Monday, December 18, 2017

Americoprs Story of Service

I was drawn to Washington for the natural beauty and the vast number of environmental education, conservation, and research positions that are here in order to protect and ensure that future generations will be able to experience and appreciate all that Washington has to offer. I have always wanted to see Washington and the Cascades, I never really imagined I would be able to live and serve here as a part of the team working to improve and promote the environmental stewardship of these areas.
  I am serving through Washington Service Corps as the Americorps Intern with Cascadia Conservation District in Wenatchee WA. A portion of my service includes going out to schools across Chelan, Douglas, and Okanogan counties to teach an environmental education program called “Wheat Week” to 4th and 5th grade classes. The program uses wheat as the teaching tool in order to talk about greater environmental issues we face such as storm water runoff, pollution, erosion & soil conservation, and energy production. I am extremely happy to be a part of this program and have the opportunity to teach it, programs like this one are the reason I moved from Wisconsin to Washington with Americorps.
This past week I got the chance to teach at Columbia   Elementary in Wenatchee. I met some awesome teachers and enthusiastic future scientists (maybe)! The students here really looked forward to our daily Wheat Week lessons, they could hardly wait to investigate their terrariums and see how their wheat was changing and growing each day. Every day I would have multiple students run up to me and show off the new roots growing or a stem emerging from the little cup of soil. We recorded these observations in our “Kernel Journals” every day. They are so excited that they remember the names of the different parts of the plant that we labeled on the very first day, I have never heard “look! root hairs” shouted with such enthusiasm before. They took such pride in growing their terrariums and taking care of their wheat plants.
The vast majority of the students I teach are far removed from farming and the ideas and issues brought up during our Wheat Week lessons. When presented to them, these are awe inspiring for many of the students who have never realized how much work goes into farming or the amount of effort that many farmers put into being responsible stewards for their lands. At the very end of our week we write postcards to the Washington Wheat Farmers. Reading through the postcards before I send them out is one of my favorite things. The kids write about their favorite parts of wheat week, tell the farmers what they learned, and ask questions about being a wheat farmer.
Seeing the excitement and the enthusiasm that the students have is what motivates me. I see every classroom as an opportunity to advocate for and educate people about the importance of preserving the natural world and the environment. There is always a balance between us and the environment, which I do my best to explain to the kids. I hope that maybe one of them will find an interest or passion for environmental sciences and maybe someday help to solve some of the issues we face.

For more information about Wheat Week, check out Franklin Conservation District’s website! you are interested in having this program at your school for 4th and 5th grade and you are located in Chelan or Douglas counties send an email to

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Are LEDs a Bright Idea?

As we settle into winter, the temperatures begin to drop, the sun starts setting earlier and our days get shorter and shorter. With the decrease in sunlight, we begin to rely more and more on our lightbulbs to make up for the shortened days and lack of natural light. LED bulbs are a great way to keep energy costs down and increase the efficiency of your home or business, making it more environmentally friendly. The Dept. of Energy (DOE) has conducted research into solid state lighting or SSL, which includes Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) and Organic Light Emitting Diodes or (OLEDs). According to the research done by the Dept. of Energy, “switching to SSL could reduce national lighting energy by 75% in 2035”.

LEDs or Light Emitting Diodes are the most efficient light bulb available on the market today. Using a semiconductor to convert electricity into light, they are able to use 95% of the energy they use to create light, wasting only 5%. This process decreases energy draw by around 80% when compared to incandescent light bulbs. Very little heat is lost from LEDs in comparison to incandescent bulbs, which can lose 90% of their energy as heat. The LED bulbs can actually benefit from cooler temperatures as well; the DOE found that they were 5% more efficient at -5 degrees Celsius than 25 degrees Celsius.  Not only are LEDs better in terms of efficiency, but they last much longer than other light bulbs.Depending on the LED bulb, a good quality one will last 25,000 hours or more.

If you have concerns regarding the variety, size, color or light quality, not to worry!! LEDs are one of the most compact lighting options available on the market, they are extremely durable, come in a number of colors and are very adaptable lighting options. The market is expanding as more and more people are making the switch to LEDs.

Another benefit of these beautiful bulbs is that, unlike compact florescent lights, LEDs do not contain any   mercury and do not need to be disposed of as hazardous waste. Though florescent lights are more efficient than the standard incandescent bulbs, they contain small amounts of mercury, less than 5 milligrams generally. However, even this tiny amount of mercury can poison thousands of gallons of water or pose a threat to people that come into contact with it. Despite the energy savings that the   florescent bulbs presented, their disposal and the mercury they contained created another issue. The bulbs must be recycled at a facility that is qualified to handle florescent bulbs, which are limited. These bulbs should not be thrown out in the trash due to the mercury they contain. Mercury does not decompose or dissipate, it remains in the environment.

Generally, the upfront cost of LED bulbs is a little higher the florescent or incandescent; however, you will be saving money as they last far longer and are much more energy efficient. Consider LED bulbs a good investment for the winter, and one that will continue to benefit you for years to come. 


Works Cited

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Leaf them be

Now that the colors are changing and those leaves are falling, many people are beginning the fall chore of raking their leaves, the good news is that this isn’t necessary! Skip the raking and bagging and enjoy a game of football or go for a hike instead. The leaves that you pack up and leave curbside to go to landfills are filling up space in the landfills and contributing to the production and release of methane, a formidable greenhouse gas.

According to the EPA landfills accounted for 18% of the total methane emissions in the United States and globally more than 60% of methane emissions are due to human activity. Methane only makes up about 0.00017% of our atmosphere, which may make methane look less important than it really is to us. The problem we face is how powerful methane is, pound for pound the impact of methane is 25-28 times greater than Carbon Dioxide over a 100 year period (EPA), this makes Methane the 2nd most important greenhouse gas behind Carbon Dioxide. We have made a difference and we can continue to make a positive impact on our methane emissions, the lifetime of methane is much shorter than that of Carbon Dioxide a primary greenhouse gas. This shorter lifespan of atmospheric methane means that it can be removed from the atmosphere via chemical reactions in 9-12 years, this means that we can reduce the amount of methane in our atmosphere.

When we place organic materials into our landfills they undergo anaerobic decomposition, meaning they are not exposed to oxygen while they decompose and thus produce methane. When composting, our organic material experiences aerobic decomposition, breaking down in the presence of oxygen. Because of this access to oxygen, carbon dioxide (carbon from the organic material and oxygen from the air) is produced rather than methane. Now this is still a greenhouse gas, but composting done correctly has produces a negligible amount of greenhouse gasses when compared to anaerobic decomposition that takes place in landfills. Plus we can reap many benefits from our compost that we do not see when we take our leaves curbside for the landfills.

Once your compost is ready, it can be added to your soil and gardens as a replacement for chemical fertilizers. Compost is rich in carbon and when distributed back into the soil, it not only provides valuable organic material to your dirt but it also helps to sequester carbon and create what is called a “sink” an area that takes in or absorbs carbon from the atmosphere. If that is not enough of a reason to stop throwing your leaves away and start mulching or composting, they can also help to reduce your water bill! With the added organic matter from those leaves/compost, happily absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in your soil, they are also increasing the soils capacity to hold and store water, reducing the need or the frequency with which you have to water or irrigate your soil. It helps to reduce soil compaction, making for wonderfully workable soils. The healthier the soil, the less the risk of erosion as well, which will in turn help to reduce the amount of sediments in our storm water runoff, improving the water quality.

If you have a new found love of composting or want to try it out this fall, our Urban Ag. program has some great information for how to get started with composting in an urban setting. Contact Sandy Letzing at or call into the office at 509-436-1601 for more information or with questions regarding composting.


Works Cited:

Monday, November 6, 2017

New Americorps Member

Hello!! My name is Justine Bula and I am the new Americorps Intern here at Cascadia Conservation. I have moved out to Wenatchee for this position from Baraboo Wisconsin. I completed my undergraduate degrees in Geography and Spanish with minors in Environmental & International Studies at the University of Wisconsin La Crosse. My interest in the natural world and the balance between environmental and humanitarian work are what brought me to Americorps and are what inspired my undergraduate degrees. I have a background in agriculture, growing up and helping to run our diversified family farm back in Baraboo, WI. Travel is another passion of mine, and a part of the reason why I have chosen to come to the beautiful Chelan County to volunteer for the year. There is so much to see, experience, and learn about the world and I am very excited to be able to join Cascadia Conservation District and start my next adventure here in Wenatchee.


Friday, July 14, 2017


This past year I have been able to volunteer with and lead a variety of restoration events for the benefit of the environment. More recently I have been completing the acreage required for the environmental stewardship portion of my performance plan.

I assisted a work party of 10 individuals over three weeks at Leavenworth’s Ski Hill, where we cleared brush and improved mountain bike trails. The lead agency for the work we were doing was the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance. We also assisted with pulling out non-native plant species. I also had the opportunity to lead four weekly volunteer trail crews at the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery. The hatchery received donations of wood chips from the Chelan County Natural Resources Department. The Chumstick Wildfire Stewardship Coalition organized a few days for free brush disposal at the Dryden Transfer Station this past Spring, so all of the wood chips came from those events. The chips had to be used within the apple maggot quarantine area, so the hatchery was a great fit.

Once we acquired the wood chips, we worked hard to distribute them on the public access horse trails around the hatchery. I also spent some time helping with maintenance efforts at a few of the sites that Cascadia works on. One of the publicly accessible sites is the Cashmere Sportsman’s Association club, where a restoration project has been ongoing for a few years.

 All of these events have been a satisfying way to give back to the community that I have called home for the last 11 ½ months. I’ve worked to remove tires from embankments, planted dozens of native species in riparian areas, pulled noxious weeds, improved and maintained bike and horse trails, and have educated the public on the importance of native plants. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know this area and hope to continue living here and appreciating everything this valley has to offer.  Thank you. 

Friday, June 2, 2017

Spring Festivities

     Spring is our busiest time with community outreach, due to the sunnier weather and the multitude of Spring festivals. This year, I had the opportunity to attend and provide outreach at the Entiat Swallowfest, Chelan Earth Day Fair, Leavenworth Earth Day Community Fair, Entiat Earth Day at the elementary school, Apple Blossom Youth Day, and Touch-a-Truck. Each festival varied in size, but we reached 75-200 community members at each event. This year we partnered with Team Naturaleza, which allowed us to bring kids arts and crafts as well as educational material to each event.

     As a part of Earth Day, I reinvigorated our district’s Earth Day essay contest. It was open to students in grades 6-8 and I had 37 students from three schools participate. This year’s theme focused on encouraging the students to reflect on an experience they’ve had in nature that inspires them to care for the Earth. The top three essay winners each received student memberships to the Wenatchee Valley Museum and Cultural Center, as well as hand painted nature journals from local naturalist Heather Wallis Murphy. Prizes were presented at the Leavenworth Earth Day Community Fair.

     Educational outreach is critical to all of our programs. For example, at the Chelan fair I had three groups of people sign up for fire risk assessments for their properties, which is part of our Firewise program. The festivals give us a chance to meet with and talk to the community about all of the programs and services we have to offer. It also gives us a chance to address any concerns or questions that individuals may have. I have learned through the outreach that often times individuals do want to help their land improve, thereby improving their environment, but they don’t know where to begin. That is when we can help bridge that gap by connecting our resource professionals to the concerns and problems facing a particular area. 

Monday, April 24, 2017

Earth Day Winning Essay

          I feel the warmth of the rising sun on my oversized T-shirt. My eyes are closed but I can see what I want to see. I see myself standing on the rocks of the staggered cliff, arms in the air, with a slight breeze combing through my messy brown hair. I see the Columbia River with its gentle current at the bottom of a series of large warm rocks that I just happen to be standing on. The water is the brightest, most shocking blue I’ve ever seen. I see the park, our beautiful park. And I see the world, or at least a small portion of it.
         I don’t want what I see in my imagination to fade so I hesitate on opening my eyes, but I’ve been here enough times to know that when I open my eyes, I won’t be disappointed. My warm eyelids open to see what I imagined, but better. The river is the kind of blue that makes you wonder if anything else should even be considered a blue. The large trees on the other side of the water provide just enough shade to attract a few families along the water line. Bikers and joggers zoom behind me on the public trail. This… this is paradise.
        I look down at the my torn up sneakers, and at my blue bike with the chipped paint. There is no other place on earth I would rather be. I mean the smell of a warm day is just exhilarating. The buzz of bike tires whizzing by is more than a sound, it’s a way of life, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s the only life for me.
         This park, our park, in the small town of Wenatchee is my favorite place on earth. That’s why I need it to stay here. That’s why I want other people to see exactly what they imagined when they open their eyes. I want that water to stay that blue, and I want the smell of a hot day to fill the lungs of others the way it fills me with hope. I want the feeling of sun on your back to become not only the feeling of warmth, but a mindset. And that’s why I want to help in anyway I can with keeping our park beautiful, by picking up trash, encouraging others not to litter, and staying confident that we can change our world, no I said that wrong, and we will change our world for the better. So let’s work together to keep our parks beautiful, and better yet lets keep our world beautiful.

                                                                                                                        Happy Earth Day, Scarlette.

Heather Murphy, Scarlette, and Ava Izdepski pose for a photo at the Leavenworth Earth Day Community Fair. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

Community Supported Agriculture

Community Supported Agriculture.

The idea is simple. Get community members to pay farmers the cost upfront for receiving a weekly box full of the harvest’s bounty.

Of course, there is a shared risk factor involved in anything to do with farming. If a crop gets damaged or fails to produce anything, the consumer and the farmer are both negatively impacted.
The original CSA format, promoted by Robyn Van En, called for community members to participate in the labor on the farms using the share model approach. Now, with more and more members joining from cities and urban centers, there has been a shift to what is known as a subscription based model.

On the plus side, community members receive a substantial amount of locally produced, farm fresh products that allow them to eat healthy and cost-effectively. For the farmer, they receive money upfront, which helps with their cash flow through the growing season. Also, they help build a community bond with their neighbors by sharing what they do.

Benefits include local variety, introduction of new vegetables, economic viability for the farmer, opportunity for a living wage for farmers, local distribution of food (>100 mile radius) decreases transportation and carbon costs, community celebrations like harvest festivals, and donations of excess produce to food banks.

The subscription CSA model can involve a single farm, but it is becoming increasingly common to have multiple farms participate. This way, if a crop does not do well on one farm, the box can be supplemented with produce from a different farm.One of the biggest challenges that CSA farmers face is in getting land security for farms that are closest to urban centers.

On the consumer side, cost can be the biggest determining factor. Asking individuals or families on tight budgets to submit a lump payment, before the season begins, is not a feasible option. Some CSA’s are tackling this problem by offering a sliding scale option that can even accept SNAP benefits through certain USDA grants (Solomon). These are known as Agriculture Supported Communities (ASC). (Celebrate CSA). The weekly payment format is more accessible for low-budget families or for individuals on fixed income.

Everyone wants to eat healthy, locally grown produce. The issue is the cost and availability of such products. If you want to support your local farmers, while also being sustainably healthy, look below for some different choices. Spend time investigating the best fit for you and your family. There are lots of options!

In the Wenatchee valley, here are some options for joining a CSA:

If you’re in the Seattle area, check out
Or visit to find a CSA near you.

Farmer’s markets are a great choice as well, and may take less time and money to participate in. 

Below are some links to farmer’s markets coming in to season soon:

Cascadia Conservation District will be hosting a Backyard Gardening workshop on Saturday, April 15th. Come on over to the Community Education Garden to learn more about composting, gardening, and even backyard chickens!!!

~ Ava

Works Cited

"Community Supported Agriculture.” Complied by AFSIC Staff, Alternative Farming Systems Information Center, National Agriculture Library, U.S. Department of Agriculture. Reviewed Feb. 2017.
Local Harvest. “Community Supported Agriculture.”
McFadden, Steven. “The History of Community Supported Agriculture, Part II.” February, 2004. Rodale Institute Dig Deeper Blog.
Rodale Institute. “Celebrate CSA Day with Rodale Institute.” Dig Deeper Blog. 22 Feb. 2017.
Solomon, Nicole. “CSA aims for affordability.” Mother Nature Network. 26 Aug. 2009.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Earth Day Essay Contest

Cascadia Conservation District is pleased to announce our 6th annual Earth Day Essay Contest

The essay contest is open to students who live or attend school in Chelan or Douglas counties and who are in grades 6th-8th.

This year, the essay question is: 

Describe an experience you have had in nature, and how you connected with that experience personally. How does that make you want to be more environmentally responsible?

As students begin to think about this question, please encourage them to consider their connection to nature and their local environment. This activity is meant to encourage stewardship and integrate creative thought and writing with science.

The top three essays will get hand painted field journals created by local artist Heather A. Wallis Murphy and a student membership to the Wenatchee Valley Museum and Cultural Center!

Here are the particulars:

•The essays should be 500 words or less, size 12 Times New Roman font, and double-spaced.

• Typed essays are preferred, but hand written essays will be accepted provided they are legible.

• Word count should be included in the bottom, right corner of the essay.

• Essays must be turned in with completed entry form that can be found here.

Essays are due Friday April 7th, 2017. Essays postmarked April 8th or later will be disqualified.

• Winners will be announced on our website and notified by Saturday, April 22nd.

Submissions should be mailed or turned in to:
Cascadia Conservation District
14 N Mission St.
Wenatchee, WA 98801

~ Ava

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Native Planting 101 Recap

Last Saturday, February 11th, Cascadia Conservation District, with the help of AmeriCorps member Ava, hosted a Native Planting 101 workshop. 

AmeriCorps member Ava introducing speakers.

Connie Mehmel's Presentation 
It was a 4 ½ hour workshop with four presentations covering pollinator gardening, yardscaping, restoration, and weed management.

We had 46 adults attend, in addition to two volunteers and four speakers. 

Our 2017 Native Plant Sale is still accepting orders through March 1st!

All 11 species are still available. 

Download an order form HERE!

You can access some of the information presented on our website at

If you missed this year’s workshop, look for next year’s workshop info in Cascadia’s winter newsletter.

Ted Alway's Presentation 

Listed below are some wonderful resources to get you started on planning your natural yardscape:

Native Plants

  • Washington Native Plant Society
  • WTU Herbarium Image Collection: Plants and Lichens of Washington
  • USDA-NRCS Plants Database
  • Chalker-Scott, Linda. Sustainable Landscapes and Gardens: Good Science- Practical Application. GFG Publishing, 2009.
  • Fitzgerald, Tonie, Eve Carroll and Michael Terrell. Landscaping with Native Plants in the Inland Northwest. Publication MISC 0267.  WSU        Cooperative Extension, and US. Dept. of Agriculture, 2000.
  • Kruckeberg, Arthur R. Gardening With Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest. University of Washington Press, 1996.
  • Link, Russell. Landscaping for Wildlife in the Pacific Northwest. University of Washington Press, 1999.
  • Tallamy, Douglas W.  Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants. Timber Press, 2007.
  • Taylor, Ronald J. Sagebrush Country: A Wildflower Sanctuary. Mountain Press Publishing Company, 1992.


  • Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board
  • Chelan County Noxious Weed Control Board
  • Washington Invasive Species Council                                                                                 
  • Burrill, Larry C., Steven A. Dewey, David W. Cudney, and B. E. Nelson. Weeds of the West. Western Society of Weed Science, 1999.


Pollinator Gardening

~ Ava

Friday, January 20, 2017

Why Are Native Plants Important?

Native plants are an integral part of a healthy landscape. There are a number of reasons why that is, including but not limited to that they are naturally low maintenance because they often require less water than traditional sod. They do not require large amounts of fertilizer or pesticides that plants from other places may need. If the plants are native to your area, they have even coevolved with the wildlife as well. That means that many native bird species also rely on native plants as a food source.

By Akos Kokai (Native plant demonstration garden) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Non-native plants, otherwise known as invasive species, can wreak havoc on a delicate ecosystem.

Below is a list of a few reasons why invasive plants are worse than native plants for your landscape.

Air, Noise, Water Pollution
In terms of water conservation and the precious value that water is in an ever growing world, using water wisely is of paramount importance. Unfortunately, watering lawns can contribute to waste of a natural resource, “30 percent of water consumed on the East Coast goes to watering lawns; 60 percent on the West Coast. (Redesigning the American Lawn)” (National Wildlife Federation). Invasive species also require an increased amount of pesticide use that can pollute waterways. 

Harm to Biodiversity
Native plants also provide critical habitat to a variety of pollinators. Certain insects have coevolved to only eat certain plants, and if invasive species have taken over then there is less and less food for those insects to eat. That in turn causes there to be less food for the birds that feast on insects. Check out an excerpt of a film about the important impacts that native plants can have on a landscape:

Consumption of Natural Resources
Invasive plants often outcompete native plants because they usually lack their natural enemies in a foreign environment. As a result, invasive plants can strangle a hillside or choke a waterway easily. Alternatively, native plants natural abundance is due in part to the fact that they are native to your climate, and thus have adaptations for the amount of water and the soil moisture in your particular area (Backyard Conservation...).  

 Impacts to Public Health and Safety
Invasive species do require an increased amount of maintenance. Increased chemical use can lead to harmful effects in wildlife and humans (Benefits of Naturescaping). Extra fertilizer may also be required to maintain a green lawn. If you use native plants, and decide to compost in a natural garden, your soil will not need as many chemicals to provide good nutrients to your plants!

Cost and Labor Intensive
The cost of upkeep for a traditional lawn is about $700 per acre per year, as opposed to the care of a wildflower meadow at $30 per acre per year (About Native Plants). The equipment used in the upkeep of a typical suburban lawn includes lawn mowers, leaf blowers, and the occasional chain saw. These pieces of equipment emit as much hydrocarbon in one hour as a typical auto driven 50 miles. (National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Lab, Ann Arbor.) Every year, a typical lawn requires 40 hours of maintenance, which is the equivalent of a one-week vacation (Benefits of Naturescaping). The noise pollution from a lawnmower alone can be enough to make anyone upset on an early Sunday morning.

Boring Landscapes
Avoid monoculture! Aesthetic concerns aside, native plants offer a wide variety of shapes, colors, and textures for your yard.

Why spend all of that time maintaining an unnatural landscape? Instead, give native plants a try. You won’t be disappointed!

Below is a preview of an excellent documentary film focused on the dangers of invasive species in Oregon. Washington state deals with a lot of the same resource problems as Oregon, and it is an informative piece on various issues in the Pacific Northwest. 

Convinced that native plants are the way to go? Don't know where to start? Come learn more at Cascadia's FREE Native Planting 101 Workshop!!!

RSVP today for our native plant workshop, Saturday, February 11th from 12:00-4:30 pm at the Wenatchee PUD auditorium!

Our plant sale ends by March 1st, so place your order today to ensure you get what you want. 

To order native plants, download a form HERE!


~ Ava

Works Cited

"About Native Plants." National Wildlife Federation. Accessed 1/13/17. 

“Benefits of Naturescaping.”

Green, Danielle. “Greenacres: Landscaping with Native Plants.” US EPA. Last updated on 2/21/2016.

Idaho Native Plant Society. Landscaping with Plants of the Intermountain Region.

“Let’s stop these silent invaders.” Accessed 1/13/17. 

“Why Native Plants Matter” Audubon society       matter. Bird Friendly Communities Blog. Accessed 1/13/17.