Volunteer Property Stewards
Looking to build a deeper connection to the Peninsula while volunteering on your own time? Caring for the land through our volunteer property steward program may for you! Read on to learn more.
What does it mean to be a volunteer property steward?
North Olympic Land Trust owns 12 conservation areas totaling over 800 acres that we have daily management responsibility for. Our Land Staff have limited capacity, so that’s where volunteer property stewards come in! Volunteer property stewards act as the eyes and ears of the Land Trust for these 12 conservation areas and report back to staff on a periodic basis. Each property is monitored at least every three months (but visiting more is certainly okay), to look out for signs of any potential issues. These can be done on your own time, so long as you are visiting at a minimum, once per quarter (Jan – March; April – June; July – Sept; Oct – Dec).
A monitoring report will then need to be completed explaining the key components of the visit, which areas were monitored, and if any potential issues were found that need to be addressed by staff immediately. Examples of these issues could be signs of trespass, excessive garbage dumping, timber trespass (i.e., someone cutting trees without permission), illegal hunting, etc. These are all things that would require immediate attention. Including information about minor maintenance needs such as stretches of trail that are needing improvements, or vegetation that is encroaching is also helpful, although these things do not often need immediate intervention.
Volunteer property stewards also have the ability to do more frequent property maintenance outside of periodic monitoring. This may entail trimming encroaching vegetation from the sides of trails, pulling invasive species, or keeping the trailheads tidy and stocked with brochures. If at any time you notice something that requires more than a day’s work, inform the Land Manager so a work party can be arranged. Examples of this include excessive trail brushing during the growing season or clearing the trails in the fall of the leaves and other debris. Occasionally, there will be a need for invasive species removal beyond the capacity of volunteers (think large patches of reed canary grass, Himalayan blackberry, or thickets of scotch broom). This would be another opportunity to inform the Land Manager so a work party can be arranged. And if you don’t feel comfortable doing any of these above things, no problem!
We ask that once you commit to becoming a volunteer property steward, that you make this at least a 2-year commitment. This will allow you the opportunity to see the property over the seasonal changes, and make sure you get comfortable with the land over time. That said, if you have a vacation planned, or need to skip a visit for whatever reason, just let us know and we can make other arrangements. This is a great way to get to know the land we conserve more intimately, and really develop that connection back to the land.
Where are these conservation areas located?
Many people are familiar with the properties we have open to the public: Siebert Creek Conservation Area located in Agnew, Lyre Conservation Area located just west of Joyce, Pysht River Conservation Area located near Clallam Bay, and Elk Creek Conservation Area located just west of Forks. In addition, there are eight other conservation areas scattered throughout the county, with minimal or no public access. Taking on one of these sites is a great opportunity to get a behind the scenes look at conservation lands that aren’t currently open to the public. These include:
- Lower Dungeness Prairie (Sequim)
- Frog Forest (Agnew)
- Camp Kuppler (Port Angeles off Lake Dawn Rd.)
- Ennis Creek Natural Area (Port Angeles)
- Clallam River (Clallam Bay)
- Big River & Ozette (Hoko-Ozette Rd.)
- Calawah (Forks)
Once you have either selected or been assigned to a property and you complete your training, you will visit the property with our Land Manager for an introduction to the land and become familiar with things such as where to park, how to enter the land, etc.
Please be advised, some of these properties are in very remote locations, often with little or no cell coverage. In these cases, we do not recommend you visit the property alone; always take another individual with you. The further west you go, the more this applies (Big River and Ozette in particular). If you feel that you will not be able to visit these lands with someone else, perhaps volunteering to be a steward at one of the properties with well-used public access would be advised.
Another thing to consider is the fact that not all these lands contain established trails, so a bit of bushwhacking may be required to access the properties. For the most part, game trails can be found meandering through the properties which makes it a bit easier to get around.
Are you interested in becoming a volunteer property steward? Please reach out to our Community Relations Manager, Lexi Wagor, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our first hands-on training is scheduled for March 31st, 2023.