/files/documents/2017_plant_sale_order_form_-_1107.pdf

Restore Riparian Areas. Let us help you figure out how to create healthier streamside habitat in the Wenatchee Valley. If you are a streamside landowner, we may have funding to help create a project. Benefits of riparian plantings and restoration projects include: bank stabilization, weed control, shading, and flood attenuation, as well as providing habitat for fish and wildlife. For additional information, contact Sandy Letzing at sandyl@cascadia.org or (509) 436-1601.

With Your Vehicles

Use a commercial car wash. Washing your car at a commercial car wash ensures that the pollutants like oil and other chemicals on your car go into a sewer system and get treated at a wastewater treatment plant, instead of washing directly into streams and rivers through storm drains.

Keep your car in working order. Fix car leaks quickly and dispose of fluids properly. Oil and other substances that leak from our cars onto roads, driveways, and parking lots are washed into waterways by rain and melting snow. That oil is toxic to people and wildlife.

With Your Animals

Keep livestock out of waterways. A 1,400 pound cow and 1,200 pound horse produce roughly 88 and 60 pounds of waste per day, respectively. Left exposed to the weather, this manure can contribute problematic bacteria and nutrients to nearby waterways. By fencing your livestock out of streams and properly composting manure you can reap the benefits of this natural fertilizer without negatively impacting water quality. For more information on livestock exclusion fencing and manure management contact the Cascadia Conservation District at (509)664-9370 or visit www.cascadiacd.org.

Pick up after your pets. Dogs and other pets produce waste with lots of toxic bacteria. If that bacteria gets into the water, the water becomes increasingly unsafe to drink for animals and humans.

Next year’s photo contest launches May 1st, 2017 and closes October 1st, 2017.
To learn more about water conservation in our community, look at

~ Ava

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Environmental Education and STEM

     A large part of what I do at Cascadia is educate the youth in our district’s schools. Recently, the city councils of Chelan and Wenatchee voted to join our district! This is very exciting news for us, because it now means that the district may help in all areas of Chelan County, no exclusions! In relation to my role, we have traditionally still taught in school districts within the city limits of Chelan and Wenatchee. Today I wanted to talk more about why environmental education is important, what my history has been with environmental education, and how that shapes what I want to do.

      We’ve seen a major push, in the last 10 years or so, towards STEM education. President George W. Bush introduced the American Competitiveness Initiative in 2006 to essentially double federal funding for STEM education in schools (Bush). In 2009, President Barack Obama introduced the Educate to Innovate initiative to not only provide additional funding, but to also encourage businesses to participate and be a part of STEM education (Educate to Innovate).

    The increased focus and attention on STEM education is not too surprising, considering the shift in our daily lives and how much technology can play a role in it. Education can be slow to change, but these initiatives are trying to speed up that process. I do believe everyone should have access to the same education, but there are many barriers to that goal. Public and private sectors are beginning to come together to face these inequities, but there is still a long ways to go. Some examples include CoSTEM:

"The Committee on STEM Education (CoSTEM)comprised of 13 agencies including all of the mission-science agencies and the Department of Education are facilitating a cohesive national strategy, with new and repurposed funds, to increase the impact of federal investments in five areas: 1) improving STEM instruction in preschool through 12th grade; 2.) increasing and sustaining public and youth engagement with STEM; 3.) improving the STEM experience for undergraduate students; 4.) better serving groups historically underrepresented in STEM fields; and 5.) designing graduate education for tomorrow's STEM workforce." (Educate to Innovate)

http://www.ed.gov/stem. “Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math: Education for Global Leadership.”

The nonprofit Changing the Equation is backed by business and has support from the federal government. Below are some figures of how data collected shows both inequities in resources and how job opportunities are projected to change in the coming years in our state:

     Before I began volunteering with the Ocean Discovery Institute, they had just received an award from the Obama administration for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring. Their mission is to “empower young people from underserved urban communities to transform their lives, their community, and our world as scientific and conservation leaders” (By Engaging In All Action).

     In my role, I volunteered in the Ocean Science Explorers program. During my time there, I really enjoyed assisting the students use tools like microscopes for the first time. We would take the students on field trips to parts of San Diego to get them outside. When the buses pulled up to the tide pools in La Jolla, the students were amazed to explore the vast abundance of marine life literally in their backyard. Another field trip was taking them to our headquarters, which was a series of trailers in Pacific Beach. There we would allow the students to create their own robotic hydroplanes and test their creations in the pool. Our goal was not just to teach facts and figures, but to show the students what all of their efforts could lead to. Our focus was to inspire them to imagine a career path in STEM, which for many of the students would result in a vast departure from what other members of their families may be doing or have done.

     During my time at USD, I made an effort to actively participate in social justice causes and try to experience something different from what I knew. I reflected a lot on the differences between the opportunities I have been exposed to, and how they differ from the opportunities these students may have. I went to public school K-12, and had the opportunity to take physics, calculus, AP Biology, AP Chemistry, and go to my community college through Running Start if my school didn’t offer what I needed. Having those classes prepared me to go on to a private school college education and major in a degree that included several science courses.

     Being a self-proclaimed environmentalist, I also must reflect on my hypocrisy on a daily basis. It’s easy to think that our education system is doomed and that we’re using outdated techniques and technology. However, I think there are a lot of reasons to be really positive and optimistic! Sal Khan is the founder and director of Khan Academy, a web based collection of YouTube videos that can be used to refresh a set of skills or as a supplemental learning tool. It is one of the prime examples today of what open source education can look like.

“We have all these doom-and-gloom arguments about America losing its primacy and all this stuff about our math scores. But if you take a serious look over the last 30 or 40 years, if you said, “What are the most innovative companies in the world? Where is the innovation happening?” And if you just follow and ask that question, year after year after year, it’s getting more and more focused in America” (Education for Everyone).

     With all of the advances in technology and innovation happening, it’s time to realize how important science education can be and how transformative it can be for students. With the conservation district, I have the opportunity now to offer free science education lessons to local schools. The curriculum is provided by the Franklin Conservation District. I offer a week long option, aptly named Wheat Week, where I use Wheat as a teaching tool to showcase lessons about soil conservation, the water cycle, and watersheds. I also offer Water on Wheels lessons, which offer a variety of environmental science lessons that are interactive and engaging to students grades K-6th.

     I really appreciate the opportunity to bring science education to classrooms that otherwise might not get the chance to explore the material in depth. Hopefully, even if they don’t retain the information I teach them, it ignites a spark in them that motivates them to want to take an interest in math, science, or engineering. I’m not teaching robotics or molecular biology, but just getting our youth familiar and comfortable with basic scientific concepts may actually allow them to seek out advanced science education and not write it off as boring or too difficult. It’s not a cure all, but it is a step in the right direction.

To learn more about STEM in Washington State, look at http://vitalsigns.changetheequation.org/state/washington/overview

For more information about the programs I help implement through Cascadia, check out http://franklincd.org/wheatweek.aspx If you're a teacher in Chelan, Douglas, or Okanogan counties and want to have me come to your classroom, send me an email at cascadia-americorps@conservewa.net.

Thanks for reading!

~ Ava

Bush, George W. American Competiveness Initiative. 2 February 2006. georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/stateoftheunion/2006/aci/index.html
By Engaging in All Action with Curiosity and Commitment, We Can Ignite a Passion in Each Person That Collectively Will Benefit Our World. "Home." Ocean Discovery Institute. www.oceandiscoveryinstitute.org
"Education for Everyone: An Interview with Sal Khan." McKinsey & Company. September 2013. www.mckinsey.com/industries/social-sector/our-insights/education-for-everyone-an-interview-with-sal-khan.
"Educate to Innovate." The White House. The White House. www.whitehouse.gov/issues/education/k-12/educate-innovate
"Franklin Conservation District." Franklin Conservation District. franklincd.org/wheatweek.aspx

Monday, September 26, 2016

Cascadia's New AmeriCorps Member


My name is Ava Izdepski, and I am the new AmeriCorps member serving at Cascadia Conservation District.

I am originally from Edmonds. I went to college at the University of San Diego, where I was an Environmental Studies major. During my time in San Diego, I was a volunteer with the Ocean Discovery Institute. While volunteering, I was given the chance to help teach environmental education lessons to students in elementary schools. I recently moved back to Washington to be closer to family.  I am looking forward to continuing to teach environmental education with Cascadia, as well as participate in and bring value to the other programs the district implements.

Since starting my term of service, I have had the opportunity to demonstrate our Enviroscape model at the Chelan County Fair, work at the Rolling Rivers display during Salmon Festival in Leavenworth, and complete Wheat Week training in Quincy. I am very excited to continue to learn and grow throughout this year of service. I look forward to taking advantage of all the opportunities this area has to offer!

Thank you for viewing the blog and be sure to stay in touch with questions and/or comments throughout the year. I am looking forward to using the blog to encourage conversation about a variety of topics.

Our Picture Chelan County Photo Contest is still in full swing and accepting submissions until this Saturday, October 1st. You can submit photos of Chelan County for six categories including plants, wildlife, agriculture, recreation, landscapes, and water. You can upload your photos to http://cascadiacd.org/photo-contest_347.html for a chance to be included in the 2017 natural resources stewardship calendar!

~ Ava

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Let's Get (Native) Planting!

Black Huckleberry
Spring is definitely in the air- little bits of green life are starting to make their brave entrance into the world, the piles of snow that once towered are shrinking by the minute, and we at Cascadia are starting to think about our springtime projects.

The main one I want to touch on today is our Native Plant Sale and Workshop. This year we are offering nine different species of Native Plants. These plants are grown from Eastern Washington seed stock by the Washington Association of Conservation Districts Plant Materials Center in Skagit County. Plants offered include Ponderosa Pines, Vine Maples, Black Huckleberry and Red Osier Dogwood, among others. These plants are commonly used for restoration, soil stabilization, and some are considered to be fire resistant. A brochure describing the uses and benefits for each plant is linked to our website, along with an updated plant listing, and order form. Plant orders are due by March 4th and can be mailed into the Cascadia Conservation District office with a deposit. Once ordered, you can pick up your plants on April 16th from 10am to 1pm at the Stemilt Growers Warehouse in North Wenatchee.

Ponderosa Pine
If you are interested in ordering Native Plants, but have no idea how to best utilize them on your property then you may be interested in attending our Native Planting 101 Workshop. This FREE workshop is taking place on March 5th from 12 to 4:30 pm at the PUD Auditorium on N. Wenatchee Avenue. This workshop is perfect for landowners in our district who are interested in learning techniques to effectively use native plant species to encourage pollinators, restore damaged areas, and create a low maintenance yardscape. It may be particularly useful for property owners who lost vegetation in last summer’s fires or for those who are seeking to become more FireWise. The workshop features presentations on Yardscaping, Pollinators, Restoration, and Integrated Weed Control Methods by local plant and natural resource experts. Workshop attendees will have an extended deadline of March 11th for ordering plants from the Native Plant Sale. You can register for this free event on our website!

If you are interested in either of these events you can find more information on our website, cascadiacd.org. Our Native Plants are selling out quickly, so if you haven’t already had a chance to make your plant selections, I strongly urge you to do so as soon as possible! We are also looking for more volunteers for both of these events- if you are interested in volunteering send an email to americorps@cascadiacd.org